Home Home Remedies Neem: Your Secret Weapon Against Plant-Eating Garden Bugs + Many Health Benefits

Neem: Your Secret Weapon Against Plant-Eating Garden Bugs + Many Health Benefits


As an organic gardener, neem has been a part of my arsenal since the beginning. I first heard about it from my Mom, an ornamental gardener turned veggie gardener at the end of her life. She only explained it was something you sprayed on trees in early spring to keep the bugs off of growing fruit like apples and pears, of which there were many of on the property she was renting.

It wasn’t until I started pursuing the art of growing cannabis and other things that I really got a good understanding of what it was. From what I can tell, it’s something that grows all over Mexico and very likely right outside our property. The fact that this comes from a tree and is medicinal for all sorts of uses excites me.

Neemba in Sanskrit, this tree is native to India. It’s currently legally considered a weed in many places but considering most “classified weeds” are extremely useful or medicinal, it’s no surprise. One must not consider this tree a weed, one must consider it a highly medicinal plant that is extremely hardy and adaptable to harsh conditions. A medication you can’t really kill? Sign me up. People in India really do use it in many ways as it is extremely medicinal. There’s also the important perk that it’s a organic pesticide and fungicide, but more on that later.

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It’s a large pretty shady tree with white flowers tree best grown in tropical or subtropical climates. It’s extremely resistant to drought so it’s actually well suited to Acapulco’s wet and dry seasons. It produces an olive like fruit with a large seed, which is where we harvest neem oil from.

Just about every part of the tree is useful or medicinal in some manner but neem oil is essentially a commercial organic gardening miracle product of sorts. The trees range between 65-130 feet in height at full grown size, with long drooping branches. The leaf to branch structure is similar to a sumac or leguminous tree, with long serrated leaflets.

Leaves are burned in India to repel mosquito’s and oil is applied to the skin as an apparently effective repellent. From my understanding it makes us very unpalatable to insects, which is a total bonus for us. This is a natural defense mechanism in harsh jungle growing climates, where everything is trying to eat everything.

The whole tree is considered:


It’s referred to as an anti-feedant and that’s the case, it just kind of keeps things repelled from eating it. It is toxic to some things but not all, generally the larger you are the less harmful and more medicinal it is. Even it’s spicy pungent odor can repel people like my mother, who hated using the stuff over the stench; although I honestly consider it a pleasant odor. It’s not foul in any regard, just pungent and spicy.

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Within the fruits lie the seed which contain most of the oil. I’ve used it for everything from killing and repelling pests to getting rid of vaginal infections. We’ve got a soap that we use to wash our hands, but it’s especially useful to have around in the event of a wound.

It’s known for helping with:

skin health
hair health
liver function
being used as a fertilizer
pest and mold repellent
treating infections (viral, bacterial and fungal)
treating diabetes
and much more!

There are a whole myriad of neem products available out there. Having tried many myself, I’d honestly say I recommend all of them at least in concept. And some of these products have many uses. For example, we use our neem soap to: wash ourselves, wash our dreads, wash our hands, wash our dogs (not the same bar!), wash wounds, as a shaving cream…

Neem cake, the stuff left over from pressing fruits and seeds for oil is considered super nutritional for plants. Many gardeners suggest using it as a slow release top feed fertilizer. We use the oil as a foliar feed to coat the plants. This deters just about all pests, realistically. If there’s something we need to get out of our garden, we hit it with neem almost always as a first resort.

There are a lot of neem products out there with bold claims and many of those claims are backed up by science. Because so much is grown in India, a very scientifically minded culture, lots of research and testing has been done on the medicinal qualities of just about every part of the tree. People to this day use twigs of neem as rudimentary tooth cleaning, like a toothbrush that doesn’t need toothpaste! And that’s just how they use twigs.

Here’s just a quick list of things the oils used to help treat:

liver problems
arthritis and back pain
cold flu
chicken pox symptoms

There’s a wide range of things that it helps with and I know I’m not covering all of them. What matters is that at this point I have enough experience with trying and treating different things with this one thing with damn good results, and that’s worth sharing.

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In the garden, it’s an aggressive measure that works even with tropical bugs. As a medicine, it’s equally aggressive but honestly pretty gentle as far as most medications are concerned. The oil applied directly to burns, rashes or things that are itchy and pained provides relief soon, with no stinging to get there. It’s gentle but it also seems to be more than just a quick feel better fix, it helps things in the long run because of it’s many useful properties.

It’s available here at Verde Pistache, although we nearly always have them bought out of the pure oil. They have a whole line of quality products, and I personally recommend the toothpaste. There are all sorts of products, including a neem soap that we use every day, available at the central market if you know where to look. In the states, this is available everywhere, just look and ask for it. Super easy to find online, that’s actually how we first purchased some if I remember correctly!

You can even buy the dried leaves if you know where to look. As with many things in Mexico, finding a good cheap source is totally possible, just takes some looking and sometimes some asking. I’ve never purchased neem leaves, but I know where to find them from my adventures in the city.

Can you think of anything neem oil can help you with? Get some and give it a try you’ll be surprised by the results I think.

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Susan Brown
Susan Brown
7 years ago

Hello, I’ve used neem for years on my body and recently started using it against powdery mildew. I’m tempted to try it on my cole crops that are getting devastated by the swede midge, a Eurasian insect that’s invading New York, Vermont and Ontario. A scientist at the University of Vermont in Burlington is researching organic control of this varmint, but nothing for sure yet, though interplanting with aromatic herbs looks hopeful. There is some concern about how neem would affect bees and other beneficial insects. Do you know anything about this? Thanks.