Neem oil safe for edible plants?

melissa0607June 23, 2007

Hi all,

I have mites and blights...I am planning on trying Garden Safe Fungicide 3-in-1 but am not sure it's safe for the herbs or tomatoes. Does anyone know if it's safe to use on edible plants?



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Neem oil is most definitely safe on edibles! That's the only thing I used last year, as I go organic. I haven't had to use anything this year, maybe because of the abundance of ladybugs in my garden this time around.

    Bookmark   June 23, 2007 at 2:47PM
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Neem oil is fabulous, but since you know your pest, you should be as specific as possible about how you choose to control them. Take the time to learn that there is not a "cure all" for every pest at every stage of it's life cycle. Some won't work if it's going to rain. Some don't work well if it's too hot, etc.

Pest management is complex, if you wish to use chemical products, do so responsibly which goes further than reading the label. If you want to learn, a good place to start is here:

Integrated Pest Management
This lecture is presented in two parts. Each part is 90-minutes in length. Recorded in Sacramento County in California's Sacramento Valley, this lecture is by Mary Louise Flint, Ph.D., Director, IPM Education and Publications, UC Statewide IPM Project and Extension Entomologist & Cooperative Extension Specialist.

B.S. Plant Science, University of California, Davis
Ph.D. Entomology, University of California, Berkeley

100% Cooperative Extension

Research Interests:
Integrated pest management of landscape, agricultural and garden pests; biological control of arthropod pests; alternatives to pesticides; adoption of alternative practices by practitioners; innovative delivery of pest management information.

Topics discussed in the Integrated Pest Management Lecture:

* IPM references and resources
* Preventing pest problems
* Natural common enemies
* Making less toxic pesticide choices
* Controlling aphids, scales, caterpillars, coddling moths, tree borers, snails and slugs, and lawn insects.

You can watch the programs now online:

Just make sure you have Real Player installed or download it free.

Integrated Pest Management Part1 90 minutes

Integrated Pest Management Part 2 90 minutes

You'll want to bookmark the following link to Professor Flint's Lab Research on:
Controlling Pests in Gardens and Landscapes: Vegetables and Melons

I promise you'll learn one or two things to put in your gardening bag of pest management arsenals.


    Bookmark   June 23, 2007 at 4:52PM
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you need to read the label on the product. Neem oil itself is certainly edible and safe on veggies, but the product may have other things in it that make it not edible or edible after a short waiting period.

Definitely check the label.

In the case of the product you mentioned it's label indicates it is safe to use up to the day of harvest, but there is no guarantee other neem based products will be.

    Bookmark   June 23, 2007 at 6:37PM
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I just bought neem concentrate that was neem and neem alone. Pretty cheap and worked well.

    Bookmark   June 23, 2007 at 8:45PM
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Thanks everyone! The label indicated "safe until day of harvest" but under "precautionary statements it warned against getting the product on your skin, using while chewing gum, etc. Strange that something could be safe on edible plants and unsafe on your skin!

    Bookmark   June 23, 2007 at 9:16PM
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It's probably something in the 'inert ingredients' that mandates that label. Neem oil can be ingested if it's pure oil and it can be applied to the skin as well.

    Bookmark   June 23, 2007 at 9:42PM
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You have to take into consideration what it takes to get something labeled for sale in the U.S. Neem has been used for I do not know how many things for how many thousands of years in India? I think...If your kids get lice it is also marketed as safe to wash thier heads with! However there is some controversy about Neem in other countries which is pure and what we do to it in this country to call it safe....

all in all you can use neem which is certified organic at this time or a pesticide that the governement allows us to use even though we know it is unsafe!

Use the neem!

Also if you have small areas to do look at HD they had a one gallon sprayer that was battery operated with a nice wide strap to carry over your shoulder....9.99! worked great, your finger will get tired though!


    Bookmark   June 23, 2007 at 9:58PM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

The product you name isn't just neem oil. Per the manufacturer's site it also contains potassium salts, fatty acids, copper, and sulfur. Those ingredients, if used per label instructions, are safe for food use but some of them can cause contact dermatitis or respiratory problems for some people - thus the warning labels.

As long as you stick to the directions there shouldn't be any problems but it is one of those products that claims to do all things for all problems for all the people all the time. Let us know how it lives up to its claims. ;)


    Bookmark   June 23, 2007 at 10:10PM
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Native to India and Burma, Neem trees' products have been, for thousands of years, used as a cure-all. The tree is considered as "Sarva Roga Nivarini" meaning a universal cure for all problems, in Ayurveda. " For those that do not know, Ayurveda is the ancient Hindu science of health and medicine, still practiced.
While I do not believe it's "the curer of all ailments" that's *thousands* of years of usage and they are still used. More recently the tree has been identified as " A Tree For Solving Global Problems " in a book(free online reading at the National; Academies Press link). It's actually a report prepared by an ad hoc advisory panel of (...) National Research Council.

The problem with neem oil is that it is (very) biodegradable, light sensitive and therefore unstable. It can/will become rancid if not stored at 40*F or less. Even then, lifetime is limited. It solidifies at those temps so is not useful until it is warmed.
Furthermore it is an oil which needs a surfactant for emulsification in order for it to be used as a spray.
To put it on a shelf in a store, additional ingredients are required to stabilize it and provide emulsification so when shaken it can be easily be mixed with water. Those ingredients are, one can bet, the cheapest the manufacturer can use. They are not (always) organic or safe.

To avoid the unknown added chemicals make your own spray. All natural neem oil can be mixed with Soapnut Powder ( which c/a/b used as a wash/bath powder ) in water. Soapnuts do not have to be used; Ivory, Sunlight, ... "dishwashing soap" w/b as good but one does enter the realm of the unknown when using dishwashing soap from the store shelf.

The Ottawa Orchid Society site page has good "TIPS ON USING NEEM OIL" if interested.

I have not done any business with these people yet so this is *only* here for reference.
The Neem Products site has info about most neem-based products sorting the seeds from the pulp, so to speak.
The Neem Tree Farms sells most everything related to neem from the trees they grow in Florida, USA.
The Neem Resource site has neem oil in quantities from 8oz to 55gal drums.

Personally I still would not apply anything other than good clean water and pick fruit/vegetable on the same day. And would rinse or peel any edible that was picked on any day.
Rem: An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure --proverb

    Bookmark   July 1, 2007 at 7:03PM
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nygardener(z6 New York)

Neem is very effective but it has a funny taste and odor, like a mixture of garlic and peanut butter, that persist for several weeks. So I wouldn't immediately eat anything sprayed with it. I also don't know what effects it has on beneficial insects.

    Bookmark   July 27, 2007 at 11:49PM
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Please note the following reaserch of internet data;

A very popular pest control product is neem oil. Neem oil is extracted by pressing the seeds of the Indian neem tree. The resulting oil concentrate can be purchased at quality garden stores. Neem is generally applied in a spray to the entire plant. Don��t forget to spray the underside of leaves, because many insects will hide there. The dilution rate for mixing the neem oil is one to two teaspoons per quart of water. To help the oil and water mix, try adding a couple drops of hand soap; make sure the soap is not antibacterial.

When the sprayed neem oil comes in contact with the garden pests, the active ingredient, azadirachtin, confuses the insect��s growth hormones. On young garden insects or eggs this contact will cause the insect to never reach sexual maturity, meaning that no offspring will be produced. Neem oil is effective against spidermites, aphids, scales, fungus gnats and even harms beneficial insects. Neem can also effectively remove powdery mildew and rust.

HOWEVER; Neem oil should not be used on edible plants and are going to be consumed. Neem oil is a SYSTEMIC PESTICIDE and will be ABSORBED DIRECTLY INTO the plant that it is being used on (you may also only just place it in the surrounding soil and it WILL absorb it). If one does intend to use neem oil on a plant that is edible, it is best to make sure that none of the neem oil comes into direct contact the with fruits or vegetables (Best Practice).

Reported effects of neem oil on humans
are summarised. Two cases were described where oral administration to young children resulted in acute toxic effects.
The oil, even in small amounts (5ml)was reported to cause toxic encephalopathy. Features were vomiting, drowsiness,
tachypnoea, and recurrent generalised seizures. Laboratory
tests showed that the oil causes leukocytosis and metabolic
acidosis (Lai et al., 1990). Sinniah et al. (1982) reported the
case of a child, who died after administration of the oil as
treatment for a cough. Autopsy findings revealed changes in
the liver and kidneys consistent with Reye��s syndrome but
unlike those described in acute aflatoxicosis. As aflatoxins have been identified in oil samples, the toxic action of the oil may have been due to the synergistic effects of aflatoxins and other toxic components in the oil.
In indigenous medicine in India, the oil is considered to
have a contraceptive activity

It should NOT be given internally to the weak, very young or the old and must be avoided by any pregnant women, or women trying to become pregnant. High continuous intake could cause liver problems.

Neem seed oil CAN (as its been reported), when taken internally, produce a toxic effect in humans, and side effects include diarrhoea, nausea, vomiting, acidosis, encephalopathy, etc amongst other things. The toxic effects might be due to the presence of aflatoxin and other toxic compounds present in Neem oil.

Neem oil shows toxicity to fish like tilapia and carp, and oral administration of the oil in rats and rabbits (at 14 ml/kg and 24ml/kg respectively) produced a severe hypoglycaemic effect and possibly targets the central nervous system and lungs.

Taking Neem oil internally is not recommended and taking internal doses as small as 5 ml has killed infants �V I would recommend to err on the side of safety.

Neem capsules containing the aqueous extract are also sold �V but it is an extract from the leaves, and is not the oil itself.

If you do your research beyond the blue i think there is more to the story.

Personally try these

Red Pepper, Garlic and Onion Spray
Chop an unpeeled onion and a head of garlic. Simmer the onion and garlic with 15 ml (1 tbsp) cayenne pepper in about 1.5 litres (2 �� pints) water for 20 minutes. Cool the mixture, pour into a jar, seal, stand for six weeks and strain into bottles. To use, mix 15 ml (1 tbsp) of this mixture with 750 ml (1�� pints) water. Add a little soap solution. Use as a general pest spray as well as for caterpillars. Note: Do not allow this to come into contact with eyes or skin.

You can find these and more at

other organic sites also state use of edible oil to be mixed in to these "like" ingredients.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2012 at 3:57AM
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