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Health Benefits of Tamanu Oil

Benefits, Uses, Side Effects & Tips

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Updated July 30, 2013

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Tamanu oil is a natural substance thought to offer a variety of health benefits. Said to reduce inflammation and destroy bacteria, tamanu oil is extracted from the seeds of the Calophyllum inophyllum tree (a large evergreen native to East Africa and some regions of India and Australia). Long used in certain systems of traditional medicine (including African and Asian traditional medicine), tamanu oil is applied directly to the skin.

Health Benefits of Tamanu Oil

So far, research on the health effects of tamanu oil is fairly limited. However, there's some evidence that tamanu oil may contain a number of compounds with health-enhancing effects. These compounds include calophyllolide (a substance known to possess anti-inflammatory properties) and delta-tocotrienol (a form of vitamin E), as well as a number of antioxidants.

Why Do People Use Tamanu Oil?

Tamanu oil is touted as a natural remedy for the following conditions:

Since tamanu oil is said to alleviate pain, the oil is also used topically to relieve the pain caused by conditions like sciatica, shingles, and rheumatism.

Some proponents also claim that tamanu oil can help aid in the regeneration of skin. For this reason, tamanu oil is thought to help reduce the appearance of stretch marks and scars.

In addition, tamanu oil is said to promote the healing of burns, blisters, cuts, and scrapes. Some people also use tamanu oil to treat insect bites.

Side Effects

Although tamanu oil is generally considered safe when used topically, it may trigger allergic reactions in some individuals. If you experience itching, redness, irritation, or other adverse effects upon using tamanu oil, discontinue use of the product immediately.

Where to Find Tamanu Oil

Widely available for purchase online, tamanu oil is sold in many natural-foods stores. Some oil products contain 100% oil while others are diluted with other oils such as olive oil. In addition, tamanu oil is used as an ingredient in a variety of personal-care products, including lotions, serums, and moisturizers. Tamanu is also found in many creams said to reduce the appearance of stretch marks and scars.

Other Oils

Many other natural products may provide benefits similar to the purported effects of tamanu oil. For instance, sea buckthorn oil (a substance that contains essential fatty acids and vitamin E) has been found to promote wound healing and treat eczema when applied topically. Meanwhile, neem oil (also rich in fatty acids, such as oleic acid and linoleic acid) may help treat bacterial infections and protect against insect bites.

Natural products commonly touted for their skin-improving benefits also include argan oil, an oil rich in antioxidants and essential fatty acids, rosehip oil, an oil derived from the rosehip plant and often used for scars including acne scars, tea tree oil, coconut oil, emu oil, and DMAE.

Oils rich in omega-3 fatty acids taken in supplement form include fish oil, flaxseed oil, cod liver oil, krill oil, and DHA. Other essential fatty acids, such as the gamma-linolenic acids (GLA) borage seed oil and evening primrose oil, are often recommended.

Learn more about natural treatments for healthier skin.

When Should You Use Tamanu Oil?

Although there is little scientific support for tamanu oil's effectiveness in treatment of any health condition, using tamanu oil in combination with other treatments may be of some benefit.

Sources

Dweck AC, Meadows T. "Tamanu (Calophyllum inophyllum) - the African, Asian, Polynesian and Pacific Panacea." Int J Cosmet Sci. 2002 Dec;24(6):341-8.

Crane S, Aurore G, Joseph H, Mouloungui Z, Bourgeois P. "Composition of fatty acids triacylglycerols and unsaponifiable matter in Calophyllum calaba L. oil from Guadeloupe." Phytochemistry. 2005 Aug;66(15):1825-31.

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