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Neem Oil: The All-Natural Pest Remedy

With concerns about how pesticides impact the environment, many food producers are turning to a natural solution: neem oil. But what is it? Is it as safe as people think?

In this blog, we’ll discuss how this pest remedy works, how you can apply it to affected areas, and what makes it popular as an all-natural pesticide.

What is Neem Oil?

Neem oil is a natural pesticide that’s made from the seeds of the neem tree, a species that is native to the Indian subcontinent and areas across South Asia.

Beyond oil, almost every part of the neem tree has a use. Twigs can be used as toothbrushes, as they have antibacterial and teeth whitening qualities. Businesses use neem for beauty products, including shampoos, soaps and creams, and kids play under the shade of neem trees, free from bothersome pests.

Neem has appeared in ancient medical texts written in Sanskrit, and appears in the Vedas, sacred texts in the Hindu religion. There, neem is referred to as ‘Sarva Roga Nivarini’ meaning ‘one that cures all ailments and ills.’

With the ability to repel insects and save plants from pests, neem may just be able to cure your garden. Let’s take a look at how this important pesticide can help keep your plants protected.

How Does Neem Oil Work as a Pesticide?

There are two types of neem oil, clarified hydrophobic extract of neem oil and cold pressed neem oil. Cold pressed neem oil contains Azadirachtin, a substance that has insecticidal properties, which clarified extract lacks. From this point on, we’re only discussing cold pressed neem oil, which is what our head grower recommends.

Azadirachtin works differently from other pesticides. While it can be lethal to pests, this is typically only a secondary side effect of pests suffocating under the thick substance of neem oil solution. It suppresses pest hormones, reduces bug’s urges to feed, and leads to starvation.

Neem oil is useful as a natural pesticide when combatting aphids, beetles, borers, caterpillars, flies, gnats, grasshoppers, mites and more.

How to Apply Neem Oil Pesticide to Your Farm or Garden

Before using neem oil on your farm, you should read any instructions that come with the product. While most neem oil products will have similar ingredients, different products may have instructions that slightly vary from one to another.

Generally, you can buy neem oil as a concentrate or pre-mixed. Our head grower recommends buying concentrate as you can generally make it last longer than mixed solutions.

Because neem is an oil, it doesn’t dissolve in water. That means you should mix the solution vigorously before application. Add concentrate to a spray bottle filled with a little water (for optimal mixing, ensure water is above 45 degrees Fahrenheit). Consult the neem oil product information for recommendations for mixing ratios.

Before using the solution on your entire crop, test it on a small section, then wait 24 hours. If that works well, spray the leaves of the plants you want to target, covering both sides in a light coating, and let dry.

In hydroponic farms, grow lights can affect the absorption of neem oil. Because of this, you should turn them off prior to application, and leave them off for at least an hour following application. Neem oil is typically reapplied every week until there are no signs of pests. Additionally, you can spray the natural pesticide around farm entrances, repelling insects from ever coming inside.

A bottle of neem oil next to a basil plant growing in dirt.
Neem oil can be bought from several brands. Make sure to buy a brand that retains Azadirachtin by extracting the oil using a cold-pressed process.

Are There Any Concerns When Using Neem Oil?

While neem oil is significantly safer for humans than other pesticides, especially chemical pesticides, there are still concerns that you should be aware of.

For instance, you should wear eye protection, gloves and an apron to decrease the likelihood of skin irritation and wash your hands before and after handling neem.

Do not keep neem oil concentrate stored in temperatures above 104 degrees Fahrenheit, or lower than 70 degrees. If frozen, tighten the cap and thaw by placing the container in warm water.

Be aware that neem oil may impact non-target insect populations, like pollinators that are helpful to your garden. Keeping this in mind, use this natural pesticide carefully in outdoor environments, and never spray when pollinators are out.

When used outdoors, apply solution in the early morning or late afternoon to ensure that non-target insect populations aren’t affected and avoid damaging leaf burn.

Are There Circumstances Where Neem Oil Isn’t the Best Option?

While neem oil is impressive as a natural pesticide, there are some instances where another pest remedy may work better. When dealing with an extensive pest problem, neem oil may not be able to solve the problem, and more powerful options may require consideration.

For large-scale farming operations, there may be better options. However, for most small-scale growing areas like container farms, neem oil is safe, effective and inexpensive.


In conclusion, neem oil stands out as a natural and versatile pesticide derived from the seeds of the neem tree, deeply rooted in the Indian subcontinent’s cultural and medical history.

The efficacy of neem oil lies in its active component, Azadirachtin, present in cold-pressed neem oil. This substance disrupts their hormonal balance, curbing feeding urges and inducing starvation. Its broad spectrum of applications against various pests, from aphids to mites, makes neem oil an invaluable tool for gardeners and farmers alike.

However, despite its many advantages, users must acknowledge potential concerns. Safety measures, such as handwashing and protective gear, are essential when handling neem oil. Additionally, its impact on non-target insect populations, especially beneficial pollinators, warrants careful consideration. As with any pesticide, informed and responsible usage is key to unlocking the full potential of neem oil while minimizing environmental impact.

Pure Greens manufactures and customizes hydroponic container farms, producing crops with up to 90% less water usage when compared to traditional growing methods. If you’re interested in learning more about hydroponic growing, take a look at our blog and contact us to discuss how we can help you start your hydroponic farming journey today.

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