Lavender, peppermint, eucalyptus…when you hear “essential oils,” these are some of those that immediately come to mind. These popular oils have different benefits and are used as aromatherapy treatments, energy boosters, stress relievers, and hair treatments.

Many people swear by essential oils as all-natural organic skin care products that they include in their daily skin care routine. They can even be used as cleaning products!  

If you’ve been using essential oils for some time and are eager to try something new, or if you’re new to essential oils but are feeling adventurous, you might want to give some of the lesser-known oils a shot.

What are Essential Oils?

But first, a primer: Essential oils are natural oils extracted from plants through distillation, enabling them to retain the properties of the plant source, including the scent. Essential oil uses and benefits can be traced through folk medicine but more scientific studies need to be conducted for conclusive evidence of their medicinal uses. There are, however, many people who swear by their positive effects.

The highly concentrated oils are very potent and can thus cause irritation when used in large doses, so it’s recommended that essential oils be blended with carrier oils when used on the skin or hair. The best carrier oils are cold-pressed, unrefined vegetable oils (although animal fat may also be used). Olive oil and coconut oil are some of the go-to essential oils.

Introducing: Neem Oil and Tamanu Oil

Two of the often-overlooked oils are neem oil and tamanu oil but these two make a great addition to your oil arsenal.

Neem oil comes from a tree that’s native to India and has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for ages. While its bark and flowers can be used for different purposes, its oil may have a number of potential benefits. Neem studies so far have been limited and need further human testing but show plenty of promise.

May be an anti-aging agent. In a study published in the Journal of Photochemistry and Photobiology, the topical application of neem on photoaged hairless mice was shown to prevent wrinkles.

May be used to treat acne. In a study published in the Journal of Acute Diseases, neem oil loaded with solid lipid nanoparticles was used successfully for prolonged treatment of acne.

May be used to treat wounds. Research published in the Journal of Health Research and Reviews indicates that neem oil has anti-inflammatory properties. Thus, it may be an effective treatment for wounds as well as other forms of inflammation.

Neem oil has a strong, pungent aroma so make sure to mix it with your favorite carrier oil when applying it on skin. It can even be used as a pesticide for your plants! Just mix a teaspoon of it in a spray bottle with a liter of water and 1/3 teaspoon of detergent and spray on leaves every two weeks.

Meanwhile, tamanu oil comes from either the calophyllum inophllum or the calophyllum tacamahaca tree, native to Southeast Asia. It’s also known as beauty leaf oil, calophyllum oil, dilo oil, Alexandrian laurel oil, and tamanu oil, among many others. It’s primarily used as a skin treatment and has been used in traditional medicine in India (for joint pains, among other treatments) and the South Sea Islands. The benefits of tamanu oil mainly come from its high fatty acid content and include:

Wound healing. In a study entitled “The Wound Healing and Antibacterial Activity of Five Ethnomedical Calophyllum inophyllum Oils: An Alternative Therapeutic Strategy to Treat Infected Wounds,” it was shown that tamanu oil has wound healing and antibiotic properties, making it a viable option for treating infected wounds. Another study published in the International Journal of Cosmetic Science likewise supports tamanu’s wound healing effects.

Treating skin conditions. Tamanu oil’s anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and moisturizing properties make it a possible treatment for acne, stretch marks, razon burn, ingrown hairs, rashes, and dry skin.

Banishing bad odors. Mix it with your favorite essential oil and use as a deodorant—it has a subtle nutty scent that can keep odors at bay.

Note that tamanu oil comes from a nut tree, so it may not be safe for those who have a nut allergy. Whether using neem oil or tamanu oil for the first time, start with a minimal amount—you can always work your way up from there. And as with any new product you apply on skin, make sure you do a patch test first to see how your skin reacts.

To experience these essential oil benefits yourself, you can get a bottle of Aura Cacia Neem Oil and Tamanu Oil from your nearest Healthy Options branch.