Tree Therapy for Skin & Scalp
If you suffer from a skin or scalp condition you have probably tried many of the creams, soaps and shampoos available on the market. However, you probably also worry about the long term use of synthetic products on your skin. Many people choose to tolerate the symptoms of eczema or psoriasis rather than use conventional anti-inflammatory products. There are herbal alternatives on the market but it is often difficult to know which one will work for you.
Indians have long known about a herb with a wealth of therapeutic properties for skin and scalp conditions. The Indian Neem Tree has been used for centuries for the treatment of many skin conditions. It is even said to have been a ritual in some societies to take a bath in a decoction of Neem leaves. Many parts of the Neem tree were used traditionally, but Neem leaves and Neem oil were thought to be particularly beneficial for skin complaints and have been used to treat everything from skin ulcers to leprosy.
Why is Neem so effective for skin conditions? Research in recent years has shown that Neem has a wide range of therapeutic actions – it is an excellent antiseptic and has now confirmed its efficacy against pathogenic bacteria, including Staphylococcus aureus which can cause abscesses and wound infections. It is also antifungal and contains natural anti-inflammatory agents – analgesics - which can soothe inflammation of the skin and scalp.
Treatments containing extracts of Neem leaf are particularly effective for the treatment of eczema. Eczema is a term applied to inflamed skin, which is often characterised by redness and weeping and is normally treated with anti-inflammatory drugs such as steroids, and by avoiding common triggers such as stress, soap and some food types. While the cause of eczema is often unknown, the symptoms can be improved. Two natural anti-inflammatory agents have been identified in Neem, nimbin and nimbidin. In one study nimbidin was shown to be at least as effective as the non-steroidal treatment phenylbutazone. Nimbin has also been shown to have a comparable effect to the steroid, hydrocortisone.
Neem also offers a treatment for an even more common affliction, dandruff. Dandruff is the result of an accelerated shedding of skin flakes from the scalp and can be caused by fungal infection. Neem’s antifungal action can help to treat the cause of dandruff while its anti-inflammatory properties relieve inflammation and redness of the scalp.
There is ongoing research into the use of Neem for a range of other skin conditions. In a recent clinical study patients with long term severe ringworm were clear of ringworm after two to three days of treatment with Neem Leaf extract and were found to be still free of ringworm after a year.
Neem extracts can now be found in a variety of herbal shampoos, balms, lotions and oils. Neem has been shown in many studies to be safe and non-irritant so it can be used regularly as a preventative.