Tamanu, also known as Foraha, Kamanu, Domba, Alexandrian Laurel and a number of other regional names is native to Asia and Polynesia where it is considered sacred. Tamanu oil, also known as green gold, is an oil extracted from the kernel of the fruit of the Tamanu Nut Tree. There is an extensive collection of research behind the benefits of this oil, found in areas of East Asia and Polynesia.
For centuries this powerful oil has been used for medicinal practises by the Polynesian people and other Pacific islands. Applies topically to soothe an enormous amount of skin conditions, even ones considered too infectious to treat. Cuts, burns, eczema, stings, bites, acne, dry skin and even body and foot odour. There are also papers from the 1900s documenting the use of tamanu oil used to help leprosy sufferers.
The Polynesian people quickly discovered that using tamanu oil can help promote healthy skin cell growth and restorative benefits when applying it to the skin, they even used it regularly on infant skin due to it being gentle enough and extremely nourishing for their skin.
It’s now the rest of us have discovered the wonderous benefits of tamanu oil for skin. Tamanu oil is a pungent and deep green coloured oil and you will be amazed to learn a little more about the ways it can restore damaged skin to its original state without the bat of an eyelash. By this I mean there are no DIY recipes or formulas to worry yourself with and this oil is powerful enough to use on its own in its purest form. Tamanu oil is also hugely beneficial to be mixed into skin and body care products, which is why you will find it in our Intensive Skin Balm.
These hugely versatile benefits of Tamanu oil can feel overwhelming, and maybe even unbelievable, but this is why I am going to take some time to explain to you some of the uses of this oil and the variety of things it is able to help with. So, without further a due, let’s slather ourselves with the knowledge of this remarkable oil.
How Is Tamanu Oil Made?
As I explained earlier, the Tamanu oil is made from the fruit of the Tamanu Nut Tree and its harvest is as unique and special as the finished product!
The collection of the tamanu kernels is very sustainable, due to the fact they are picked from the floor once they had naturally fallen from the tree. The pale-coloured kernels are left to dry in the sun for about 6-8 weeks, not forgetting to protect them from any humidity and rain. Once the tamanu nuts start to dry out their colour change to a brownish-red and become extremely sticky! This long process is needed to ensure the oil of the highest quality is produced.
After this, the dried tamanu nuts are cold-pressed in a screw press to gather the oil. Remarkably, only a few drops of this powerful Tamanu oil come out of one nut. This results in 45 pounds of tamanu fruit, producing just 2 pounds of tamanu oil. An extremely laborious process but is the only proven way to reap the rewards of the incredible nutrients of these nuts!
As you can imagine, this process results in tamanu oil becoming very expensive. With this sadly comes a large variety of oil available on the market, all of which having various levels of quality. To use a high-quality product you must be prepared to part with some money, cutting corners and opting for brands that have either oils that are yellow or black in appearance. Yellow tamanu oil will usually mean the oil has been chemically altered and black will be the result of the nuts being burnt in the hope of speeding up the drying. High-quality tamanu oil has a strong, woody scent and is a deep green colour, that is the most important thing to remember if you are looking for a superior tamanu oil that could deliver skincare benefits.
What Does Tamanu Oil Do?
I think you mean, what doesn’t it do! Tamanu oil can help with a vast amount of skin concerns, hair problems, stretch marks, acne the list is honestly endless! There is a great deal of chemistry involved with this natural product. Tamanu Oil’s chemistry is fascinating, to say the least. It contains a unique fatty acid called Calophyllic acid, a natural antibiotic called Lactone, and a natural non-steroid anti-inflammatory called Calophyllolide. And what sets Tamanu oil apart from other oils is the lipid Calophyllolide, which is not found in any other oil. This lipid has anti-inflammatory properties to aid in calming and soothing skin conditions such as eczema, acne, and irritation. Tamanu oil can also help to reduce the appearance of hyperpigmentation by deeply conditioning the skin.
Applied topically, 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
- Moisturise dry skin
Tamanu oil’s benefits evidenced by scientific research
The scientific name of the Tamanu plant is Calophyllum inophyllum which means "beautiful leaf," from the Greek 'kalos' meaning "beautiful" and 'phullon' meaning "leaf."
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.
Another study was done in 2015 entitled, "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.
Properties of Tamanu Oil
Antioxidant and anti-UV properties
Xanthones and coumarins in tamanu oil demonstrate that Tamanu oil is a powerful antioxidant and has been shown to significantly reduce intracellular ROS production (Said et al., 2007). Beyond its powerful antioxidant properties, the same study demonstrates that amongst different oils, tamanu oil was the only one that also possessed the capacity to absorb UV light. In fact, 85% of damage induced by UV-radiations was shown to be inhibited with a mere 1% of tamanu oil which is remarkable, to say the least.
Tamanu oil has been scientifically proven a multitude of antimicrobial properties including antibacterial, antifungal effects. Tamanu oil demonstrates significant antimicrobial activity, as demonstrated in antibacterial and antifungal tests. The oil contains several powerful bactericide/fungicide agents, which demonstrate efficacy against various human and animal pathogens. These antimicrobial phytochemical agents include friedelin, canophyllol, canophyllic acid, and inophynone.
Tamanu Oil and Cicatrization
Applied to wounds Tamanu oil possesses the remarkable ability to promote the formation of new tissues, by doing so tamanu oil helps accelerate the healing and the growth of healthy skin. This process of forming new tissue is scientifically known as "cicatrization" and in many countries around the world, tamanu oil is topically applied on cuts, burns, insect bites, sunburn, dry or scaly skin, blisters, and eczema etc.
Polynesian women apply tamanu oil topically to promote healthy, clear, blemish-free skin, and massage it onto babies to prevent diaper rash and skin eruptions.
This unique oil is the elixir to all our skin concerns, it’s amazing to think how it hasn’t taken over the world by storm, but on the other hand, it can be our little beauty secret!
Tamanu Oil FAQ
Can I use Tamanu oil as a moisturiser?
Yes, if your skin is feeling dry, tight and uncomfortable you may find that applying tamanu oil will help replenish and nourish the skin. Using the oil in its natural form will work wonders for hydrating the skin but you can also mix it into an at-home moisturiser! Try teaming it with avocado and jojoba oils to really give your skin a treat.
Can Tamanu oil clog pores?
That really boils down to how much you use Tamanu oil, for an oily and blemish-prone it is best to limit the amount of oil you apply to the skin due to the fact it is comedogenic meaning it can clog pores. For oily skin types and those prone to frequent blemishes try using small amounts of tamanu oil in localised areas of the face.
How do you use Tamanu oil on your face?
If the Tamanu oil comes in a solid, balm-like formulation simply add some to the palm of your hands and gently rub them together. The warmth of your hands will make the oil more fluid and easier to apply it onto the face, leave it to absorb into the skin and you are good to go.
Does Tamanu oil smell bad?
The scent of Tamanu oil is unusual mainly because we are used to fresh, floral or botanical scents in our skincare products. Tamanu oil has a distinctive and unique earthy, rich, nutty scent which can only be described as natural. Once you have got used to the smell you won't notice it after a while.
Is Tamanu oil good for hair?
Yes! Though the skincare benefits of Tamanu oil are the main focus of this ingredient, the benefits it has to hair are the most studied and praised. Applying Tamanu oil to dry, frizzy and damaged split ends will nourish them back to life. If you also find your scalp to be dry and itching then massaging the oil and sleeping in it like a hair mask will also restore your scalp to full health.
Does Tamanu oil go bad?
To keep Tamanu oil as fresh as possible you must first ensure that the packaging is airtight and opaque to avoid any direct sunlight. Keep the product in a cool, dry and dark place, like a drawer in your bedroom and you will give your Tamanu oil the shelf life of about 5 years.
Lipid Composition of Tamanu Oil
The oil of tamanu contains basic classes of lipids (fats), enumerated below.
|General lipid composition|
|sn -1,3 – Diaglycerides||2.4%|
|sn -1,2 (2,3) – Diaglycerides||2.6%|
|Free fatty acids||7.4%|
|Sterols, sterolesters and hydrocarbons||3.5%|
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