Neem oil has been singled out as an effective organic pesticide safe for use on a variety of plants. It has been passed to be generally safe on vegetables and garden plants, active against harmful insects.
The oil is extracted from the neem plant (Azadirachta indica) seed, which is native to India. The oil is diluted with water before used as an organic pesticide. It is sold either unmixed or in diluted form. The main active insecticidal ingredient in neem oil is Azadirachtin.
It has anti-microbial activity and a sharply pungent smell. These attributes create a non-conducive environment for pests. Azadirachtin has been found out to stunt the growth of harmful plant insects.
Why Wash Neem Oil Off Plants?
Garden plants can be sprayed with neem oil against pest infestations. The question then is, can they still be consumed?
Neem oil, though acclaimed non-toxic, is not 100% safe at some concentrations and amounts.
With proper usage, it is safe. But that story can change if the use is abused. At increased concentrations, neem can have harmful side effects, especially on children and pregnant women.
In children, consumption of neem oil can result in serious side effects. These effects include; diarrhea, vomiting, seizures, headaches, loss of consciousness, brain disorders, coma, and death.
It is also unsafe for pregnant women as it can trigger a miscarriage. There has also been a link with infertility in men as it harms sperm cells. Neem can also cause over-excitement in the immune system.
In effect, causing allergic reactions and increase symptoms of other auto-immune diseases. Such diseases include rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, multiple sclerosis, and others.
In adults, ingestion of 100% neem oil has been reported to cause severe side effects. The toxicity resulted in vomiting, convulsions, and toxic encephalopathy. In high amounts, there is a risk of liver and kidney damage.
It is also necessary to wash off neem oil because of its offensive smell. The odor of the oil can cause a nauseous feeling in some people. No one will consume vegetables with an unpleasant smell.
How then do we balance the positive effect of neem oil against pests and avoid ingestion it from vegetables?
How To Wash Neem Oil Off Plants
Considering the possible side effects of consuming neem oil, it is necessary to avoid oil ingestion. It becomes more necessary in the case of children and pregnant women.
This is why washing the oil off plants, especially vegetables and fruits, is essential.
All vegetables and fruits that have been treated with neem oil should be thoroughly washed with water before consumption. This should be done in the case of commercial harvest in order not to endanger consumers.
For effective removal, the washing should be done with warm water immediately after harvesting.
The warm water is needed since the oil is not easily mixed with cold water. A mild soap solution can also be used to dissolve the oil from the leaf surface easily.
Soap or any other surfactant (surface tension lowering substance) aid the removal of oil and grease. Then, warm, clean water can be used for the rinsing up to three times.
This depends on the number or the size of the plants to be washed. If it is just a small garden harvest, then you don’t need much. But a large scale harvest could call for more.
About two bowls of clean water or a running tap will be enough for a small garden harvest. You may use a watering can or hoose if the plants are not harvested yet.
In the case of a large plantation, a nozzle hoose will be useful to spray the water. In summary,
- Water: needed mainly for the washing of the oil off the plants.
- Bowls: in the case of a garden wash or small harvested plants.
- Hose: for connecting the water supply point to the point of need. Mainly to transport water.
- Nozzle: this is necessary for adding pressure to the water for ease of spreading for a good wash.
- Mild soap: to remove the oil easily by reducing the surface tension of the oil.
3 Steps For Washing Off Neem Oil
- Make water and soap solution in a tank or bowl as the case may be. The soap is optional; warm water can do the job. Using soap is faster and more efficient.
- Spray the plants with the soap solution using the nozzle. Ensure to spray directly on the leaves and stem.
- Rinse off the soap with clean water.
After these procedures, the plant leaves must be free from the neem oil residues. Every edible plant must be washed well before cooking or consumption. It is more necessary if there was recent spraying of neem oil.
Against All Odds
Neem oil is not a poison, as the potential side effects may have portrayed. In excess, just like any other thing, it can pose significant harm. This is more peculiar to children and pregnant women. Beyond this, there are immense benefits to neem oil.
Inorganic pesticides have been implicated in varying degrees of pollution. As an organic plant-based extract, neem oil is a worthy asset to gardeners and farmers. It is a good and eco-friendly force against ravaging pests like mealy bugs, locusts, beetles, etc.
What is more, neem oil has also been said to prevent some plant diseases. It has anti-microbial effects and effects against some fungal attacks. But it is worthy to note that it is not a quickfire killer. It may take a while to kill.
Even in the light of all these, precautions must be taken. All plants that will be consumed must be thoroughly washed off neem oil before consumption. Clean, warm water is enough for the magic.