Tamanu Oil: Uses, Benefits, and Blends
Tamanu oil has been used across Polynesian communities for skin healing and infections for hundreds of years. Once considered sacred for its incredible benefits, Tamanu oil has a rather exotic and terrifying past.
Principal constituents: Palmitic, stearic, and arachidic saturated fatty acids. Monounsaturated fatty acids consist of palmitoleic, oleic, and eicosenoic acids. Also rich in linoleic acids and contains a small percentage of alpha-linoleic acids.
Native to East Africa, the Tamanu is a beautiful evergreen ornamental tree that grows from Southern coastal India to Australia. It is cultivated in many regions, however naturally spreads because its seeds are beloved by bats, which then deposit them and they drift across the sea and end up germinating on beaches.
Once considered sacred because of its wealth of healing properties, cultivation dropped considerably with the advent of Christianity. Tamanu trees are often planted outside of ceremonial temples, and the tree is mentioned as being planted around altars in ancient Hawaiian chants.
The sheer loveliness of the tree is betrayed by its name Calo means “beautiful” and phyllum means “leaf”. Ino means “fibre”. Calophyllum inophyllum, The Tree of Beautiful Fibrous Leaves. Tamanu trees grow tall and wide, casting out long arching branches. Extremely resistant to salt, they seed naturally on beaches, creating magnificently beautiful backdrops to the gorgeous Pacific Ocean and as such, Tamanu has become an important material for shipbuilding.
In addition to the lovely glossy, evergreen foliage, in January and July, the tamanu gets covered in small white waxy flowers, which are made into fragrant leis. Those left on the trees mature into rich bright green drupes.
Immature nuts are poisonous and contain virtually no oil, so they are first left to dry then broken down. During this time, they change color, becoming richer and darker and developing a lovely sweet fragrance. Tamanu oil is a mix of the cold-pressed nut and the fruit. The trees grow slowly, and whilst they are prolific fruiters, providing as many as 200lbs of drupes, this translates into less than 4-5 liters of tamanu oil.
It plays a vital role in traditional medicines of Hawaii, Tahiti, Fiji, Vanuatu, and Samoa, where tamanu oil uses include skin conditions and particularly anti-inflammatory uses. Its ability to treat neuropathy after conditions like shingles is second to none and prior to the 20th century, it was used as a traditional treatment for leprosy and especially leprous neuritis.
Whilst Tamanu oil benefits for topical use are many, this is an oil that must not be used orally. In Samoa, every part of the plant is considered to be a poison. When cut, the branches of the tree produce a milky sap that can cause blindness. There, it is used as a coating for poison arrows that can cause death when it reaches the bloodstream!
To be clear - that is the milky tree sap and immature nuts. Whilst tamanu oil is very indigestible, it is not poisonous, but to stress, ingestion of tamanu oil is not recommended.
Notes for Tamanu Oil Usage
Tamanu oil can separate at low temperatures. This is just a feature of the oil and not a sign of deterioration. If it does happen, give it a shot in the microwave, a good stir, and use the rest of the bottle immediately.
Tamanu Oil Benefits: For Skin, Face, Eczema, Scars, and Hair
Tamanu Oil for Skin
Much of the ethnobotanical data for Tamanu is skin-related, eczema, psoriasis, scars, and skin allergies It has cicatrisant and anticoagulant properties, make it valuable for wound healing, although tamanu oil's benefits as an immunostimulant probably rate highest in an aromatherapist's eyes. This unusual action makes it extremely useful for adding to blends to boost healing generally.
Both Daniel Penoel and Kurt Scnaubelt have published successful histories of combining tamanu oil benefits for shingles with essential oils. Penoel cites Ravensara and Schnaubelt, Ravintsara. (Not to be confused.)
Tamanu Oil for Face
While Tamanu oil is a lovely light oil, with good absorbency, it’s not really a beauty product. If nothing else, its golden color is not an orthodox look for face creams, rosehip or jojoba oil are probably better alternatives. That said, if the are facial skin diseases, then this would be an excellent addition to moisturizers, etc, tamanu for eczema, psoriasis or even scarring from chickenpox or acne can all be most successful.
Rich in antioxidants, it could theoretically be used for anti-aging, but again rosehip, jojoba, or almond oils might be more luxurious alternatives.
Tamanu Oil for Eczema
Clearly, chronic wounds and skin diseases provide difficulties to the sufferer but to the community at large, placing a huge burden on welfare spending through extended hospital stays and sickness. A 2015 French study tested the efficacy of five different types of Calophyllum inophyllum oil to test support for tamanu oil uses in traditional medicines but also to test safety.
Interestingly, they discovered that the amounts needed to create a therapeutic effect on the skin were even lower than they had needed to use in vitro. Tamanu has an antibiotic effect, especially against gram-positive bacteria, and was proven to significantly improve wound healing in skin sores and wounds.
Tamanu Oil for Scars
This is one of the most important of Tamanu oil's benefits. Carrier oils are safer and more adaptable for use during pregnancy than essential oils. Tamanu oil is great as a scar treatment but also for adding to rich lustrous stretch mark creams.
Tamanu Oil for Hair
Used in hair products, Tamanu Oil encourages longer, stronger, healthier hair. Used as a hair masque, it seals split ends, hydrates the strands, encourages the hair's natural sheen, and generally makes it easier to manage.
Tamanu Oil Uses: For Wholesale Purposes
Tamanu Oil uses for Aromatherapists
Tamanu oil benefits are so far ranging, that really every aromatherapist would want at least some of this to work with. On the smallest level, for massage, use a maximum amount of 5% in massage blends for rheumatism, arthritis and trigeminal neuralgia.
Tamanu has the added advantage of being non irritating to the mucous membranes, and can be used in its concentrated form on rectal, nipple or vaginal areas. Hemorrhoids and cracked nipples respond particularly well to Tamanu oil benefits.
For lotions, ointments and balms, you can ramp up the volume to around 10% of the mix.
As an aside, although tamanu isn’t traditionally a beauty product, just a smidge added to body butters brings a light richness to the product.
Tamanu Oil Benefits for Soap Makers
Tamanu oil has a saponification value of 0.1437.
Interestingly, when nuts are deposited into the ocean, tamanu oil saponifies naturally on the waves, and actually, the oil has an almost soapy feel. It lends itself well to cold process soaps, is emollient, and makes lovely softening and moisturizing bars which lather well. There are clear advantages for natural soaps for sensitive or broken skins.
Its rich color goes a long way in mixes, and even the smallest amount will change your blend to a rich golden yellow hue. For such an expensive oil to use in a wash-off product it makes sense to use percentages of not more than 5% of your mix.
As an aside, it also makes a good mixer for bath bombs. Its golden color makes a great natural additive to orange and patchouli oils whose scent also conjures citrus and earthy hues. Turmeric too, for blends for aches and pains, is a great sensory mix.
Tamanu Oil Blends: DIY Recipes
Tamanu Massage Oil for Rheumatism
- 10ml Grapeseed carrier oil (Vitis vinifera)
- 10 drops Tamanu carrier oil (Calophyllum inophyllum)
- 5 drops Lavender essential oil (Lavandula angustifolia)
- 3 drops Juniper essential oil (Juniperus communis)
- 1 drop Roman chamomile essential oil (Anthemis nobilis)
Safety: Not suitable for use in the first 16 weeks of pregnancy. Both tamanu and juniper essential oil have mildly diuretic actions which are small alone, but when used in combination here would not be suitable for people with kidney disorders.
Tamanu Skin Balm
- 20ml Aqueous Cream
- 1 tsp Almond carrier oil (Prunus amygdala)
- 10 drops Tamanu carrier oil (Calophyllum inophyllum)
- 5 drops Rose Geranium essential oil (Pelargonium roseum x asperum)
- 2 drops Roman Chamomile essential oil (Anthemis nobilis)
- 1 drop Myrrh Essential Oil (Commiphora myrrha)
Safety: Not safer for use during the first 37 weeks of pregnancy (myrrh), and almond oil would not be a suitable choice for sufferers of nut allergies.
Tamanu Nipple Cream
- 20ml Aqueous Cream
- 10 drops Tamanu carrier oil
- 2 drops Roman chamomile essential oil (Anthemis nobilis)
- 1 drop Helichrysum essential oil (Helichrysum splendida)
Safety: Apply to clean nipples after feeding. Since it will have a mild taste, if the baby stops feeding, stop using it for a couple of days to assess whether they have an aversion to the taste.
Tamanu Oil use for Hemorrhoids Nappy Rash or Vaginal Soreness
- 5ml Tamanu carrier oil
- 3 drop Helichrysum essential oil (Helichrysum splendida)
Method of use: Since this is highly concentrated, use it for three days max.
Precautions: Must not be ingested. If done so accidentally, seek medical guidance.
Why Choose VINEVIDA?
At VINEVIDA, we love botanicals and the planet they come from. We believe in stocking the best at affordable prices and supplying to the discerning, which is why we are also members of both the Alliance of International Aromatherapists and the National Association of Holistic Aromatherapy. In recognition of our excellent standard of product, we are proud to hold a 2021 Certificate of Registration as a Cosmetic Products Establishment with the U.S. Drugs and Food Administration.
Our joy at seeing people make beautiful things means we stock from smallest amounts to the largest. Our wholesale carrier oil prices begin with our smallest carrier oil of 120ml to our largest of 396lb, meaning any manufacturing company can afford to stock as many or as few oils their business can accommodate without running the risk of spoilage of some of nature’s most precious commodities. Why not see if you can save money by buying your tamanu oil in bulk?
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- Carrier Oils for Aromatherapy and Massage (4th Edition) Len with Shirley Price
- Essential oils : A Comprehensive Handbook for Aromatic Therapy
- The Wound Healing and Antibacterial Activity of Five Ethnomedical Calophyllum inophyllum Oils: An Alternative Therapeutic Strategy to Treat Infected Wounds; Teddy Léguillier, Plos One 2015
- Tamanu (Calophyllum inophyllum) – the African, Asian, Polynesian and Pacific Panacea: A. C. Dweck and T. Meadows International Journal of Cosmetic Science 2002
- Nanostructured lipid carriers (NLC) in cosmetic dermal products: Muller. Advanced Drug Delivery Reviews Vol 59 2007
- The effect of Tamanu oil (Calophyllum inophyllum) on anaerobic bacteria isolated from respiratory tract: Anna Kędzia , Alina Mścisz , Henry O. Meissner: Postępy Fitoterapii 3/2011
- Biology, Agroforestry and Medicinal value of Calophyllum inophyllum L. (Clusiacea): A review; K Prabakaran and S John Britto: International Journal of Natural Products Research 2012