Tuesday, July 29, 2008

All About Tamanu Oil

Is it a trendy new darling or one serious contender?
What exactly is tamanu oil -- and how does it work?

Tamanu is also known as Calophyllum inophyllum, or the ati tree, the kamani tree, true kamani and foraha, throughout its native region. This "driftnut" is indigenous to SE Asia and Polynesia, tamanu also flourishes along the Indian coastline, and as far north as Hawaii. A member of the mangosteen family, this is a thick tree with crackled, dark bark and sturdy, roundish green leaves. It produces beautiful, aromatic white flowers, followed by a large nut, with a green outer skin. The spread of the Ati occurs via water - the trees thrive in coastal areas and drop their nuts into the water. Time and tide deliver the nut to a new shore, and voila! More tamanu.

Production of tamanu oil is a two-step process. Mature trees can provide up to 225 pounds of oil annually, or roughly about 40 pounds of oil. The nuts are collected, then cracked, exposing a yellow kernel with virtually no oil present. The cracked nuts are left to dry on racks for 3-5 weeks. During oxidation, the nut kernel becomes a darker yellow-brown, and develops a viscous, sweet-smelling oil. The oil is extracted via pressing, and delivers a nutty-sweet green-brown colored product, very soothing to the skin.

Tamanu trees were revered by ancient Polynesians and are widely cultivated throughout the area today. The oil, as well as decoctions and tinctures from the rest of the tree, have been used traditionally as medicines and wound healers. The oil is renown for its healing qualities, particularly useful for treating scarified areas or keloids (scar tissue/skin that forms over the site of a wound).

According to A. C. Dweck, “Tamanu oil can be applied on skins as well as mucous membrane lesions. It heals small wounds, such as cracks and chaps, but is also efficient on more serious cutaneous problems: atonic wounds, physical and chemical burns, radiodermatitis, anal fissures or post-surgical wounds. Tamanu oil activity was studied in numerous clinical cases. Those healing, anti-inflammatory and antibiotic properties make Tamanu oil an excellent raw material in cosmetics, in regenerating and protective formulations. The oil is especially recommended for all kinds of burns (sunburns or chemical burns), most dermatoses, post-surgical cicatrisation, certain skin allergies, acne, psoriasis, herpes, chillblains, skin cracks, diabetic sores, hemorroids, dry skin, insomnia, hair loss, etc.” (1) The tamanu plant contains many chemical components which have proven to be helpful in the restoration and regeneration of skin tissue. The chief proponents are calophylloloids and upon saponification, calophyllic acid. It also contains significant levels of benzoic and oxi-benzoic acids.

Snowdrift Farm ensures a fresh, pure tamanu oil at an affordable price by directly importing this product from Tahiti, where is it organically grown and processed. We do not add other oils to our tamanu oil.

Formulating with Tamanu

Tamanu oil adds a distinctive flavor to this lip treat. Use small jars. This is not the "stiffest" lip balm, and won't do well in tubes. For larger batches, change the grams to ounces. Add up to 3% in flavor oil.

Tahitian Lip Treat

carnauba wax - 1/2 oz.
mango butter - 1/4 oz.
shea butter - 1/4 oz.
evening primrose oil - 1/8 oz.
tamanu oil - 1/4 oz.

castor oil - 1/8 oz.
jojoba oil (wax) - 1/8 oz.
optional - 1/4 teaspoon flavor oil - I used a chocolate-type.


Melt the waxes in a sterile microwave safe bowl for 2 < minutes at 50% power. Keep heating in short bursts til waxes are completely melted together. Stir. Add butters, oils. Reheat for a short time (about 30 seconds or so at 50% power) til all is melted together. Stir. Pour, while hot, into waiting lip balm tins. Cool thoroughly before using. Makes approximately 3 oz. of product.

Tamanu Tropical Skin Mousse

Follow the directions for Ylang Ylang Chiffon Body Souffle, substituting tamanu oil for the hemp seed oil called for in the recipe. We suggest scenting with either Plumeria or Frangi Pani fragrance oils.

Hint: Scenting tamanu

If you're making a lotion or other body care product with tamanu, I'd
suggest holding it to under 5% of the total weight. I'd also suggest a mint or
cinnamon, clove, any citrus oil, or anything like rosewood, ylang, patchouli,
vetiver or black pepper, coriander or cardamom as good scent matches for tamanu.
I haven't tried it with the florals only because it doesn't seem to equate very
well, scentwise. But I'm sure it would be OK with lavender. Almost everything is
OK with lavender.

Hint: Because tamanu is helpful in alleviating common skin eruptions such as acne and hemorroids, we recommend that you use the oil "neat" and without fragrancing for these types of applications. Apply with cotton ball or pad.

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