Acne, a common inflammatory skin condition that causes blackheads, whiteheads and pimples, results from dead skin cells, excess skin oils and bacteria blocking your hair follicles. The University of Maryland Medical Center says up to 45 million people in the United States suffer from it. Although acne usually resolves by age 30 and is not a serious medical condition, it can cause emotional distress. Many people use herbal remedies, including neem juice, to alleviate acne. Discuss the use of neem juice with your dermatologist before using it. It has no FDA sanctioning for this purpose, and its effectiveness for this is unproven.
The neem tree, botanically known as Azadirachta indica and also called the margosa, is a large evergreen tree native to India, where it is revered for its healing qualities. Herbal remedies made from the tree's leaves, seeds, fruit and bark are a mainstay of Ayurvedic healing and have traditionally been used against jaundice, malaria, wounds and skin diseases, as well as a host of other ailments.
Neem leaves contain bioflavonoids such as quercetin, as well as beneficial carotenes and ascorbic acid. Drugs.com says the seed kernels of the neem contain limonoid triterpenes -- or bitter substances -- including azadirachtin and azadiradione. Two additional triterpenes, nimbin and nimbidin, are credited by the Neem Foundation as having therapeutic value for inflammatory skin conditions.
Herbalists and naturopathic practitioners recommend neem for acne due to its antimicrobial qualities. There is some scientific research supporting the belief in neem's ability to inhibit bacteria. In a scholarly review conducted by Kausik Biswas et al and published in the June 10, 2002 issue of "Current Science," the authors concluded that neem oil has a wide spectrum of antibacterial action in vitro against 14 different strains of pathogenic bacteria. There is also research that pertains directly to neem's benefits for acne, although it was used in conjunction with other Ayurvedic herbs. In a clinical trial conducted by M.G. Gopal et al and published in the 2001 issue of "The Indian Practitioner," significant relief of symptoms was noted in patients with Grade II and Grade III acne vulgaris who received a blend of Ayurvedic herbs, including Azadirachta indica, or neem.
You can drink neem leaf juice to treat acne, or you can apply it topically. According to Blue Shield Complementary and Alternative Health, or BSCAH, it's safe to drink 2 tsp. to 4 tsp. of the juice two to three times a day. You can also apply the juice directly to affected areas, as recommended by Gerard Bodekar, M.D., of the University of Oxford Medical School, on the Neem Foundation website.
According to the Neem Foundation, neem juice is a non-irritant to skin and may safely be applied to treat inflammatory skin problems such as acne. Drugs.com says topical applications of neem oil over one year resulted in no adverse results. However, check with your doctor before using neem juice or oil; if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, the website advises not using neem at all. BSCAH says neem oil should be kept out of reach of children.