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Tamanu Oil: A Rare and Precious Commodity

by Nikki Seay

Thousands of years ago, the natives of Tahiti found a large, strange tree growing near the ocean. They soon found that the dried nuts from this tree, which they name the "ati" tree, contained a special oil that they used to help protect their skin from the hot sun, humidity and sea winds. 

There is a very small supply of Tamanu oil in the world due to the small growing area. It takes a full 100 kilograms of Tamanu fruit (which is the annual production of one adult tree) to make just 5 kilograms of cold pressed Tamanu oil. The Tamanu nut, from which oil of Tamanu is made, can only be harvested once per year. Once the nut is harvested, it must be allowed to dry in the sun for two months. After this process has been successfully completed, the oil can be extracted. 

Reputed uses by the people of Tahiti are wide and varied - from burns, to insect bites, to stretch marks. This oil is truly multi faceted. As with any nut-based oil, people with allergies to nuts of any kind should not use Tamanu Oil. 

Tamanu History

The oil of Tamanu has a long history, but earlier this century in 1918, French Pharmacopoeia found the oil so powerful in its curative properties that they conducted research and clinical testing for uses topically, orally and by injection.

In 1928, Sister Marie–Suzanne, a missionary of the Society of Mary, tested Tamanu's medicinal properties. She used it effectively to treat leprosy and discovered in 1934 that it had pain relieving and sedative properties.

More recently in 1988, the Bora Bora Oil Company along with Pacific Natural Resources Laboratories in Tahiti conducted research that would eventually prove the medicinal value of the Tamanu oil.

Although originally used for the benefit of humans, the Tahitians along with the Polynesians of other South Pacific islands have also been using the oil of Tamanu for the benefit of dogs and cats.

Using Tamanu Oil

The benefits of Tamanu oil appear to be endless. It is normally used for isolated treatment therapies, is non–toxic and has a unique taste. The oil itself is non-greasy and readily absorbed. At first, it may be necessary to apply the oil a few times a day, then reduce the number of applications as the problem begins to heal. Since the oil is so effective, a little goes a long way. The ability of this Tahitian remedy to heal the skin surpasses that of many other remedies.

Benefits of Tamanu Oil

Essentially, the oil of Tamanu has remarkable regenerative and curative properties. Additionally, the oil has a wide spectrum of uses and benefits. The oil of Tamanu may be applied to almost any skin problem. One of the many possible reasons for such incredible results is the fact that the Tamanu oil is able to reach all three layers of the skin: epidermis, dermis, and hypodermis.

Along with the above mentioned benefits, this Tahitian remedy has also been used as a natural antibiotic. In 1953, Professor Ledener isolated something called lactone in the oil of Tamanu. This is the source of its natural antibiotic property.

Another component in the oil of Tamanu is Calophyllic acid. This acid is said to be source of the oil's ability to heal scars. Some people have noticed significant healing of wounds in as little as five or six applications. The Calophyllic acid helps to regenerate the skin.

Pain in the hips, buttocks, lower back, back of the thighs or adjacent body parts is known as sciatica. This pain and discomfort that is associated with sciatica is said to be helped by using oil of Tamanu. Neuritis and rheumatism are also said to be helped when using this oil.

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