Health Benefits of Tamanu Oil

Medically Reviewed by Debra Jaliman, MD on February 29, 2024
4 min read

Tamanu oil is a fatty nut oil that is pressed from the seeds of the tamanu tree. It is often used as a skin care ingredient for anti-aging and wound healing, but tamanu oil benefits don’t end there. 

Many people assume tamanu (species Calophyllum inophyllum) is an essential oil, but it’s actually a fatty nut oil. It can be used as a carrier to dilute essential oils, or alone to moisturize and heal the skin.

The tamanu tree is a tropical tree found in Asia and Australia. Its bark is ridged with a light grey color, and the wood is used for building boats and cabinets. The sap and fruit of the tamanu tree are poisonous.

The tree goes by many different names including:

  • Alexandrian laurel, Indian laurel, Laurelwood, Laurel
  • Mastwood
  • Indian doomba
  • Beach touriga, Satin touriga
  • Tacamahac tree
  • Ball tree
  • Beautyleaf

The oil is collected from the fruit seeds of the tree. The nuts have to be cracked, and the seeds have to be removed and dried in the sun for 1 to 2 months. This allows the oil to accumulate in the seeds. The seeds are then de-shelled and pressed to extract the oil. The raw oil is filtered and then packaged for sale.

Tamanu oil is a yellow to green color and has a nutty smell. It is rich in fatty acids including:

Many of these essential fatty acids are naturally found in your body and are used to lubricate your skin and keep it healthy. Not having enough fatty acids changes your skin’s structure and function. It can cause water loss and dry, scaly skin.

Generally, essential fatty acids as skin care products help maintain healthy skin. Botanical oils with a lot of essential fatty acids can help by doing several things:

  • Form a physical barrier on your skin
  • Supply fatty acids to different skin layers
  • Lower inflammation in your skin
  • Hydrate your skin
  • Make your skin smooth

Some fatty acids can also irritate the skin. While tamanu oil can help with some of these benefits, it might also cause skin irritation.

As a fatty botanical oil, tamanu oil can smooth and soften the skin. It has other benefits, as well.

Contains antioxidants. Antioxidants fight free radical damage. When your body has an overload of free radicals that it can’t destroy, damage happens. This is one of the causes of faster aging in your skin. Tamanu oil is rich in antioxidants, and it is often added to anti-aging creams.  

Provides sun protection. The sun causes a lot of damage to your skin. Tamanu seems to be able to absorb UV light within a fairly large spectrum, but more studies are needed before this can be used as sunscreen. It is still essential to wear sunscreen.  

Fights germs. Tamanu oil is antibacterial and antifungal. It can help fight bacteria and fungus on the skin. This makes it helpful for:

  • Acne
  • Eczema
  • Wound infections
  • Fungal infections

Soothes eczema. Eczema skin tends to have higher amounts of bacteria, so tamanu’s antibacterial properties might be helpful. Tamanu oil is also anti-inflammatory, which can soothe eczema.

Heals wounds. Tamanu oil helps with wound closure, skin cell growth, and collagen production. All of these can help with wound healing.

Reduces scarring. Tamanu helps make collagen and other components of your skin. Along with its wound healing abilities, it can also help reduce scars.

Eases minor burns and sunburns. Tamanu oil is often used for sunburns and minor burns. It has anti-inflammatory properties, which may be how it helps to ease them.

Tamanu oil comes from the seeds of the tamanu tree, but it is classified as a nut tree. If you are allergic to nuts, you shouldn’t use tamanu oil. 

While tamanu oil can be used for the skin, it’s toxic if taken internally. Don’t eat tamanu oil as a supplement.

While tamanu has benefits for the skin and is a popular ingredient in anti-aging creams, it can cause skin irritation and allergic reactions

If you have sensitive skin or eczema, do a patch test before applying it everywhere to make sure you don’t have a reaction. Apply a small amount to the inside of your wrist or elbow twice a day for 7 days. If your skin becomes itchy, irritated, red, swollen, or has bumps, don’t use it anywhere else.

Tamanu oil does have some benefits for your skin, but it’s mostly used as a moisturizer in skin care ingredients. It’s not meant to be a medical treatment for your skin. If you need help with your skin, make sure you talk to your doctor or dermatologist.