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Dr. Mehmet Oz recently highlighted tamanu oil on his show as a cure-all for skin afflictions such as cuts, burns, rashes and acne, but we at TIA needed a little more than the Oprah advisor’s nod of approval to form a judgment of our own.
Tamanu oil (Calophyllum inophyllum) is from a tropical tree once considered sacred in Polynesia. According to a 2002 article in the International Journal of Cosmetic Science, the main actives in the oil were discovered by Frenchman Professor Lederer, who found calo-phyllic acid and a lactone endowed with antibiotic properties. The oil has historically been used for rheumatism, arthritis, joint pains, sores, chapped lips and to heal small wounds. So what gives it this wide expanse of healing tendencies?
It may be due to its many constituents. The bark, which contains tannin, is an astringent and antiseptic. The leaves contain friedelin and triterpenes, which are beneficial for the skin barrier and wound healing. Calophyllolide was isolated from the nuts and showed anti-inflammatory activity in formaldehyde-induced arthritis in rats, according to one study. And the oil, of which 60% is obtained from the seed, contains terpenic essences, benzoic acids, small amounts of vitamin F, phospho-aminolipid, glycerides, saturated fatty acids and calophyllolids. Calophyllolids have antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and anti-blood coagulation properties. The plant even has 4-phenylcoumarins that are said to have anti-tumor activity and according to one piece of research, the oil fights leukemia cells.
Tamanu oil possesses the capacity to promote the formation of new tissue, thereby accelerating wound healing. One study, which evaluated the appearance of aged scars, noted a significant improvement after 6 weeks. The overall size of the scars consistently decreased as well.
The oil can be found in a few products: Aveda was the first to use it in its Green Science range with Argan oil, but it can also be found in Cellbone Skin Nutra, Bubalina’s Pumpkin Body Butter and Enpointe Éclair C Serum. And yes, Dr. Oz suggests dabbing it onto the skin on its own, too.
Seems too good to be true? There is one 2004 study where the oil did result in cases of contact dermatitis. And although people claim that it is useful for blemishes, no studies look directly at the treatment of acne. But given the amount of anti-inflammatory and antibacterial components, it’s looking pretty good. We’re still skeptical on dubbing it a cure-all just yet so we’ve ordered our own bottle to give it a try. Stay tuned for more!