Calophyllum inophyllum
[Foraha, Tamanu, Kamani]

By Jeanne Rose


Name and Latin binomial:  Calophyllum inophyllum
Also called Kamani Tree, True Kamani, Alexandria Laurel, oil of Tamanu and Foraha)

Family: Guttiferæ

Origin of Name:

     Calophyllum = calo is beautiful; phyllum is leaves. Inophyllum = ino is fiber; phyllum is leaves. In other words this plant is named for its beautiful, fibrous leaves.

  . … 375 Essential Oils & Hydrosols

Calophyllum inophyllum
Photograph by Fagg, M.

We discuss this oil in the Aromatherapy Course as well as in the many seminars and aromatherapy classes regarding aromatic botany and skin care carrier oils.


     Native to India, it is indigenous to Southeast Asia, especially prevalent in Polynesia. It was naturalized to Hawaii. It was sacred to Polynesians and mentioned in many old Hawaiian chants. Grows to 60 feet with seeds that are dispersed by bats and by sea movement. Seeds germinate well in muddy and saline soils. The tree can grow inland, but favors the coastal areas. In fact, Polynesian natives prefer coastal Tamanu for therapeutic uses. The full-grown tree has a thick trunk covered with black, cracked and gnarled bark, with big, twisted branches. It has firm, dark green oval shiny leaves and produces small white flowers with a yellow center, that have a sweet aroma, reminiscent of lime. The fruit is apricot sized, yellow, and apple-flavored covering a large, thick-shelled nut with a pale yellow kernel. This nut, when freshly harvested, seems to have no oil. Once dried for about a month, it turns dark, chocolate-brown and develops a sticky rich oil. The oil is screw-pressed from the dark kernels.

"Chemistry of the Oil:

     The oil is cold-pressed from the fruit and seed together. It contains a unique fatty acid called Calophyllic acid and an interesting antibiotic lactone which is a non-steroid anti-inflammatory agent 4-phenyl coumarin called Calophyllolide as well as stigmasterol and about 7% wax. The oil contains 3 basic classes of lipids; 92% neutral lipids, 6.4% glycolipids, and 1.6% phospholipids. It also contains xanthones of jacareubin that inhibits Staphylococcus aureus, S. typhimurium and Calophyllum B. These xanthones inhibit P. aeruginosa and Bacillus subtilis. Other components calanolide A and Costatolide are coumarins which inhibit HIV reverse transcriptase. The components of balsam, Calophyllolide and Calophyllic acid contained in the oil are thought to be connected to its curative effects. This carrier oil could be added to a combination of essential oil for deterring MRSA”.


     This tree was once considered a sacred tree by the tropical people and was planted surrounding royal marshes. When the areas were converted to Christianity, the population of the trees dropped by the thousands. It has many names, called Dilo oil from the nuts and the nuts are called Punnai Nuts in Hawaii. The nuts are also collected in Ceylon. In Madagascar, this oil is called Foraha or Vintanina.


     Antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, cicatrize, anti-neuralgic, analgesic.


     The oil is analgesic and is used for sciatica, shingles, neuritis, leprous neuritis and rheumatism. The pulverized seeds have been used to cure ulcers and bad wounds. Bark also has medicinal uses as an infusion or in other herbal remedies.

Folk or Older Uses:

     Calophyllum oil has been an important part of Pacific Island folk medicine for a wide range of skin disorders and conditions, from superficial burns and scrapes to neuralgia and fissures. Polynesian woman have used Calophyllum oil to promote healthy, blemish-free skin. It is also used on babies for diaper rash and skin eruptions. This nut oil has been used since the late 1920's to alleviate leprous neuritis. A nun in the Society of Mary, Sister Marie-Suzanne, used an oil called "dolno" (meaning, no pain) effectively on leprosy victims. The oil was Oil of Calophyllum called Tamanu. French researchers in the 1930's became interested in the oil for its wound healing properties. There are several documented cases in the medical literature of the time, illustrating that this oil has therapeutic uses in cases of severe skin conditions.

Old Case Studies:
     A 57-year old woman was admitted to a hospital in Paris with a large, gangrenous ulcer on her leg that would not heal. Normally, the leg would have been amputated. The leg was treated regularly with dressings of Calophyllum, and healing took place slowly within 7 months. The wound healed completely leaving only a smooth, flat scar.

     The oil was used to treat a young teenage girl whose leg had been crushed 4 years before by a cart with iron wheels and on whom grafts had failed. New grafts were attempted and after a treatment for 10 days with Calophyllum oil the 12 grafts worked perfectly, the wounds closed and the girl was cured within 2 months after admission. In 1934 Calophyllum was prepared with ethyl ether and injected to treat leprous neuritis. Since this time, the oil of the seeds was tested on various skin problems and disorders.

     Burns treated with Calophyllum have showed good results. Burns cured include: burns to the face from phosphorus; burns to the head from a pot of boiling milk; burns to the hands from a batch of caustic soda; burns to the scalp from boiling water and burns to the poplitaeal area (back of the knee) from inflammable oil.

Modern Uses:

     In its native habitat, both plant and oil have been used medicinally to treat a variety of ailments, mostly skin related. This oil can be used on either mucosa or epidermal lesions. It has been effectively used to cure chapped feet and hands, chilblain and skin cracks, vaginitis, erosions and ulceration of the cervical matrix, breast cracks, bites, stings, acne and acne scars, diabetic sores, herpes lesions, and anal fissures. It has also been used for hair and scalp conditions, eczema, and psoriasis and facial neuralgia. Oil of Tamanu has an amazing capacity to accelerate wound healing and the growth of new tissue, a process called cicatrisation. The unique cicatrizing properties and the anti-neuralgic effect of Calophyllum are not as yet explained by current scientific literature. Another principle use of the oil is for dermatitis from X-ray therapy. Before surgical treatment, the oil has been applied to recent anal fissures with success. Post-surgical treatments eases pain and assists tissue on treatment after breast surgery, Calophyllum is used as a treatment for various problems of the hair and scalp, for eczema, psoriasis and facial neuralgia as well.

     The essential oil of Ravensara and the vegetable oil of Calophyllum have been studied together by Dr. D. Penoël and mentioned in Phytomedicine, 1981 as a treatment for shingles (zona) and has been shown to have pronounced amelioration of the problem.

     The oil of Calophyllum easily saponifies and produces an abundant lather on contact with seawater.

Herbal Uses:

      Leaf infusions are calming in skin and eye infections. A hot bath for 30 minutes is useful in the treatment of ailments of the skin-dermatosis, urticaria (hives) and eczema. Young leaves macerated in water are used as a painkiller for eye washings. Young shoots are used with other plants internally and externally for treatment of burns, as well as to treat hernias. A macerated oil of or a plaster of fresh, crushed seeds diluted in sterile coconut oil contains scar forming/healing properties and is used for scabs, varicose ulcers, fistulas, leprous ulcers and burns.

Cosmetic Uses:

     The oil is a rich and thick green oil, however it is easily and completely absorbed into the skin. Once applied, it leaves the skin feeling smooth, plump and soft, with no greasiness, it also adds a healthy glow to the skin. Tamanu oil is safe; it can be applied neat to the skin and works just as well if diluted by 50% in coconut or other tropical oils. Calophyllum has a mild and pleasant aroma and is ideal to be used in lotions, creams, ointments and many other cosmetic products. It can be easily mixed with most essential oils for the added benefit of aromatherapy with herbal therapy.
Herbal Body Book and SPA-Skin Care

Aromatherapy Blends with Calophyllum
from Jeanne Rose Aromatherapy


Any mixture of vegetable oils or creams or lotions can be mixed 50% with Calophyllum at 50%. Then the essential oils are added at 2-10%. Essential oils particularly useful are German Chamomile, Lavender, Rose Geranium and others.

1 oz $35.00 – Special Order


50% Calophyllum oil, 30% Jojoba unrefined oil or Olive, Sunflower, Pecan and essential oils of 10% Ravensara and 10% Petitgrain. Helichrysum might also be a good addition. Mix these together, label your container, and apply to the area night and morning.

1 oz $32 – Special Order


To a clear silicon gel add 50% Calophyllum. Add up to 10% essential oils. [Combination of Rosemary, Juniper, Basil and Cypress]. Ex: To a 1 oz jar of 50% gel and 50% Calophyllum add 15 drops each of the above-mentioned essential oils.

See Centurion I Healing Gel – 2 oz $15 or Bruise Juice 8 oz $32.


A good mixture would be 50% Calophyllum oil, 25% Walnut oil (for scalp), 15% Jojoba unrefined oil and 10% Ravensara essential oil. Mix these together, label your container, and apply to the scalp (or skin problem) night and morning. You could also use 50% Calophyllum, 40% olive oil and 10% Ravensara.

1 oz $35 - Special Order


     A property that means the substance can accelerate wound healing and the growth of new tissue by producing a scar.

     Description of symptoms (inflammation) of some dermatoses.

     Generic term for disease of the skin, many of which are not contagious.

     Any of a large group of fats or fat-like compounds that include oils, waxes and steroids which occur in living organisms and are soluble in certain organic solvents but only slightly soluble in water.

Urticaria (hives.
     An allergic condition of the skin characterized by the formation of large blotches or welts which
 itch intensely.


Jeanne Rose Aromatherapy at 219 Carl St., San Francisco, CA 94117
To Order: PH 415-564-6785 • EMAIL WEB
Aromatherapy Classes, see our Calendar


Kilham, Chris. Oil of Tamanu. from Total Health, Vol. 25, #1 1/888/316-
Rose, Jeanne. 375 Essential Oils & Hydrosols. Frog Ltd. 2nd edition. 2000.
The Aromatherapy Book: Applications & Inhalations. North Atlantic Books. 1992.
Rothenberg, Robert E. Medical Dictionary and Health Manual. New American Library. 1968.
The New Shorter Oxford English Dictionary. Clarendon Press. Oxford. 1993..........

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