Palm oil is an edible oil extracted from the fruit of the African oil palm. It’s a widely used oil that serves many purposes.
In fact, according to the World Wildlife Fund, you’ll find palm oil in more than half the food, household and personal care products sold in the United States.
The reason for this is that the demand for palm oil increased sharply with the discovery that the trans fats found in hydrogenated oils and processed foods contribute significantly to hypertension, heart disease, obesity and overall poor health.
This semi-solid, healthy oil, makes palm oil an excellent substitute for the unhealthy oils found in products needing a long shelf life (e.g. crackers, cookies, chips, etc.) This is why the US now imports nearly 500% more of this useful oil that it did in 2002.
Many personal care and cosmetic products such as lipstick, lip balm, hair care products, soap, lotions and more contain palm oil. It also has widespread applications in industrial materials, animal feed, and biofuel uses.
Why Is This A Bad Thing?
The African Oil Palm (Elaeis guineensis) is a strictly tropical tree.
Growing naturally in West Africa but cultivated in tropical locations such as South America, Central America, Indonesia, Malaysia and other hot regions that experience abundant rainfall. While palm oil production and export can bring a lot of money to a country, the cost to wildlife, the earth, and local people is harsh.
1. Native plants and animal are threatened and/or wiped out. Setting up plantations brings the destruction of natural forests and wild lands. The production of palm oil has brought many species of animals, including tigers, rhinos, elephants and orangutans to near extinction.
2. Environmental havoc is wrought. Swapping out natural, wild forest and jungle for solid blocks of tree plantation have very negative environmental consequences regarding soil erosion and very high levels of greenhouse gas production.
3. Human rights violations, corruption, and crime run rampant. In addition to causing serious problems for the environment and native species of plants and animals, palm oil production also brings trouble to the people of the lands with established plantations. Just as with enterprises such as logging and diamond mining, palm oil production generates human rights violations, corruption, crime and even murder.
Neem Oil To The Rescue!
Palm oil is an excellent ingredient for use in cosmetics, personal care products, and over-the-counter topical medications, but is it worth the destruction? The answer to this question is a very emphatic “NO!”
Not only is it not worth the destruction, but the destruction can also and should be sharply mitigated. Now it can be because there is a better alternative: Neem Oil!
Neem oil, sourced from the seed kernels of the hardy, easily grown Neem tree (aka Indian Lilac) native to India and Asia. Although this oil is not edible, it is a highly prized medicinal oil with an abundance of uses in health, personal care, household and industrial products.
It’s often used in the same way as palm oil in medicines, lotions, hair care products, dental care products and the like. The difference, products made with Neem oil are better!
While palm oil does contain antioxidants, carotene, vitamin A, vitamin E and many other beneficial, healing and moisturizing components, Neem oil contains all that and more!
Available in various grades, this versatile oil can be used to create excellent cosmetic, medicinal, household and industrial products.
There Are Many Ways Of Producing Neem Oil For A Wide Variety Of Uses:
1. Mechanical hot press: This method produces Neem oil that is suitable for use in household cleaning products and products for the yard and garden.
2. Mechanical cold press: This method produces cold-pressed essential oils that are suitable for medicinal, cosmetic and personal care products such as cold press soap, shampoo bar and others.
3. Chemical or Solvent Extraction: This method is suitable for producing oil to be used in biofuel and industrial applications.
Cold pressed Neem oil is light in color and mild in odor. It contains a wealth of phytonutrients. In addition to the antioxidants, carotene, and vitamins found in palm oil, cold pressed Neem oil also contains limonoids and polysaccharides.
According to information obtained via the Pelagia Research Library, these components are helpful in guarding against the development of a number of different types of cancer such as skin cancer, lymphocytic leukemia and various tumors.
The limonoid compounds include:
The fatty acids found in Neem oil help stimulate the production of collagen for quick healing of scars, injuries and irritation and reversal of the ravages of aging. The vitamin E content works as a free radical to hinder the oxidation process and promote supple soft skin.
The phenolic compounds contain catechin, which helps reduce inflammation, swelling and pain in a number of skin conditions.
Like palm oil, Neem oil sinks deeply into the skin or hair shaft to alleviate dryness and heal damage quickly; however, simply put, safe Neem oil delivers more benefits and is more effective than palm oil.
Here are just a few of the ways Neem oil is commonly used:
- Over-the-counter and prescription medications intended to treat the symptoms of vaginal infections and STDs
- Ointments and rubs used to combat the pain, swelling and inflammation of arthritis and rheumatism
- Preparations for the treatment of fungal infection (i.e. ringworm, athlete’s foot, nail fungus)
- Products used to repel annoying insects such as flies, fleas and mosquitoes
- As a superior treatment for skin problems such as eczema and psoriasis
- As an ingredient in dandruff shampoos and hair loss treatments
- Medications to combat scabies and lice infestation
- As a topical treatment for cuts, scrapes and bruises
- When used as a component of topical treatments, Neem oil can reduce pain and inflammation and helps heal skin irritations and sores caused by:
- Sexually transmitted diseases
- Staph infections
- Chicken pox
- Diabetic foot
It is important to understand that Neem essential oil cannot heal these serious problems, but it can help alleviate the symptoms and make life more comfortable for sufferers.
Moreover, blending pure neem oil with a carrier oil or other essential oils promotes added benefits perfect for people dealing with different kinds of skin or hair conditions at the same time. Some compatible essential oils for the Neem tree oil good for skin care and hair care include:
- Virgin coconut oil
- Tea tree oil
- Castor oil
- Tamanu oil
- Babassu oil
- Meadowfoam seed oil or meadowfoam oil
- Sunflower oil
- Hemp seed oil
- Camelina oil
- Evening primrose oil
- Sea buckthorn oil
- Apricot kernel oil
- Safflower oil
Neem Oil Is More Available & Less Costly Than Palm Oil
It’s easy to see that in cosmetic, medicinal and household products, Neem is superior in every way to palm oil. Furthermore, it is far more abundant and more affordable than palm oil.
Even in nations where palm oil production is one of the main sources of export income, Neem oil is often used in the production of household and cosmetic products and natural medicines.
Palm oil production is space, labor and resource intensive. Many countries cannot produce enough for their own use. For example, Ghana produces 800,000 tons of palm oil a year and still must import more to fulfill its needs, and Neem oil has come to the rescue.
Because palm oil is ubiquitous in a wide variety of products ranging from foodstuffs to animal feed to biofuel, oil needed for the production of cosmetic and medicinal goods is often lacking.
Use of Neem oil instead of palm oil reduces the need for palm oil for domestic uses, eases competition between industries needing oil and reduces the need for palm oil importation and production.
All-in-all, Neem oil provides an inexpensive source of fatty material for soap making and a wide variety of superior OTC medicines and personal care products.
For example, simple bath soap is a better product when made with abundant, affordable Neem oil. A neem oil soap is skin friendly and antimicrobial.
It helps treat a wide variety of skin conditions, such as eczema, psoriasis, and acne. Neem soaps are a great alternative for people who are sensitive to cold process soap containing chemical ingredients.
Sustainability: Palm VS Neem
Oil palms are originally from Western Africa and need sufficient heat and rainfall to grow. Today, West African palm trees grow throughout Africa, Asia, North America, and South America, and about 85% of the palm oil used in the world comes from Indonesia and Malaysia. As noted, palm oil production comes with its share of problems such as:
- Indigenous rights abuses
- Crime and corruption
- Habitat degradation
- Climate change
- Animal cruelty
The World Wildlife Fund reports that an area the size of 300 football fields is cleared in rainforests on an hourly basis to make space for the production of palm oil. The deforestation of these huge areas of land causes massive problems for local humans, wildlife and the very earth, itself.
At this time, palm oil accounts for about a third of total vegetable oil consumption and use around the world. It can be found in:
- Washing detergents
- Cleaning agents
- Baked goods
- ..and more.
Of these products, Neem oil easily takes the place of palm oil in all but baked goods and confectionary, and it is actually a better performing and more sustainable oil for these uses.
Are Neem Trees Really More Sustainable?
Using trees for the mass production of any product can be considered somewhat limiting. Trees, unlike plants such as industrial hemp, are perennial and must be sustained and cared for on a very long term basis.
On the other hand, the use of Neem trees to produce a natural, organic, beneficial oil for household, personal care, and medicinal uses also has many advantages. These perennial trees are easy to grow in any temperate climate. They are easy to establish, and once established, they create a source of a wide variety of products for many decades.
Unlike palm trees, Neem trees can thrive and grow in a wide variety of settings, and they can be grown on spent farmland and less than ideal land, so it is not necessary to destroy standing forests or displace food crops to grow them.
For this reason, planting commercial Neem trees can deliver the same ecological benefits as a reforestation project while making productive, profitable use of fallow land.
In addition to its native India and Asia, Neem trees currently grow for commercial purposes in California, Arizona, and Florida. There is even some Neem projects underway in the Sahara Desert. Although these trees are easy to grow and require little care, they do not tend to become invasive, so they do not endanger or displace local flora and fauna.
When planted in marginal land locations or on land that has been overused, Neem trees actually contribute to the restoration of the land. They improve the quality of the soil and help prevent and reduce erosion while providing shade, cooling and managed habitat for friendly fauna.
Neem bark, fruits, and leaves can be harvested year after year without harming the tree. For this reason, a Neem forest delivers far more monetary, tangible and intangible benefits than a stand of timber.
Choose Neem Oil Over Palm Oil!
It’s easy to see that there are many benefits to planting Neem trees instead of palm trees and to using Neem oil in the household, cosmetic and medicinal preparations instead of palm oil. In the final analysis, Neem oil is less expensive, more effective, more abundant and far more beneficial to our one and only planet and all its denizens.