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Tamanu Oil: Psoriasis Healer?

Photo of Debra Sullivan, Ph.D., MSN, R.N., CNE, COI

Medically reviewed by — Written by — updated on December 17, 2018


Manufacturer claims about the benefits of tamanu oil are plenty. Some say it’s the best natural skin care product you can find for problem skin, while others proclaim it to be the long-sought cure for psoriasis.

The one thing the people behind those statements have in common is that they’re trying to sell tamanu oil to you. But do these claims, specifically those related to psoriasis, hold up to science? Let’s find out.

What is tamanu oil?

Tamanu — also known as Alexandrian laurel, kamani, bitaog, pannay, and sweet-scented calophylum — is a tree that’s native to Southeast Asia, including the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, Melanesia, and Polynesia. Tamanu oil is extracted from the tree’s nuts via cold-pressing.

The yellow to dark green oil has natural anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and antifungal properties, making it a time-tested treatment for cuts, scrapes, and other small wounds.

Besides topical uses, tamanu oil can be manufactured into biofuel. It’s known for its low emissions when burned like other plant-based oils.

Tamanu oil is sold in homeopathic stores and online for a variety of reasons. It’s used to treat everything from sunburn and insomnia to herpes and hair loss. Oh, and psoriasis too.

So what does the research say?

While tamanu oil has many medicinal benefits that might help your psoriasis, don’t believe anyone who’s selling it as a miracle cure. There is currently no cure for psoriasis, and there is also no such thing as miracles. Because it’s not well-known outside of parts of Southeast Asia, available research on tamanu and its effects on psoriasis is sparse.

However, it does have properties that make it a likely candidate as a flare-up reducer, and it has been effective at treating the symptoms of other common skin conditions. The oil is high in fatty acids, particularly linoleic and oleic acid. Diets high in linoleic acid, such as diets consumed in most parts of Africa, are also associated with lower rates of psoriasis.

In Fiji, tamanu oil has been traditionally used topically to treat symptoms of arthritis, which may be beneficial for people who live with psoriatic arthritis.

The takeaway

All in all, tamanu oil does have many natural healing properties that could make a good addition to your medicine cabinet (note that its shelf life is about two years). It’s thick, rich texture can help hold in moisture in the skin, and the nutrients in it seem to have benefits that science can back up. But remember, it’s no miracle, and it’s definitely not a cure for psoriasis.

Talk to your doctor or dermatologist before you start using tamanu oil to treat to your psoriasis symptoms. While it’s a naturally occurring oil, it may not be right for everyone. As the oil comes from the nut of the Calophyllum inophyllum tree, people who are allergic to tree nuts may have an allergic reaction.

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