What is Tamanu Oil?

Sara Schmidt
Sara Schmidt

A traditional medicine for many cultures, tamanu oil is an infusion made from the tamanu tree. The green oil is widely cultivated and used for its medicinal properties. Tamanu oil heals damaged skin, alleviates various medical conditions, and is known for its skin smoothing and softening properties.

Tamanu oil can be used to treat acne.
Tamanu oil can be used to treat acne.

Revered by ancient Polynesians, the oil was historically used for its medicinal and wound healing properties. Tamanu oil is used for a variety of modern uses. Some of these include treating scar tissue, chapped skin, and other ailments. It has been used as a first aid treatment for burns as well as arthritis, oozing wounds, rheumatism, bruises, and sciatica.

Sore throats are one health issue treated with tamanu oil.
Sore throats are one health issue treated with tamanu oil.

Cosmetically, it can be used to add color and scent to perfumes, lotions, and creams. Also known for its anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties, tamanu oil is also used for treating septicemia, conjunctivitis, athlete's foot, ringworm, pneumonia, boils, jock itch, bladder, urinary tract, and other infections. Open sores, heatstroke, hemorrhoids, ulcers, swelling, infected nails, sore throat, and pimples have also been treated with the oil.

Other uses of tamanu oil include treating shingles, insect stings or bites, fissures, post-surgical wounds, cracked or scaly skin, diaper rash, psoriasis, sunburn, eczema, bed sores, and herpes sores. Tamanu oil is considered a relatively costly oil. If stored in a cool, dry area, it can last up to a year or longer. The oil is intended for external use only. People with nut allergies should refrain from using the product.

Also known as the kamani tree, true kamani, the ati tree, or foraha, the tamanu tree from which the oil is made is native to Southeast Asia; however, it can also be found in Polynesia, Malaysia, Hawaii, and the Indian coastline. This wide range is due to the tree's spreading through water. As nuts of the coastal tamanu tree are dropped into the ocean, they are carried onto new shores where they typically thrive immediately.

The thick, cleaved tree is dark, with hardy, shiny green leaves and white flowers. It can grow up to three meters in height. The nut of the tamanu tree is large with a green outer skin. Tamanu nuts are used to make the oil.

After the nuts are collected and cracked open, they are left to dry for several weeks. As they oxidize, their inner yellow kernels develop a sweet oil, which producers press to extract. To produce 11 pounds (five kilograms) of oil, 220 pounds (100 kilograms) of nuts are needed.

Tamanu oil can be used for treating ringworm.
Tamanu oil can be used for treating ringworm.
Sara Schmidt
Sara Schmidt

A graduate of Southeast Missouri State University, Sara has a Master’s Degree in English, which she puts to use writing for wiseGEEK and several magazines, websites, and nonprofit organizations. She has published her own novella, and has other literary projects currently in progress. Sara’s varied interests have also led her to teach children in Spain, tutor college students, run CPR and first aid classes, and organize student retreats.

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Discussion Comments


And it smells heavenly.


@calabama71: Yes, if you are using it for pain relief, you apply the oil to the surface of the skin where you are feeling the pain. You use it the same way for skin treatment.

One of the things that make Tamanu Oil exceptional is its ability to penetrate through all three layers of the skin – the epidermis, dermis, and hypodermis.

It is even used on animals.


How is the oil used? If you are using it for pain relief, do you just rub the oil on the spot where it hurts?


True tamanu oil is also referred to as “green gold” or “sacred oil of Tamanu”. It has been said that the oil has analgesic properties that have a very fast rate of reducing the body’s pain. This is why it is used for treatment of shingles, sciatica, and rheumatoid arthritis.

It is also used for pulled muscles, sprains, and ligament damage.

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