The Benefits of Tamanu Oil

Can this tropical oil soothe your skin?

Fruits on Tamanu tree (Calophyllum inophyllum)
Kazuo Ogawa/Getty Images

Extracted from the seeds of an evergreen tree called Calophyllum inophyllum, tamanu oil is a remedy long used in Indonesia and the South Pacific to soothe skin and treat skin conditions such as eczema and acne.

Why Do People Use Tamanu Oil?

Said to reduce inflammation and destroy bacteria, tamanu oil is used topically on the skin or hair. 

Tamanu oil is touted as a remedy for the following conditions:

Since tamanu oil is said to alleviate pain, the oil is also used topically to relieve the pain caused by conditions like sciatica, cold sores, and shingles.

Some proponents also claim that tamanu oil can help aid in the regeneration of skin. For this reason, tamanu oil is thought to help reduce the appearance of stretch marks and scars.

In addition, tamanu oil is said to promote the healing of burns, blisters, cuts, and scrapes. Some people also use tamanu oil to treat insect bites.

The Benefits of Tamanu Oil

So far, research on the health effects of tamanu oil is limited. However, there's some evidence that tamanu oil may contain a number of compounds with health-enhancing effects. These compounds include calophyllolide (a substance known to possess anti-inflammatory properties) and delta-tocotrienol (a form of vitamin E), as well as a number of antioxidants.

Still, there is currently a lack of research on the use of tamanu oil as a treatment for any condition.

Possible Side Effects

Although tamanu oil is generally considered safe when used topically, it may trigger allergic reactions in some individuals. If you experience itching, redness, irritation, or other adverse effects upon using tamanu oil, discontinue use of the product immediately.

Keep in mind that the safety of supplements in pregnant women, nursing mothers, children, and those with medical conditions or who are taking medications has not been established. You can get tips on using supplements here, but it's important to note that self-treating a condition and avoiding or delaying standard care may have serious consequences.

Where to Find It

Widely available for purchase online, tamanu oil is sold in many natural-foods stores. Some oil products contain 100% oil while others are diluted with other oils such as olive oil. In addition, tamanu oil is used as an ingredient in a variety of personal-care products, including lotions, serums, and moisturizers. Tamanu is also found in many creams said to reduce the appearance of stretch marks and scars.

Alternatives to Tamanu Oil

Many other natural products may provide benefits similar to the purported effects of tamanu oil. For instance, sea buckthorn oil (a substance that contains essential fatty acids and vitamin E) has been found to promote wound healing and treat eczema when applied topically. Meanwhile, neem oil (also rich in fatty acids, such as oleic acid and linoleic acid) may help treat bacterial infections and protect against insect bites.

Natural products commonly touted for their skin-improving benefits also include argan oil, an oil rich in antioxidants and essential fatty acids, rosehip oil, an oil derived from the rosehip plant and often used for scars including acne scars, tea tree oil, coconut oil, emu oil, and DMAE.

Oils rich in omega-3 fatty acids taken in supplement form include fish oil, flaxseed oil, cod liver oil, krill oil, and DHA. Other essential fatty acids, such as the gamma-linolenic acids (GLA) borage seed oil and evening primrose oil, are often recommended.

Using Tamanu Oil

While it's not a miracle oil, tamanu oil may help keep your skin moisturized and ease dryness and irritation.

If you're considering trying it (and have a skin condition), talk with your healthcare provider before you start using it for your symptoms to see if it's appropriate for you. 


Dweck AC, Meadows T. Tamanu (Calophyllum inophyllum) - the African, Asian, Polynesian and Pacific Panacea. Int J Cosmet Sci. 2002 Dec;24(6):341-8.

Crane S, Aurore G, Joseph H, Mouloungui Z, Bourgeois P. Composition of fatty acids triacylglycerols and unsaponifiable matter in Calophyllum calaba L. oil from Guadeloupe. Phytochemistry. 2005 Aug;66(15):1825-31.

Disclaimer: The information contained on this site is intended for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for advice, diagnosis or treatment by a licensed physician. It is not meant to cover all possible precautions, drug interactions, circumstances or adverse effects. You should seek prompt medical care for any health issues and consult your doctor before using alternative medicine or making a change to your regimen.

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