Neem Oil – The Natural Pesticide


Neem Tree – picture by sarangib – pixabay

Today, people are more aware than ever of the dangers posed by the use of man-made chemical pesticides. The poisons kill more than just the insects that are targeted. They kill bees and other beneficial insects. They run off into rivers and lakes, contaminating the water tables that we drink from and killing fish. They are absorbed by fruits and vegetables, making it impossible to wash them away prior to eating them. More and more home gardeners are turning to natural alternatives, just as many people are choosing organic foods in the markets. Neem oil is one of the natural alternatives.

It should be mentioned that food at the store that is labeled as organic doesn’t mean that no chemical pesticides have been used. Labeling can be quite deceptive. There is simply stricter control over what can be used and how much can be used. Neem oil, on the other hand, is not man-made.

Source of Neem

Neem oil comes from the seeds of the neem tree, which is native to India. People are often surprised to learn that some of the substances in neem oil are used in such products as toothpaste, soap and cosmetics. Although this may shock many people, the point is that in the quantities normally used, neem is non-toxic to birds, wildlife, bees and people. Naturally, care should be taken when handling neem oil, since it is usually purchased in a concentrated form.

One of the things that make neem so good is that it not only repels and kills many insect pests, it also breaks down quickly. Unlike man-made chemical pesticides, it doesn’t linger in the environment.

About Neem

Neem is a repellent that has an aroma that is rather like the mixture of sulfur and garlic. It also kills insects that eat foliage that has been sprayed with the oil by both preventing them from eating as much of the plants and wrecking havoc with the insect’s reproductive cycle. While it is known that the substance in neem that is most responsible for this action is azadirachtin, precisely how it works isn’t known. Azadirachtin is a skin irritant, though, so exposure to the skin should be limited as much as possible, when applying it.

The name, Azadirachtin, comes from the botanical name of the tree; Azadirachta indica and the genus name actually means “noble tree”. Interestingly, neem is used by herbalists for several maladies, including diabetes, tuberculosis, fever, upset stomach and arthritis.

What Neem is Used For in the Garden

The insects that are killed by neem are primarily those that feed on the sprayed foliage. This means that the biggest pests are the ones that are affected, such as aphids, grasshoppers, spider mites, leaf hoppers, and caterpillars. The action is usually not noticed immediately, as one would expect from chemical pesticides. However, it is much safer to use and quite effective. There is also an exception. When sprayed on aphids, whiteflies, thrips or spider mites, the effects are often nearly immediate, because neem suffocates them.

Neem does break down rapidly once it is mixed with water or when it reaches the soil. This means that once a gardener mixes some up, it should be used immediately, for the best results.

If you have insect pests and don’t want to resort to chemicals that can linger for years and which are as poisonous to you, your pets and to wildlife as they are to the harmful insects, neem would be the pesticide to use. It is one of nature’s answers to destructive garden insects. You can use neem and still have honestly organically grown food.


  1. Andria Perry

    Thanks for posting this one, I will be buying some and very soon, the worms ate all my new cucumbers 🙁 and I have new squash blooming now.

    I tumblr , stumbled, pinned, tweeted, face`d and G+ this article. Why? to get the word out ! 🙂

    1. Rex Trulove Post author

      LOL…thank you. This is why I use neem. I’m definitely in favor of something that is natural, that kills the bad bugs and doesn’t hurt anything else.

    1. Rex Trulove Post author

      It is far better than conventional insecticides and a whole bunch better on the environment. I started using it because we have a yearly grasshopper problem and most man-made insecticides won’t work because the grasshoppers have built up an immunity. We have a lot of birds that will eat the dead grasshoppers, too, and chemicals can end up killing them as well. Neem won’t.

    2. Eva James

      I use a lot of different plants in the garden to help so I dont use chemicals. I have planted hot peppers when I dont need them just because they repel a lot of things and marigolds are everywhere in my garden.

    3. Rex Trulove Post author

      Marigolds, hot peppers, lavender, basil, garlic, some kinds of geraniums and so on do deter a lot of insect pestsand it is wise to plant them throughout the garden, but some insects (like grasshoppers) are stubborn. 🙂 The neem then comes in handy. My preference would be to not use anything that I have to actually apply, except water. There are just times when there isn’t much choice.

    4. Eva James

      You do seem to get grass hoppers worse than we do. I seldom have enough here to cause too much trouble.

    5. Rex Trulove Post author

      I just wish that I could make the same claim. This year is worse than last year and there are grasshoppers all over the place.

    1. Rex Trulove Post author

      I am in total agreement with you. It is also much safer and better for the environment.

  2. Gina M. Menorca

    The first time I have read and heard of neem oil. My husband family is farmers. I will share your knowledge with them. I wish that it is available in my country. And I also hope that it is affordable.

    1. Rex Trulove Post author

      You are much closer to India than we are, so it is probably available there. I’m not sure how expensive it would be for you, though. Still, it probably isn’t much different in price than other, more harmful pesticides.

  3. Ceci

    We love the neem oil as it is good for eczema, I added into my D.I.Y soop, however it is really smelly, the kids not really like it.

    1. Rex Trulove Post author

      I can imagine. To me, it smells sort of like combining sulfur and garlic, which isn’t the most pleasant smell around. On the other hand, the deer don’t like the smell much, either, which is a good thing around here.

  4. Gil Camporazo

    This is the first time that I have heard this Neem, an Indian tree. I don’t know if the PH agriculturists have already known this. In our Agriculture class, we introduce the lemon grass (cymbopogon), the baho-baho (lantana) as insect repellants. We planted our gardening premises or surrounding by these plants for they have a stinky or pungent odor..

    1. Rex Trulove Post author

      There are many plants that are natural insect repellents, like marigolds (though there are also certain caterpillars that eat marigolds). A common ingredient in the states in dog flea shampoo is pyrethrin. Pyrethrin is a powerful insecticide that kills fleas (also mosquitoes, flies, moths, and so forth) and it comes from a kind of chrysanthemum. (It is also poisonous to dogs and cats, despite being used in the shampoo.) The list goes on.

      Neem has been used for centuries for its insecticidal and medicinal properties. Because of how long it’s been used, I have a feeling that Filipino agriculturists have heard of it. Whether they use it or not is another question. 🙂

    1. Rex Trulove Post author

      It has quite a few uses, including skin problems of all sorts. (I imagine that dandruff would qualify as a skin condition. lol) As an herbalist, I’ve used it medicinally. As a gardener, I love how well it gets rid of insect pests without harming the environment.

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