The Health Benefits of Tamanu Oil

Fruits on Tamanu tree (Calophyllum inophyllum)

Kazuo Ogawa / Getty Images

Tamanu oil is a treatment long used in Polynesia and Southeast Asia for the improvement of hair and skin. The oil—which is sometimes also called Laurelwood—is sometimes used on the face or elsewhere on the body for conditions such as acne, psoriasis, and scarring.

Tamanu oil is extracted from laurelwood nuts that come from a large tropical tree called Calophyllum inophyllum. Other parts of the tree (such as the leaves, root bark, and twigs) are also sometimes used as medicine.

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.

In one 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. But scientists concluded that no topical formulation was 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 tamanu oil for wound healing, particularly with infected wounds.

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.

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

  • Acne
  • Athlete's foot
  • Dark spots
  • Dry skin
  • Eczema
  • Hair loss
  • Psoriasis
  • Rosacea
  • Sunburn

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.

There is not enough scientific evidence to know if tamanu oil can provide these benefits.

Possible Side Effects

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

People with a tree nut allergy should avoid tamanu oil, as the oil is pressed from the nut of the Calophyllum inophyllum tree.

If you have a wound, proper wound care can help to reduce scars and prevent infection. Large, deep, or infected wounds should be treated immediately by a healthcare professional.

Dosage and Preparation

The proper dose of tamanu oil is not known. There is not enough scientific evidence to know how much is safe to use on your skin. The appropriate dose for you may depend on the condition you choose to treat, your age, your gender, and your 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. Tamanu 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 skin 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. It is not legal for a cosmetic product or dietary supplement to make claims regarding the treatment of a specific disease or condition.

Other Questions

Are there alternatives to tamanu oil for the treatment of 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 also include argan oil, an oil that's 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.

A Word From Verywell

While tamanu oil won't cure any condition, it may help keep your skin and hair moisturized and ease dryness, irritation, and itching.

If you have a skin condition or scar, 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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