The Tamanu tree is indigenous to the South Pacific where it has long been prized among the islanders for the rich oil it produces, which is used as a healing agent.
Applied topically, Tamanu oil has been found to be beneficial for treating a wide array of complaints, from the healing of cuts and burns to helping to clear up acne and psoriasis. Massaged into the skin it can also ease muscular problems, and help rheumatism and neuralgia. It is also used by Polynesian women as a moisturiser for promoting smooth, healthy and clear skin.
While it’s been traditionally used as a topical skin remedy by Pacific islanders for thousands of years, mounting research is now confirming how and why it is able to produce such positive results.1
It has been found to be particularly beneficial for encouraging the formation of new skin tissue, which makes it ideal for accelerating wound healing.2
Tamanu Oil: How this remarkable healing oil is extracted from an oil-free kernel
The Tamanu tree can grow up to 30 metres in height and its branches are covered with distinct, shiny, green leaves and delicate, small white flowers with yellow centres. The fruit of the tree is about the size of an apricot and has a thin flesh, which supports a large kernel inside. It is this kernel that yields Tamanu oil.
The extraordinary thing about the fruit of the Tamanu tree is that when it is collected, the kernels are in fact oil-free. However, when left to dry and culture for several weeks, the blond coloured nuts turn a deep brown and become filled with a rich, pleasant-smelling oil. It is this oil that contains the wide range of medicinal properties.
Tamanu oil’s multiple actions result from its numerous active constitutents
Research into the active properties of Tamanu oil began as early as 1918, when French scientists first isolated some of its therapeutic components. It’s hardly surprising that the oil is proving to be such a versatile remedy when you consider the wealth of active ingredients it contains. The individual components are thought to work together to produce its numerous therapeutic benefits, as outlined in the box above.
According to scientific analysis, the oil contains three basic classes of lipids (fats) – Neutral Lipids, Glycolipids and Phospholipids – all of which account for its ability to keep the skin well nourished and supple.3
It also contains another fatty acid called calophyllic acid that is unique to Tamanu oil.
Research is revealing that it exerts potent anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory actions too.4,5
It includes an effective anti-inflammatory compound called calophyllolide.6
Its anti-bacterial activity is a result of the xanthones – potent antioxidant phytochemicals that have natural antibiotic and anti-fungal properties – it contains. They each fight specific strains of bacteria. For example, the antibiotic xanthone 6-desoxyjacareubin inhibits bacteria S. aureus.
‘Having better-looking skin really helps my self-confidence’
Although Tamanu oil has only just been launched in the UK, it has been available for some time now in the US. One person to benefit from Tamanu oil is Mary from San Jose in California, who tried it to see if it would help clear up her acne. She says,
‘While Tamanu oil is not a ‘miracle cure-all,” she says, ‘it has definitely made a significant improvement in the way my face looks! You should understand that I’m a bit of a sceptic by nature, so this is very high praise’.
While Mary still experiences the odd outbreak, she explains that these tend to be, ‘just isolated pimples here and there that clear up fairly quickly and aren’t as noticeable as before. The Tamanu oil also hydrates my skin and makes it look much more healthy. I’ve had a hard time finding moisturisers that don’t make my acne worse… having better-looking skin really helps my self-confidence.’
How to use Tamanu oil to achieve maximum benefits for your skin
Tamanu oil can be applied to sensitive areas of skin as and when required. Although it is thick and rich in consistency, once it is applied to the skin it penetrates easily and is completely absorbed.
There are two forms of Tamanu oil. Pure Tamanu oil has been developed specifically for therapeutic use, to help treat conditions such as arthritis, acne and sunburn.
Tamanu Blend is for cosmetic purposes and acts as a moisturiser for the face and body.
WARNING: Tamanu oil is for external use only (it does not need to be diluted). Tamanu oil should not be used by anyone with a nut allergy.
1. AGIS Phytochemical Database. U.S. National Agricultural Library Phytochemical database. Web site: http://probe.nalusda.gov.8300/cgi-bin/browse/phytochemicals. 1998.
2. Chevalier J. Study on a new cicatrizing agent for cutaneous and mucous wounds, oil of Calophyllum inophyllum. Doctoral thesis Paris, 1951.
3. Hemavathy J, Prabhakar JV. Lipid composition of Calophyllum inophyllum kernel. Journal of the American Oil Chemistry Society 1990;67(12).
4. Mahmud S, Rizwani GR, Ahmad M, Ali S, Perveen S, Ahmad VU. Antimicrobial studies on fractions and pure compounds of Calophyllum inophyllum Linn. Pakistan Journal of Pharmacology 1998;15(2):13-25.
5. Saxena RC, Nath R, Nigam SK, Bhargava KP. Effect of Calophyllolide, a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory agent, on capillary permeability. Journal of Medicinal Plant Research, 1982;44:246-248.
6. Lederer E, Dietrich P, Polonsky J. On the chemical constitution of Calophylloide and calophyllic acid from the nuts of Calophyllum inophyllum. Bulletin of the French Chemical Society 1953;5:546-549.