Island natives from Tahiti and Fiji once believed the tamanu tree was a sacred gift of nature. They used the oil from the tamanu fruit to heal and protect the skin against the hot sun, high humidity, and ocean winds. It seems the islanders were onto something. Studies show that tamanu oil has significant antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, and when applied topically, it can effectively treat a wide array of skin problems, from healing cuts and burns to helping clear up acne and psoriasis.
What It Is
At nearly 100 feet, the tamanu tree towers above the Polynesian landscape. But it’s the fruit of the tree that holds tamanu’s healing secrets. About the size of an apricot, the fruit contains a large kernel that produces tamanu oil. The kernelsare left to dry for several weeks, and as they turn from blond to chocolate brown, they become filled with the nutty-scented oil.
Tamanu oil is great for dry or damaged hair. Massage the oil into hair and scalp. Leave on for 5 to 10 minutes, then wash and rinse.
What It Does
Tamanu oil contains three types of fats—neutral lipids, glycolipids, and phospholipids—that keep skin well nourished and supple. It also contains calophyllic acid, another fatty acid unique to tamanu oil. Research shows that calophyllic acid exerts potent antibacterial and anti-inflammatory actions, and is so powerful it can inhibit Staphylococcus aureus, the bacteria that contributes to acne.
Easily absorbed into the skin, tamanu oil encourages the formation of new skin tissue, which makes it ideal for healing wounds and soothing psoriasis, eczema, sunburn, and dry skin. Tamanu oil can also improve the appearance of scars. In one study of six people with old scars, those who applied tamanu oil to their scars for nine weeks noticed marked improvement.
While a growing number of cosmetic companies are discovering tamanu’s topical benefits, scientists are beginning to look at the plant’s potential for some of humankind’s more challenging diseases. Researchers from Canada and Tahiti are conducting experiments on tamanu in hopes of discovering a plant source for antiretroviral HIV drugs. Researchers are also looking at the coumarins in tamanu for their ability to kill cancer cells and thwart tumors. In one animal study, Mexican researchers discovered that tamanu’s coumarins reduced tumors by 83 percent.
Where to Find It
This luxurious, sustainably harvested oil can make your complexion glow. As more cosmetic makers discover tamanu’s wonderful benefits, you will no doubt see more products featuring this unique oil. For now, however, we found some that are sure to become favorites in your beauty arsenal.
Product Examples (from left)
New Chapter Organics Tropical Tamanu promotes the formation of new tissue and optimizes wound healing.
Beauty Without Cruelty Organic Vitamin C with CoQ10 SPF 12 Facial Moisturizer neutralizes environmental damage and promotes youthful skin with tamanu, vitamin C, CoQ10, and green tea.
Quantum Health Derma Scar Reducing Herbal Cream with tamanu softens and reduces the appearance of scars and moisturizes the skin.
Mode de Vie Unscented Shea Butter Body Lotion with Tamanu OIL softens and nourishes dry, sensitive skin.
Derma e Tropical Solution Anti-Aging Eye Crème blends the natural healing and renewal properties of tamanu oil with antioxidants such as green tea, pomegranate, and vitamins A, C, and E, to protect and nourish skin.