Teaching Tuesdays - Exotic Oils Cont.- Tamanu Oil

Tamanu Oil, botanically known as Calophyllum inophyllum and/or Calophyllum tacamahaca, is a light green oil with a rich, deep odor. The oil is made from the odorless, pale kernel, called punnai, that comes from the fruit of the Tamanu tree. The Tamanu tree gets beautiful, fragrant, white flowers twice a year. Later these flowers yield clusters of yellow-skinned, spherical fruit, its pulp tasting similar to an apple. Inside that fruit is where the nut is found, and inside the nut is where the kernel is found. Once harvested, the kernel is dried out in the sun for two months, where it becomes quite sticky with the dark, thick, rich oil that eventually becomes Tamanu oil. While the kernels are drying they must be protected from the rain and from humidity, so this can be a labor intensive few months. Once they reach the proper stage, the sticky oil is then cold-pressed to make the greenish yellow oil, similar in appearance to olive oil, that we know as Tamanu oil. It will take 220 pounds of the Tamanu fruit, which is about what one tree will produce annually, to yield just 10.4 pounds of cold pressed oil. This yield disparity is an important factor in the cost of this exotic oil. Currently that price is running at $130.00 per liter, and a liter is about 33.8 ounces, so that is roughly $3.85 an ounce. Not as high as some essential oils, but a lot when you figure how much oil goes into some products! 

The Tamanu tree is indigenous to tropical Southeast Asia, and is found in Thailand, Vietnam, Myanmar, Malaysia, South India, Sri Lanka, and the Melanesian and Polynesian islands. Historically, natives believed that the Tamanu tree was a sacred gift of nature, with gods hiding in its branches. This tree was their answer to skin protection from the ocean winds, high humidity and hot sun. As far back as the 18th century it has been documented that native Jamaicans used Tamanu oil to treat sores and wounds.  

Today, Indonesians soak the leaves in water, creating a blue solution that they give internally in cases of heat stroke. They also use this solution to (topically) treat inflamed eyes.    
In New Guinea the leaves are softened by heating over a fire, then they are applied to skin sores, ulcerations, boils, cuts and pimples. 
On Dobu Island the leaves are boiled and the solution is used to wash skin rashes.
In the Phillipines they soak the leaves in water and use the solution to treat hemorrhoids. They mix the sap with sulfur and make an ointment that they use on open sores, wounds, and boils.  

Fiji natives use Tamanu oil to treat  joint pains, arthritis, bruises, oozing wounds, chapped lips and even to preventing diaper rash. In the 1920s, Sister Marie-Suzanne, a nun stationed in Fiji, topically applied Tamanu oil to leprosy victims with positive results.
In fact, in most south sea islands it is utilized as an analgesic for sciatica, rheumatism and ulcers.
Pacific islanders apply Tamanu oil to scrapes, cuts, burns, insect bites and stings, acne and acne scars, psoriasis, diabetic sores, anal fissures, sunburn, dry or scaly skin, blisters, eczema, diaper rash and herpes sores--and even to reduce foot and body odor!

 Tamanu oil has anti-inflammatory properties, accelerates healing, promotes new tissue formation and healthy skin growth, reduce rashes, treats sores and abrasions. It’s pain-relieving properties have also been used to treat and relieve the pain of neuralgia and shingles. 

In fact, in Europe, sometimes called Domba oil, tamanu oil has a proven 70 to 75 percent success rate in alleviating rheumatism and scabies.  It’s also proven  effective as a gout and ringworm treatment, and can be applied to lesions of the mucous membranes.  It is known to heal chapped skin, post-surgical wounds, skin allergies, bed sores, wounds, rashes, abrasions, athlete’s foot, boils, cracked skin, and infected nails. It has even healed severe burns caused by boiling water, chemicals and X-rays.  

Tamanu oil possesses powerful bactericide and fungicide agents, and has proven antimicrobial qualities as well. This oil tests well against antibiotics in the treatment and relief of; bladder infections, wound infections, pneumonias, septicemia, conjunctivitis, infected burns, athletes foot, ring worm, jock itch, Madura Foot, urinary tract infections, and the cause of diphtheria. Additionally, Tamanu oil has been used to affectively reduce the appearance of stretch marks and scars. In one study test subjects with scars a year old applied this oil twice daily (and only this oil) for nine weeks. After six weeks there was significant improvement in the appearance of the scars, and after the full nine weeks,  the scar length was reduced by an average 0.28 centimeters, and width was reduced by an average 0.12 centimeters.    

This oil will store well under any conditions, but extreme heat will tend to lessen its shelf life. With proper storage it should last from 10-14 months. Given its high cost, this is probably not an oil that you would want to add into your soaps, but it does make a fine addition to your medicine cabinet and skin care formulary. It does have a pretty strong aroma though, so you will need to take this in consideration when developing your products. Also, the coloring may alter your cosmetics as well, so some experimentation is probably in line. The good news is that this oil is suitable to used directly on the skin, or mixed with other carrier oils, so your imagination is the only limit! 

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