What is Tamanu Oil?
You may have seen tamanu oil on the ingredients list of your chosen skincare product and wondered exactly what it is and why it is recommended for your skin. Tamanu oil has a long history in Polynesia as well as parts of Asia and Africa, but it is a more recent addition to Western culture.
The Tamanu Tree
Tamanu oil is extracted from the seeds of the tamanu tree. Properly called Calophyllum inophyllumi and also known as laurelwood, mastwood, beautyleaf or beach calophyllum, among many other names, this is a tropical, evergreen plant found throughout East Africa, South and Southeast Asia, and parts of Australia and the islands of the South Pacific.
Trees grow between 26 and 66 feet in height and have been used ornamentally because of their attractive flowers and fragrance. Its timber has also been traditionally used in shipbuilding. Twice a year, the tree produces a round, green fruit known as a ballnut. When picked, seeds are removed from the fruit and dried for several months before being crushed by mallets or between planks to extract a thick yellow or green oil. The oil is then refined further to remove unpleasant smells or flavors.
Uses of Tamanu Oil
Traditional medicine in Polynesia often incorporates tamanu oil. It has been used to treat everything from rheumatism to ulcers, and it is particularly prominent in the world of skin health. Uses have included the management of rosacea, eczema, psoriasis and dermatitis.
You may apply tamanu oil directly to the skin, or incorporate it into other skincare products including creams, gels, serums and lotions. You may find it in moisturizer, shampoo or conditioner. Specific instructions on usage will depend on the product. Examples include the Acne Serum-Balancing Oil and Body Dew Misting Oil-Body Moisturizer.
Benefits of Tamanu Oil
Research into the potential health and beauty impact of tamanu oil is still in relatively early stages compared to more well-known products such as tea tree (which is often used in similar situations, to soothe the skin). The evidence that has been gathered so far, however, does suggest that tamanu oil may have some notable benefits.
In particular, tamanu oil contains something known as calophyllolide, which can have powerful anti-inflammatory properties. This suggests it could be an effective way of alleviating the symptoms of acne or even ensuring a swifter, gentler healing process for wounds, burns, scars and insect bites. Tamanu oil’s antibacterial properties have also proven to be particularly strong when dealing with p. acnes and p. granulosum, both of which are associated with acne.
Fatty acids such as linoleic, oleic and stearic acid are found at particularly high levels in tamanu oil. They create a physical barrier on the skin that keeps moisture in and has a hydrating effect. Tamanu oil also contains antioxidants, which are well-known for their role in protecting skin, among other health benefits. Deltatocotrienol is a form of vitamin E found in tamanu oil.
Other possible benefits include mitigating some of the sun damage caused by UV radiation as well as stimulating collagen and glycosaminoglycans (GAGs), which can help tackle wrinkles and other signs of aging, in addition to aiding in wound healing. You may also find tamanu oil in products for treating stretch marks.
Stated benefits of tamanu oil that have been less thoroughly researched include as a treatment for fungal infections such as athlete’s foot, in trying to remove dark spots from the skin, and as a hair loss remedy.
Possible side effects
Because it is a form of nut oil (and not an essential oil, like tea tree), tamanu oil should not be used by people with an allergy to nuts. You should also follow standard advice to avoid applying it to eyes or open wounds, or swallowing it. Tamanu oil is considered a supplement and is not recognized as a medicine by the FDA, so it is not always properly regulated. Be sure to only purchase tamanu oil products from trusted suppliers. For the most part, tamanu oil is generally considered safe, but do a patch test first, and if you do experience any irritation, stop using it immediately.
In summary, tamanu oil is a product derived from the fruit of the tamanu tree. It has a long history in Asian and Polynesian medicine and has more recently been recognized in the West for its moisturizing and anti-inflammatory properties, as well as its antioxidant content and ability to stimulate collagen to help in wound healing. This means that if you are not allergic, it may be a powerful addition to your skincare routine.