The Health Benefits of Tamanu Oil

Tamanu oil

Verywell / Anastasiia Tretiak​

Tamanu oil is a treatment long used in Polynesia and Southeast Asia for the improvement of hair and skin health. The oil—which is extracted from the nut of the laurelwood (Calophyllum inophyllum) tree—is sometimes used on the face or elsewhere on the body for conditions such as acne, psoriasis, rosacea, keloids, and other scars.

Other parts of laurelwood (such as the leaves, root bark, and twigs) are also sometimes used for medicinal purposes.

Health Benefits

Tamanu oil has properties that help moisturize your skin. Because it is rich in fatty acids, the oil locks moisture in by acting as a barrier.

Researchers have also found that tamanu oil contains calophyllolide (a substance known to possess anti-inflammatory properties) and delta-tocotrienol (a form of vitamin E), as well as a number of antioxidants.

So far, research on the health effects of tamanu oil has been limited. Most studies are performed in labs on cells, rather than on human subjects. Study results have been inconsistent and don't always support the use of the oil for any skin or hair condition.

Wound Healing

Tamanu oil is often suggested for scar healing or wound repair. Although it would make sense that applying an antioxidant-rich oil might help with the inflammatory changes that are part of the wound healing process, there is a lack of research to support this.

In one 2015 study, researchers investigated different tropical oil formulations (some of which contained tamanu oil) to see if they might be able to act on cells to provide a possible treatment for stretch marks. None of the formulations were shown to be effective in eradicating or improving the condition.

However, another in vitro study provided evidence that the oil may have properties that can stimulate skin cell proliferation, collagen production, and wound healing activity.

Lastly, a series of in vitro experiments compared tamanu oil samples from five different geographic locations. The study, conducted on cells, provided support for traditional uses of tamanu oil for wound healing, particularly with infected wounds.

Proper wound care can help reduce scars and prevent infection. Large, deep, or infected wounds should be treated by a healthcare professional without delay.

Vaginal Infections

Tamanu oil is believed to reduce inflammation and destroy bacteria. For that reason, some use it topically to treat vaginal infections.

An in vitro study published in 2019 examined the oil's effects on cells to see if it might provide an effective treatment for vaginitis (candidiasis trichomoniasis and bacterial vaginosis). Study authors concluded that the use of the oil stimulated the healing processes and has anti-inflammatory, analgesic, and antiseptic qualities. Keep in mind, however, that this study was conducted on cells in a laboratory, not on human subjects.

Other Skin Concerns

Tamanu oil is also touted as a 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, cold sores, and shingles.

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

However, there is not enough scientific evidence to know if tamanu oil can provide these benefits.

Possible Side Effects

Tamanu oil is generally considered safe when used topically; there is not enough known about the potential side effects of consuming laurelwood orally.

Given that tamanu oil is pressed from the nut of the laurelwood tree, people with a tree nut allergy should avoid use.

If you experience itching, redness, irritation, or other adverse effects when using tamanu oil, stop using the product immediately.

Dosage and Preparation

There is not enough scientific evidence to confirm an effective and safe dose of tamanu oil. The appropriate dose for you may depend on the condition you are treating, your age, sex, and overall health.

Seek guidance from a healthcare professional to get personalized advice regarding a safe dose for you.

What to Look For

Widely available for purchase online, tamanu oil is sold in many natural-foods stores. Some oil products are 100% tamanu oil while others are diluted with different 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. In particular, this ingredient is found in many creams said to reduce the appearance of stretch marks and scars.

If you choose to buy tamanu oil, you may want to look for a product that is USDA-certified organic to ensure a higher quality oil. Keep in mind that cosmetic products (such as moisturizers and other oils that are rubbed on the skin for cosmetic uses) are not regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) like medications are.

It is not legal for a cosmetic product or dietary supplement to make claims regarding the treatment of a specific disease or condition, so any such statements should be considered with this in mind.

Other Questions

Are there alternatives to tamanu oil for wound healing?
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.

What are other natural ways to improve skin texture?
Natural products commonly touted for their skin-improving benefits include argan oil (rich in antioxidants and essential fatty acids), rose hip oil (derived from the rosehip plant and often used for scars, including those from acne), 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.

A Word From Verywell

Tamanu oil is generally safe and may help keep your skin and hair moisturized, as well as ease dryness, irritation, and itching. But there's also a chance it may not help the problem you're looking to address—a particular concern when it comes to conditions that may worsen without early, proper treatment.

It's a good idea to speak to your primary care provider or dermatologist before using tamanu oil to see if it's right for you.

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