8 Incredible Benefits of Tamanu Oil

by John Staughton (BASc, BFA) last updated -

Tamanu oil boasts a number of impressive benefits including its ability to protect the skin, reduce inflammation, lower pain levels, speed healing, fight fungal infections, boost the immune system and slow the aging process, among others.

This tropical oil also comes with certain side effects, namely skin inflammation, redness, and itching, although these effects are rare and relatively mild. Gastrointestinal distress may also result if consumed. If you responsibly use this topical oil, you should be able to enjoy clear skin and a long list of other health benefits.

What is Tamanu Oil?

Tamanu oil is produced from the fruit kernel of the tamanu tree, which is native to Southeast Asia and can be found in Polynesia, Melanesia, Vietnam, Malaysia, and other tropical regions. This tree, scientifically known as Calophyllum inophyllum, [1]flowers twice a year, and eventually produce small yellow fruit, inside of which is a large nut kernel. This is where the rich and potent tamanu oil can be found but the process of isolating the oil can take quite a while. These nuts must be left in the sun for 1-2 months, and kept away from moisture. As the nut dries, a dark, sticky oil will appear on the surface, which can be harvested and processed into potent tamanu oil.

This oil has long been a part of Southeast Asian natural medicine and remains a crucial part of tropical cultures in this area of the world. The majority of health benefits attributed to tamanu oil come from the high levels of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids. More specifically, in terms of fatty acids, tamanu oil contains roughly 1/3 oleic acid and 1/3 linoleic acid, as well as approximately 10% stearic and palmitic acids, respectively. The remainder of the oil is composed of terpenes, benzoic acid, lipids, saturated fats, and other volatile compounds and antioxidants.

Benefits of Tamanu Oil

Using tamanu oil is popular for people struggling with skin irritation, blemishes, premature aging, wrinkles, infections, inflammation, low immune system, chronic pain, and wounds, as well as those people who have recently undergone surgery, injury, or extended illness. Again, note that tamanu oil is primarily intended for topical use, and internal consumption may result in very negative side effects. A few drops of this oil in most preparations are enough to be effective, particularly on small areas of pain, irritation, infection or inflammation.

Boosts Immune System

With notable levels of antibacterial, antiviral, antiseptic and anti-fungal components, this tropical oil can help to protect the immune system against a wide variety of pathogens, as well as environmental irritants and pollutants. Given that the skin is the largest organ in the body, it is also the most susceptible to infection, so applying this immune system shield to your skin is a way to bolster your body’s first line of defense. [2]

Soothes Skin Irritation

Traditionally used for the protection of the skin, tamanu oil is ideal for soothing irritated patches of skin on the feet, hands, extremities and in areas that are prone to bacterial infection, such as the underarms. The cooling, moisturizing and anti-inflammatory properties of this oil make it ideal for minimizing the appearance and severity of skin irritation. The itching discomfort of acne can also be solved by the regular application of this oil, although some people find that it is too harsh to put on the face, and instead, use this oil on other parts of the body. [3]

Prevents Premature Aging

These are the natural byproducts of cellular metabolism that can cause healthy cells to mutate, and also lead to chronic diseases. More importantly, free radical damage can weaken skin elasticity, contribute to wrinkles and blemishes, and compromise the skin’s ability to regenerate. Tamanu oil can effectively slow down that process to keep you looking young for longer! [4]

Speeds up Healing

The antioxidant and stimulant nature of this oil makes it ideal for treating wounds, cuts, scrapes, bruises, and other basic injuries. The monounsaturated fats and antioxidants will not only stimulate the healing process of damaged cells but will also minimize the appearance of any scars that an injury might leave behind. [5] [6]

Relieves Pain

When it comes to topical pain relief, tamanu oil can be readily applied to sore joints and sources of chronic pain, as well as everything from insect bites to sunburn. Only a small amount of this oil is required to have an effect on pain when topically applied. [7]

Tamanu tree with a blurred background

Tamanu oil contains anti-inflammatory, antibiotic, and antioxidant properties. Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Reduces Inflammation

There are many different forms of inflammation throughout the body, but with transdermal delivery, the anti-inflammatory compounds found in tamanu oil can be quickly spread throughout the body. Specifically, this oil is recommended for people with sciatic nerve pain and arthritis, as the relief is noticeable and rapid! [8]

Fights Foot and Body Odor

The oil of the tamanu kernel has a distinct, nutty smell that many people find quite pleasant. As a result, this oil is often applied under the arms and other perspiration-heavy parts of the body in order to reduce body odor. When used on the feet and toes, this oil helps eliminate fungal infections, while also making sure your feet don’t smell! [9]

Soothes Diaper Rash

Unlike many powerful oils, tamanu oil is safe to use on your children in moderation. In fact, this oil has been used for generations to treat diaper rash and other skin conditions in infants, providing relief from discomfort and a quick solution for itching and redness. [10]

Tamanu Oil Alternatives

Since the fatty acid content is strikingly unique in this oil, it is hard to suggest a substitution on that basis. To replace the nutty scent, one can look at macadamia nut oil. Otherwise, it is always a good idea to try a combination of shea butter and olive oil to get an approximate blend of fatty acids.

Side Effects of Tamanu Oil

There are very few reported cases of negative side effects from tamanu oil, although some people report skin irritation, itching, and redness. Internal consumption of this oil is not recommended, as research is limited to the internal effects. While other parts of the plant have been used for internal use within traditional medicine practices, this oil is a highly concentrated remedy that is primarily intended for the skin.

  • Inflammation: As is the case with many concentrated oils, the use of tamanu oil on the skin may cause inflammation, irritation, redness, and itching. This can often be eliminated by mixing it with other beneficial carrier oils before applying to the skin. Furthermore, you should put a few drops of the oil on a small patch of skin before using it on a larger area. [11]
  • Allergic Reactions: Although allergic reactions to this oil are rare, they do occur, primarily for people who are allergic to other members of the Clusiaceae family, such as mangosteens and bitter kola.
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About the Author

John Staughton is a traveling writer, editor, publisher and photographer with English and Integrative Biology degrees from the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana (USA). He co-founded the literary journal, Sheriff Nottingham, and now serves as the Content Director for Stain’d Arts, a non-profit based in Denver, Colorado. On a perpetual journey towards the idea of home, he uses words to educate, inspire, uplift and evolve.

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