by Melissa Montalvo and Karym Urdaneta
The Tamanu Nut Tree comes from the plant species Calophyllum inophyllum, which is commonly found along the shores of Southeast Asia, and grows to approximately three meters in length. Beautiful, fragrant, orange blossom-like flowers bloom on the tamanu twice a year, and produce 100 kilograms (kg) of apricot-sized fruit annually, translating to 5 kg of mature nut oil, which is deep green in color and carries a luxuriously pleasant aroma. Calophyllum means “beautiful leaf” in Greek. For the Polynesians, tamanu is their “green gold,” known for safely and effectively regenerating damaged skin. Because the fruit is collected after it drops from the tree, there is no negative impact upon the life of the tree or its habitat, distinctively highlighting its naturally sustainable harvesting practices. The combination of these qualities has given this hearty tree—with its beautiful leaves and sacred oil—a unique reputation within the natural care industry.
Beyond beautiful leaves
Among the skin remedies sold throughout the world today, tamanu nut oil has become a “must have” ingredient. This is due to its growing exposure for its positive properties, especially among those interested in natural skin care. The indigenous Polynesian and Tahitian people knew about the powerful effects of the tamanu tree (and its parts) against various skin conditions many years ago. They believed the tree to be a sacred gift of nature, a place where “the gods hid in its branches.” Research has proven that the oil extracted from the tamanu nut has had a positive effect on reducing and healing skin abrasions, scars, burns and skin conditions such as eczema and psorisias.
No pain, more gain
Tamanu, also known as kamani among Hawaiians, has historically been used as a topical agent for the relief of pain from sciatica, shingles, neuralgia, rheumatism and many other skin issues, including burns, scrapes, insect bites, sores and blisters. Its use has been very popular among the Southeast Asian natives in Thailand, Vietnam, Myanmar, Malaysia, South India, Sri Lanka, Melanesia and Polynesia. Medical studies have demonstrated the successful use of tamanu oil. Historically, one of the most highly regarded studies involved a woman who was admitted to St. Louis Hospital in Paris with a large, gangrenous ulcer on her leg that was not healing properly. Amputation seemed unavoidable, yet the doctors opted instead to administer tamanu oil dressings to her leg on a regular basis in the hopes that the wound would heal. Eventually, the consistent application of the oil to the woman’s leg resulted in the limb’s complete recovery. After some time passed, all that remained of the wound was a smooth, flat scar. This remarkable incident that occured years ago kicked off years of research on tamanu oil’s therapeutic and healing effects for the skin.
Beauty comes with healthy skin
Although tamanu oil has proven to be effective in addressing a broad range of skin problems—some very severe—the oil is found to be quite soothing, even on sensitive skin. According to Plant Resources of Tropical Africa (PROTA) and Chris Kilham, an ethnobotanist who researches and studies the effects of plant-based medicines, this cold-pressed oil contains anti-inflammatory properties. This is due to the presence of 4-phenyl coumarin calophyllolide and a group of xanthones, which explains the reduction effect it has on rashes, sores, swelling and various skin abrasions. The antimicrobial phytochemical agents like friedelin, canophyllol, canophyllic acid and inophynone are the reason for the oil’s efficacy against various human and animal pathogens, including Staphylococcus and other undesirable infections.
According to reports from research conducted in Pakistan, friedelin, one of tamanu’s antimicrobial agents, exhibited activity against various fungal diseases found in hair, skin and nails. The presence of antioxidants that all of us look for in a skin care regimen is abundant in tamanu oil. Xanthones and coumarins have antioxidant properties, specifically inhibiting lipid peroxidation (the oxidative degradation of lipids). We must not forget that our cell membranes, including those of skin cells, are made up of lipids. The presence of these compounds allow tamanu oil the capacity to promote the formation of new tissue, thereby accelerating cicatrization, increasing skin’s elasticity and suppleness, minimizing blemishes and reducing common free radicals.
BioScience Laboratories conducted a nine-week study of tamanu oil’s ability to reduce scars, resulting in an average reduction of 0.28 centimeters (cm) in scar length, and an average decrease of 0.12 cm in width size. However, scientists have yet to pinpoint the mechanisms by which tamanu oil imparts these properties, and precisely what it is that gives it these amazing attributes. The tamanu tree is a valuable element for skin protection and an effective remedy for many skin problems and health conditions. It can be credited for the beautiful, blemish-free skin of Polynesian women. The substantial research that has been conducted on the tamanu tree has continuously uncovered positive data on its beneficial properties. It is time we recognized tamanu as the precious gift of nature that it truly is.
Read the full article online, Published by: Les Nouvelle Esthetics & Spa, March 2012