Long valued in Ayurvedic medicine, the healing properties of neem oil have wide application. The oil is known to have anti-fungal, anti-bacterial, and anti-viral properties. Neem oil (Azadirachta indica) is derived from the neem tree, a cousin to the mahogany tree. The neem tree resembles an oak, but is a tropical evergreen (deciduous) that is native to both Myanmar and India.
The tree's ideal growing condition is a lowland tropical area. Growers have been successful in introducing the neem tree to Florida, Central America, and Africa. The medicinal oil is pressed from the seeds of the tree.
Practitioners have documented more than 60 medical conditions for which neem oil acts as a curative, including gum disease, ringworm, ulcers, dandruff, cold sores, psoriasis, eczema, and acne. While these claims are impressive, it's important to note that the only studies performed on the oil within the United States concern its very different use as a natural insecticide.
Be that as it may, the oil has a long history in India as an anti-fungal, where the tree is called the "Village Pharmacy," and has been in use since the middle ages. Practitioners believe that neem oil combines with the skin to kill more than 14 kinds of fungi. These fungi include many of the most common types, such as Trichosporon (responsible for intestinal tract infection), Geotrichum (can cause bronchi, lung, and mucous membrane infections), Trichophyton (the fungi responsible for athlete's foot), and Epidermophyton (the infectious agent which causes ringworm).
As a cure for athlete's foot, just mix 1 tablespoon of neem oil with 1/2 cup of olive or almond oil (in natural health parlance, these oils are called "carrier oils"), and rub into the affected areas two times, daily. Some people find the oil irritates their skin, so if you already know your skin tends to be sensitive then it's a good idea to dilute the neem oil with more of the carrier oil.
Another method for using the oil as a treatment for athlete's foot is to add 15 ml of neem oil to warm water and to use the resulting tea as a foot soak.
One drawback related to the use of this remarkable brown oil is its unpleasant and even heavy odor, which has been likened to a combination of sulfur and garlic. Some practitioners prefer to mix the neem oil with a second oil, such as tea tree, or lavender to help offset the aroma.