Thursday, June 21, 2007

Tamanu oil for skin restoration and regeneration and scar removal.

In Launch of a vallom (country boat) I mentioned that Calophyllum inophyllum (punna in Malayalam) was used to build Parayil Rose. It is generally known as ball nut tree. (Click on photo for enlarged view.)

Another name, which is occasionally used, is Alexandrian Laurel though it is not a native of Alexandria. Probably the reason is that its fragrant white flowers look like a bouquet. In Tahiti it is called ati or tamanu, In Hawai the name is kamani and dilo in Fiji.

After doing the post about the boat I suddenly remembered that when I was a child, ball nuts from our properties used to be sold. It was said that my great grandfather Mathoo Tharakan (see A judgment.) financed his presumably well-stocked bar with this miscellaneous income. Of course, those were times of extensive land holdings and innumerable ball nut and other trees. Since I had also heard that oil was extracted from these nuts, I looked it up and found that this product, most commonly known internationally as nambagura or tamanu oil has great medicinal and cosmetic properties and is used in several beauty formulations particularly in Europe.

But before going into that, here is a bit more information on ball nut tree. The Polynesians traditionally build boats using its wood for the keel and planks of breadfruit tree for the sides. In Kerala, entire boat is made from ball nut tree. That makes the craft heavier of course. Ball nut tree is also utilized for masts, scaffolding and several other applications.

Ball nut tree grows well in sandy coastal areas in the tropics, and sometimes reaches heights of 20-25 m. It branches low and has a rich canopy of thick leaves. The nuts are green in color when young and turn to yellowish brown or red on maturity. The size is about 2 to 4 cms in diameter.

They are picked and sun-dried for about two months after which the shell is broken and the kernel taken out for further drying. Then tamanu oil is extracted through a cold-press process and is purified under controlled conditions. The indication of the price for tamanu oil that I found is USD20/oz.

It seems that several scientific studies have been made in Europe and USA about this product.The ingredients that tamanu oil contains are claimed to be effective in restoration and regeneration of skin tissues, removal of scars and physical and chemical burn marks, and general toning of the skin. It is said to cure skin diseases, rheumatism and ulcers. It would of course be prudent to check with qualified persons before using tamanu oil. Other parts of the ball nut tree also have medicinal and pesticide properties.

Wonder whether my ancestors knew about these qualities of ball nut trees. Not that it matters. They were not businessmen.


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