Contact dermatitis is just a fancy word for an allergic reaction, but when a report showed up on the National Institutes of Health website questioning neem as a potential allergen, we immediately purchased a $42 article to read the full report.
Turns out, one man in Italy had been using neem on atopic dermatitis (a form of eczema). Patch tests on the neem oil in the OTC moisturizer caused a positive reaction.
The researchers did the same patch test (using a product with 10% neem oil) on 10 other people and saw no reaction. They also noted a few cases of allergic contact dermatitis (six to eight) over the past few years. One was a case of airborne dermatitis which happened when a man with psoriasis was spraying neem as a pesticide.
It’s impossible to count how many neem products we’ve sold since we started selling lotions, creams and salves in 1996. It’s easy to count the number of reports on allergic reactions — one! The manufacturer mislabeled a box of shampoo as lotion and something in the shampoo left on the lady’s skin did cause a reaction. (Of course, we refunded her money with deep apologies.)
Over that nearly 30+ years, we’ve also talked to people who were allergic to natural fragrances, Vitamin E, coconut oil and even aloe vera. The calls were more focused on what we carried that didn’t include those products, which is why we created the Nothing But Neem stick — which is about 70% neem oil and never caused a problem that we’re aware of.
We’ve always tried to function as a fully transparent company, listing ingredients online long before it became a standard practice and warning people about the times when they should not take neem.
For years, we told anyone who asked us to avoid the use of neem on psoriasis because it is an auto-immune disease and neem is a powerful immune system booster. That concern, however, turned out to be overrated as we heard from people who had had psoriasis all their lives and said neem was the only product that had ever cleared up their skin. *
In fact, we’re delighted to report that our Anti-Itch formulas are among our top-sellers — to the point where it’s the only product we sell in a quart because some people use so much of it.
Not All Neem is Created Equal
This report also raises (but doesn’t address) two other questions. First, what was the quality of the neem oil? Not all neem oil is created equally. Seeds need to be carefully collected, cleaned and dried before the oil is pressed. Secondly, in the case of neem oil labeled as a pesticide, most of the mainstream brands sell products with “inert” ingredients. We have heard multiple issues about people having problems with “inerts.” We can’t respond, however, because the manufacturers don’t need to disclose what they are.
The report concludes “further studies are needed,” so we’re asking customers if they had problems and just didn’t report them to us If so, we’ll include a warning on our contraindications page. It’s a particularly important question because it seems to be exacerbating existing conditions. Our top priority is to make people feel better. Our reviews suggest that it is making a major difference — particularly considering the side effects of nearly every allergy drug — but we’d appreciate your input.
*This statement has not been evaluated by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration. Neem Tree Farms does not sell products which are intended to diagnose, prevent, treat or cure any disease.
I found your website while googling for “neem oil allergy hives.”
I didn’t use your product, but used a neem seed oil marketed as a pesticide. On the container, they do seem to be aware of its use on skin though.
I was attempting to treat long-enduring rash/infection on my legs. At first, I had no reaction, so I thought I was fine. I started using it twice a day on my whole body. After a few days, I had sprinklings of hives all over my body. So in my case, the allergic reaction was delayed.
I do have a lot of allergies, including nuts., and have sensitive skin. I am likely also undiagnosed celiac (or at least gluten allergy, including oats). So I may have had a lot of contraindications that I didn’t properly research. I hope this information helps you or anyone else.
One question: If I reacted to neem seed oil, should I definitely avoid neem leaf too? Or might neem leaf possibly be safe?
I’m sorry, I just now received notification on this comment. Were you using the straight neem oil or a formulated product like the Anti-Itch line?
The only reactions we’ve ever seen have been delayed. It seems that the neem builds up over time and then the hives occur (less than a dozen times in the last 25 years though, so it’s not a common occurrence).
I would definitely avoid the leaf internally but a water extract might help externally. Let us know if you want to try it again — or if you were using straight oil or another product.