The Wonders of Tamanu Oil
Why am I writing about Tamanu Oil?
Tamanu oil is an incredible natural oil with a myriad of benefits from head to toe for your skin and hair and . . .
I absolutely love it!
Unrefined Tamanu Oil is one of those ingredients that I began using on my skin many years ago. I was so impressed with the results that I had to begin using it in some of our products.
It seems like every day we hear about some passing fad--a new miracle superfood or age-defying plant extract.
Although Tamanu may be new to many of us in the US, it is not a passing fad to the many communities who have been using it for medicinal purposes for centuries.
Natives believed the tamanu tree was a sacred gift of nature and that gods hid in its branches. The oil helped protect their skin from the hot sun, high humidity, and ocean winds.
Since stories of the healing powers of the Tamanu plant have been discovered in the medical folklore of so many different societies, we can use that folklore to compare the ways in which various cultures have used tamanu medicinally over the years.
Since the 1920’s Oil of Tamanu (Calophyllum inophyllum) has been studied in hospitals and by researchers in Europe, Asia, and the Pacific islands. The results of these studies are impressive.
In 1918, researchers affiliated with the French Pharmacopoeia began investigating tamanu for its topical use. These scientists were impressed by its cicatrizing, or skin regenerating effects. The French medical literature of the time contains many records of tamanu’s successful application for severe skin conditions.
At this point, there are many research-backed benefits that show that the effectiveness of tamanu is really as good as its folklore suggests. However, there are still some benefits that only have anecdotal evidence.
A study titled "Anti-inflammatory effects of Calophyllum inophyllum," done by Tsai SC, Liang YH et al, was published in Oncology Reports on September 28, 2012. In this study Tamanu oil was found to be a very effective anti-inflammatory oil, helping in skin conditions such as acne, rashes, and other irritations such as insect bites, sores, and eczema.
A study done in 2015, "The Wound Healing and Antibacterial Activity of Five Ethnomedical Calophyllum inophyllum Oils: An Alternative Therapeutic Strategy to Treat Infected Wounds," was published by Teddy Léguillier, et al. This study evaluated the wound healing and antibacterial properties of Tamanu Oil extracted from trees growing in five different locations. They concluded that when used topically tamanu was effective in treating infected wounds and skin diseases such as acne.
The Chemistry of Tamanu Oil is quite interesting. It contains a unique fatty acid called Calophyllic acid, which has been shown to repair, soothe, and nourish dry and damaged the skin. A study published in 2017 demonstrated that due to the presence of Calophyllic acid, tamanu oil "could be a good candidate for accelerating wound healing through its anti-inflammatory effects."
Tamanu also contains a natural antibiotic called Lactone, and a natural non-steroid anti-inflammatory called Calophyllolide.
What is Tamanu?
Tamanu is a beautiful, slow-growing, tropical evergreen tree, indigenous to the islands in French Polynesia and scattered throughout the tropical South Pacific and Indian Oceans. It grows best in salty, sandy soil near the sea and can reach up to 85 feet in height.
The tamanu tree, also known as the Alexandrian Laurel, easily spreads throughout the Pacific islands when its nut-containing fruits drop and float along the water to other coastal areas where they root and grow.
The scientific name of the Tamanu plant is Calophyllum inophyllum which means "beautiful leaf," from the Greek 'kalos' meaning "beautiful" and 'phullon' meaning "leaf." The tamanu branches are covered with beautiful, shiny, dark green oval leaves. The foliage is dense and so broad that it is often wider than it is tall.
Small, sweet-smelling white flowers, with yellow centers, are produced twice yearly. From the flowers come clusters of fleshy fruit the size of an apricot with pulp that tastes similar to an apple.
The fleshy fruit starts out smooth and green. As it ripens, the fruit becomes wrinkled, and its color turns from green to yellow and then to a brownish-red.
Inside the fleshy fruit is the Tamanu Nut from which the oil is eventually pressed.
The oil, along with bark and leaves, have been touted for centuries in African, Asian, Polynesian, and Pacific Island cultures.
What is Tamanu Oil?
So how do we get the healing oil from this exotic fruit?
Tamanu is a sustainable oil since there is no negative impact on the trees. The nuts are collected by hand after they naturally fall from the trees.
Each tamanu fruit contains just one odorless, seed or nut kernel, called punnai in some Pacific areas. These nuts do not actually contain any oil when fresh.
The pale-colored nut kernels are laid out on racks to cure for 6-8 weeks in the sun and must be protected from humidity and rain.
As the nuts cure, they turn a deep, brownish-red color, and as they breakdown become sticky with thick, rich oil. (Right photo: Chris Kilham)
Once they are fully cured it is the time to cold press the oil from the kernels using a simple screw press to yield a natural oil that is thick and dark green with an earthy scent.
While this natural processing yields only a few drops of oil per nut, the oil retains all the incredible nutrients of the tamanu.
Why Is Tamanu Oil So Expensive?
As you read the process for collection and curing above you can see that it takes a great deal of time and work to produce a small amount of tamanu oil.
It takes many, many nuts to produce even a small quantity of oil.
- It takes about 45 pounds of tamanu fruit to produce 2 pounds of oil
- The number of nuts yielded by one single tree will only produce about 11 pounds of oil
Not All Tamanu Oil Is Created Equal!
Unfortunately, there is a lot of junk tamanu oil out there.
Pure, unrefined tamanu oil has a thick consistency, a rich, deep nutty, and woodsy scent, and a bold dark green color. Do not be fooled by companies pretending to sell pure Tamanu Oil at a much lower price.
Some of these companies use some pure Tamanu Oil but then dilute it with cheaper carrier oils such as Olive Oil.
Other companies use greenish oils that contain little if any tamanu oil which is why it is so cheap.
There are companies that sell "expensive" tamanu that has a yellowish or light color. This tamanu oil has most likely been adulterated. Also, beware of black- colored tamanu. Black tamanu results when the tamanu nuts have been tossed into a fire to speed up the curing process which normally takes two months.
Cosmetic companies often use refined tamanu that has been put through a chemical filtering process to remove the scent and color because the natural dark color and the strong scent will alter the color and aroma of their cosmetic creations.
Unrefined tamanu oil has a thick consistency and may naturally separate or solidify at cold temperatures which is another reason why commercial companies prefer the refined oil.
Unfortunately, the refined oil has been chemically stripped of many of its healing components making it inferior and much less effective. There is only one, slow natural process to produce pure tamanu oil that retains its natural, skin-healing, and anti-aging properties.
To ensure the highest quality when purchasing tamanu oil, be sure that:
- The nuts are gathered by hand
- The nuts are sun-dried
- The oil is cold-processed (using a screw press)
What Does Tamanu Oil Do?
As I discussed above, Tamanu oil contains anti-inflammatory, antibiotic, and antioxidant properties.
It works by promoting the formation of new tissues and has been used as a natural remedy for acne, eczema, psoriasis, and a whole host of skin ailments.
As tamanu oil penetrates the skin, it also does an amazing job at healing incisions and clearing up the scars.
I have used our tamanu salve to heal burns, irritated or dry cracked skin and for scar healing after numerous surgeries. It truly helped my skin.
Applied topically, the wide variety of tamanu oil benefits include its ability to:
- Soothe and soften the skin
- Promote the formation of new tissue and healthy skin
- Help with inflammatory skin conditions like dermatitis, psoriasis, and eczema
- Treat acne
- Help speed up the healing process
- Heal and reduce scars
- Moisturize dry skin
- Ease rashes, insect bites, and sunburns
A very versatile oil, tamanu can be used as a moisturizer, to spot treat problem areas and even in a face mask. The oil is rich and thick but is easily absorbed when applied to the skin.
Tamanu is quite solid when temperatures are lower than about 75 to 80°F. If you purchase pure tamanu or an oil containing a lot of tamanu you may need to run the bottle under hot water before using it.
In Pacific island folk medicine, tamanu oil is applied topically to help with cuts, scrapes, burns, insect bites and stings, abrasions, acne and acne scars, psoriasis, diabetic sores, sunburn, dry or scaly skin, blisters, and eczema.
Tamanu oil is also massaged into the skin to relieve neuralgia, rheumatism, and sciatica. Polynesian women believe that tamanu promotes healthy, clear skin and they use it on babies to prevent diaper rash and skin irritations.
WHO SHOULD BE USING TAMANU OIL?
Everyone! I guess I should be a bit more specific!
Healing: Tamanu is very effective at healing and smoothing both new and old scar tissue. It naturally promotes the formation of new tissue which then accelerates wound healingthroughthe growth of healthy skin. This process is known as cicatrizationin medical terms. The healing properties of Tamanu oil also help with:
- Surgical scars
- Burns: minor burns, sunburn, and radiation burns
- Insect bites
- Eczema and other inflammatory skin conditions
- Cuts, scrapes, and abrasions
Dry skin: To really nourish dry skin you want the moisturizing product to penetrate deeply through all layers of skin. Since Tamanu oil can penetrate the three layers of skin, you are receiving hydration on a much deeper level, rather than coating the outermost layer of skin.
Acne-prone skin: Excess bacteria in clogged pores creates an environment more prone to acne breakouts. As mentioned above, tamanu oil contains a unique combination of three therapeutic components, calophyllic acid, calophyllolide, and lactone which function as antibacterial and anti-inflammatory agents.
The antimicrobial properties help combat bacteria that cause acne and the anti-inflammatory properties help relieve irritation without the negative side effects such as dry skin, peeling or photosensitivity, that can come with conventional acne treatments. Tamanu also accelerates healing which makes it an excellent oil for acne scars.
Anti-aging: While nothing is going to stop the natural course of skin aging (much of which is genetically predetermined), since Tamanu oil helps stimulate new tissue growth it may also help restore lipids and natural collagen in the skin.
The oil contains antioxidants as well as omega 3 and 6 fatty acids which can help reduce water loss and keep skin looking plump and hydrated, reducing the look of fine lines.
As with any new product, especially if you have sensitive skin, always do a simple patch test before using.
Also, since tamanu oil is derived from a kind of tree nut, people allergic to tree nuts should use caution.
Chagrin Valley Products that Contain Tamanu Oil:
Organic Sea Buckthorn Tamanu Facial Oil
Organic Tamanu Salve
Organic Tamanu & Sea Buckthorn Healing Herbs Oil
The "Tamanu & Sea Buckthorn Healing Herbs Oil," is one of those products that I made for our family and have been using for years. My family wanted to share it with all of you. It is an "anywhere you need it" body oil made with two incredible organic healing oils and organic healing botanicals to encourage healthy skin growth to aid in healing.
Have you ever used Tamanu Oil? If yes, for what purpose and was it helpful?