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Ingredient of the month: Tamanu Oil

What is it?
Tamanu oil is extracted from the fruit of Calophyllum inophyllum (also called Alexandrian Laurel, Pannay Tree and Sweet Scented Calophyllum). The oil (sometimes called Domba Oil in Europe) does not exist in the fruit when it falls from the tree but forms progressively during the drying period. Once dried, the oil is extracted from the nuts via cold-pressing and filtration.

Where does it come from?
The Tamanu tree is indigenous to tropical Southeast Asia; it is found in Thailand, Vietnam, Myanmar, Malaysia, South India, Sri Lanka, and the Melanesian and Polynesian islands. It is Callophyllum Inophyllum Taitensis, however, (which is specific to the Polynesian Islands) that is most highly regarded for its therapeutic qualities.

When was it discovered?
Tamanu trees were revered by ancient Polynesians, who believed the gods hid in their branches. Extensive research has been conducted on the oil since the 1930s. During World War II, it was also commonly applied to sciatica and shingles.

How is it beneficial?
Tamanu oil is a highly effective topical healing agent with antineuralgic, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antibiotic and antioxidant properties. It promotes new tissue formation and is used to dress wounds, rashes, burns and bruises; heal acne scars, eczema and stretch marks; and relieve sunburn, chapped skin and scabies.

What can be done with it?
Currently it is being used widely in cosmetics, first aid and hair treatments. In the 1920s, a nun stationed in Fiji injected an ethyl ether of the oil into the muscles of leprosy victims to relieve their pain and symptoms with positive results.

—James Townsend

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