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If you’ve been inside a natural foods store or health shop, chances are you’ve seen tamanu oil before.

Tamanu oil is extracted from seeds that grow on a tropical evergreen called a tamanu nut tree. Tamanu oil and other parts of the tamanu nut tree have been used medicinally for hundreds of years by certain Asian, African, and Pacific Island cultures.

Historically, people believed in tamanu oil’s skin benefits. Today, you can find many anecdotal stories about the uses of tamanu oil for skin. Some studies suggest tamanu oil may prevent tumor-growth in cancer patients, treat vaginitis and help reduce symptoms in people with HIV.Zalewski J, et al. (2019). Calophyllum inophyllum in vaginitis treatment: Stimulated by electroporation with an in vitro approach. DOI: 10.17219/acem/87045 Generally, tamanu oil is not incorporated into Western medicine.

Tamanu oil has long been believed to have a number of health and beauty benefits, from wound healing to healthier hair. While not every single claim you come across has been scientifically researched, many have.

Tamanu oil for acne

A 2015 study looked at tamanu oil from five different parts of the South Pacific.Léguillier T, et al. (2015). The wound healing and antibacterial activity of five ethnomedical Calophyllum inophyllum oils: An alternative therapeutic strategy to treat infected wounds. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0138602 It found that the oil exhibited high antibacterial and wound-healing activity against bacterial strains involved in acne, including Propionibacterium acnes (P. acnes) and Propionibacterium granulosum (P. granulosum).

There’s also evidence of the oil’s anti-inflammatory properties. Together with its ability to kill P. acnes and P. granulosum, tamanu oil may also be helpful in treating inflamed acne.Mah SH, et al. (2018). Comparative studies of selected calophyllum plants for their anti-inflammatory properties. DOI: 10.4103/pm.pm_212_18

Tamanu oil for acne scars

Tamanu oil has been used to successfully treat scars in a hospital setting. Numerous biological studies have shown that tamanu oil has wound-healing and skin regeneration properties.Raharivelomanana P, et al. (2018). Tamanu oil and skin active properties: From traditional to modern cosmetic uses. DOI: 10.1051/ocl/2018048 It’s been shown to promote cell proliferation and the production of certain components of your skin — including collagen and glycosaminoglycan (GAG) — all important in the healing of scars.

Tamanu oil is also rich in antioxidants, which have been shown to be beneficial in the treatment of scarring, as well as acne.Addor FAS. (2017). Antioxidants in dermatology. DOI: 10.1590/abd1806-4841.20175697

Tamanu oil for athlete’s foot

Tamanu oil is believed to be an effective remedy for athlete’s foot, a contagious fungal infection that affects the skin of the feet. Though the effects of tamanu oil specifically on athlete’s foot have not been studied, there’s quite a bit of evidence backing the oil’s antifungal properties.Sahu B, et al. (2017). Application of calophyllum inophyllum oil as antifungal fat-liquor for leather industry. DOI: 10.1016/j.indcrop.2017.04.064

Tamanu oil benefits for wrinkles

Tamanu oil is an active ingredient used in many skin care products, including anti-aging creams. The oil is rich in fatty acids, which can help keep skin moisturized. It also contains antioxidants, which fight against damage from free radicals.

The oil’s ability to promote collagen and GAG production also plays a role in anti-aging and skin regeneration.

Finally, tamanu oil may help prevent wrinkles caused by sun damage. A 2009 in-vitro study found that the oil was able to absorb UV light and inhibit 85 percent of the DNA damage induced by UV radiation.Leu T, et al. (2009). New tricyclic and tetracyclic pyranocoumarins with an unprecedented C‐4 substituent. Structure elucidation of tamanolide, tamanolide D and tamanolide P from calophyllum inophyllum of French Polynesia. DOI: 10.1002/mrc.2482

Tamanu oil for dark spots

No evidence currently exists that shows tamanu oil can reduce the appearance of dark spots, though some people use it for that purpose.

Tamanu oil for dry skin

Skin dryness is a condition commonly treated with use of oils. Tamanu oil happens to have a high fat content, so it’s likely very moisturizing for the skin.

Tamanu oil for eczema

Research suggests tamanu oil may have anti-inflammatory properties.Bhalla TN, et al. (1980). Calophyllolide — a new nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory agent. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/7203581/ And while there are people who have used tamanu oil to treat inflammatory skin conditions like eczema, more research is needed to understand its role.

Tamanu oil for fading stretch marks

As with acne scars, most people try to fade their stretch marks with moisturizing, anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory treatments. While tamanu oil has these properties, there’s not enough research to know whether it has any effect.

Tamanu oil for hair

Researchers have not looked deeply into how tamanu oil affects the hair. It probably works as a moisturizer, though that’s not been proven. Anecdotal stories suggest it can be used to slow hair loss, but researchers have not proven this.

Tamanu oil for ingrown hairs

Ingrown hairs often become inflamed and irritated. Because tamanu oil has anti-inflammatory healing properties, it’s possible it could treat ingrown hairs. As a proven anti-inflammatory, it could have benefits. However, there’s no specific research on tamanu and ingrown hairs.

Tamanu oil for insect stings

Some people use tamanu oil to treat insect stings. But while tamanu oil does work as an anti-inflammatory, there’s no research yet into its effects on bug bites.

Tamanu oil for scars

Several studies have found that tamanu oil has a number of properties that can help skin wounds heal faster, reduce inflammation, and promote collagen production.

Tamanu oil emulsion was used on hospital patients in two studies to treat resistant and postsurgical wounds.Ansel J-L, et al. (2016). Biological activity of Polynesian calophyllum inophyllum oil extract on human skin cells. DOI: 10.1055/s-0042-108205 Tamanu oil improved healing and led to significantly less scaring.

Tamanu oil for sunburns and other burns

Some people use tamanu oil to treat their sunburns and other burns. While research suggests tamanu oil has healing and antibacterial properties, there’s no clear understanding of its effects on burns.

Tamanu oil can be applied directly to the skin for health or cosmetic purposes. It can also be combined with creams, essential oils, and other ingredients to create your own face and hair masks, moisturizers, and shampoos and conditioners.

Tamanu oil product labels warn against swallowing the oil and allowing it to contact the eyes. Companies that sell tamanu oil also warn against using the oil in open wounds. If you have a large wound, be sure to seek treatment from a doctor.

Be aware that tamanu oil is considered a health supplement, and is therefore not regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as being able to treat or cure any disease. In fact, the FDA has filed lawsuits against companies in Utah and Oregon that made claims of tamanu oil’s skin benefits.

Research suggests contact with tamanu oil may cause allergic reactions in some people. People allergic to tree nuts should avoid tamanu oil, since it’s derived from a kind of tree nut.

Tamanu is a nut oil and not an essential oil, but the following essential oils are alternatives to tamanu oil. Which you choose depends on the effect you’re after. Be sure to use as directed, as some of these essential oils need to be diluted with a carrier oil before being applied to the skin to avoid irritation.

Here are three alternatives and what they can do.

  • Tea tree oil. Tea tree oil has been researched extensively. It has anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties that make it effective for treating minor wounds, itching, and skin conditions, such as eczema and acne.
  • Argan oil. Also referred to as Moroccan oil, argan oil has been shown to offer many of the same benefits as tamanu oil, including wound healing, anti-aging effects, acne treatment, and UV protection. It’s also an effective moisturizer for skin and hair.
  • Castor oil. Castor oil is an inexpensive alternative with many of the same uses and benefits. It has antifungal, antibacterial, and anti-inflammatory effects that can help treat fungal infections, minor skin irritation, and minor cuts and abrasions. It also moisturizes the hair and skin.

You can purchase tamanu oil in many natural food and beauty shops. You can also find it online on Amazon.

Tamanu oil has been used for centuries to treat many common skin conditions. Research suggests that tamanu oil does have some properties that would make it effective for treating wounds and other inflammatory skin conditions. Some people, including those with tree nut allergies, should not use tamanu oil.