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Indigenous to tropical southeast Asia, Tamanu (Calophyllum Inophyllum) trees are found in Thailand, Vietnam, Myanmar, Malaysia, South India, Sri Lanka, and the Melanesian and Polynesian islands. Also called Undi and Nagchampa, among other names, Tamanu trees are normally planted along the highways and roads to stop soil erosion. Millions of trees exist all over Coastal India. When seeds fall along the roadside, they are collected, and oil is extracted in villages using manual pressing machines. Thousands of tons of Tamanu Oil will be used for lighting lamps in rural areas, being the best substitute for kerosene.
The Tamanu tree, which grows to 2 to 3 meters tall, has a thick trunk covered with a rough, black, cracked bark and elliptical, shiny, and tough leaves. Twice a year, the Tamanu tree blooms white fragrant flowers which later yield clusters of yellow-skinned spherical fruits. Once the fruits ripen, their smooth, yellow epidermis encloses a thin layer of pulp, which tastes somewhat like apple, and covers a gray, ligneous, and rather soft nut containing a pale yellow kernel. The Tamanu kernels, which have a very high oil content (around 75%), are sun dried for two months and yield a thick, fragrant, dark greenish-yellow oil. Once grown, a tree produces up to 100 kg of fruits and about 18 kg of oil.
Unlike most vegetable oils, Tamanu Oil is not contained in fresh ripe fruits. It forms during the drying of the nuts. The ripe and non-germinating seeds are slightly crushed in order to crack the shells without damaging the kernels. The kernels are then removed, arranged in thin layers, and exposed to the sun, with no contact with humidity in order to avoid molding. Within 2 months, the kernels lose around 50% of their weight, become brownish, and start to develop their aromatic scent and increase their oil content while losing their germinating power. After this time, the kernels have reached their maximum oil content, lost their water content, and are then pressed for the oil, also called Undi oil.
Because of the extraordinary healing properties of Tamanu Oil, the natives of Melanesian and Polynesian cultures consider the oil one of Nature’s sacred gifts and refer to it as the Sacred Oil Of Tamanu, or Green Gold! The oil has long been used as the best natural remedy for promoting the formation of new tissue, thus accelerating wound healing and the growth of healthy skin.
The two main active components of Tamanu Oil are a new fatty acid called Calophyllic Acid and a lactone with antibiotic properties believed to be responsible for the oil’s amazing ability to rebuild the skin. Tamanu Oil also contains terpenic essences and benzoic and oxi-benzoic acids, as well as small amounts of vitamin F, phospho-aminolipids, glycerides, and saturated fatty acids.
Tamanu Oil has been proven to have anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and anti-fungal properties. Locals apply Tamanu Oil liberally to cuts, scrapes, burns, insect bites and stings, abrasions, bed sores, stretch marks, acne and acne scars, psoriasis, sunburn, rashes, dry or scaly skin, blisters, eczema, herpes sores, and athletes foot. It is also used for the reduction of foot and body odor (it makes for a fantastic natural underarm deodorant) and many other skin conditions.
Tamanu Oil fades stretch marks with incredible results and makes scars look less visible. It absorbs rapidly into the skin, adding a youthful glow without any residual oiliness. Due to its high phospholipids and glycolipids content, and its antioxidant properties, it is a great ingredient for formulations intended to smooth lines and wrinkles.