The kamani tree (calophyllum inophyllum) is a tree of many, many names. So many, in fact, that it was difficult for me to choose which one to use to title this section. Kamani (his Hawaiian name) is an island dweller and appears most often at seashores and near coral reefs. His other names include bitaog in the Philippines, ati in Tahiti, fetau in Samoa, damanu in Fiji, nyamplung in Indonesia, and penaga laut in Malaysia. In the United States and Europe, he’s also known as Alexandrian laurel, Indian laurel, beauty leaf, and beach calophyllum. (And that’s not even all of them.)
Perhaps because he does have so many names and is not easily recognizable by one single moniker, this handsome beach dweller with his sweet, citrusy smelling leaves is not quite as famous as he deserves to be. This is especially true when you consider his sacred status in so many cultures, as well as his staggering array of potent medicinal and cosmetic benefits.
Please note that the commercially available nut oil is usually sold as tamanu oil, after the name of the fruit.
Only 120 plants on the planet produce what are called “drift seeds”—seeds that float along saltwater waves while remaining viable, giving them the ability to take root and thrive on islands relatively distant from their origin. Kamani is one. This quality—along with his ability to remain healthy (once grown) in harsh winds, sandy soil, and even saltwater—mirrors his spiritual and magical wisdom related to acclimating to new and even seemingly challenging environments.
Interestingly, there is a legend about a rebellious son named Sunan Nyamplungan who was banished from the island of Java by his father. He set adrift on a boat, bringing with him two walking sticks. When he found himself on an unpopulated island (now Karimunjawa), he placed the walking sticks in the ground and they immediately transformed into kamani trees. These trees, which share his name in this region (nyamplung trees), are now present on this archipelago in great abundance. They are honored as sacred, protective trees and guardians of the island, just as Nyamplungan has become a protective spirit who watches over the island in the form of a giant bat. Clearly, Nyamplungan shares a spiritual and mythological essence with his namesake tree, which is also cast off from his parent and set adrift upon the seas, transforming almost instantly from a stranger in a strange land to a flourishing local icon and magical protector.
Magically, kamani can be helpful for times when you need support with acclimating to a new home, job, relationship, or phase of life. For example, in Fiji parents have rubbed the nut oil on their children’s legs to support them as they learn how to walk.
Additionally, kamani specializes in supporting those who feel cast off or isolated from their family and place of origin, as well as those who find it necessary to acclimate to a seemingly harsh environment. For this purpose, you might spend time with a kamani, inhale his fragrant blossoms, incorporate parts of the plant into rituals or charms created for the purpose, or anoint your palms, heart, and belly with a bit of the nut oil (tamanu oil).
Kamani’s botanical name is derived from the Greek words for “beautiful leaf.” And this is very fitting, as in addition to the actual beauty of Kamani’s leaves and flowers, the nut oil is prized as a beautification ingredient. Indeed, while some cultures have known about them for centuries, the spa and cosmetic world is becoming more and more aware of the beautifying properties of the nut oil (tamanu oil), which has been used to treat scars and acne, as well as to increase skin moisture and radiant health.
Additionally, in the Philippines women have traditionally enhanced their beauty by simply wearing the tree’s beautiful flowers in their hair.
KAMANI BEAUTY POTION
Place ten to twenty drops of tamanu oil in a small glass bottle or jar. Fill it the rest of the way with coconut oil that has been warmed until melted and combine. Hold it in both hands and envision very bright white light coming down from the crown of your head, to your heart, down your arms, and out through your palms into the oil. Envision this light filling and activating this oil as you say:
Tamanu and coconut now combine
To bless me with a beauty fine.
Like dancing light upon the sea
A stunning vision I shall be.
Conjure up the feeling that you associate with feeling beautiful and radiating your beauty for all to see and enjoy. Direct this feeling into the oil.
To enhance your beauty, use this potion as a moisturizer or a mask, or just lightly anoint your forehead, wrists, and throat.
Note that the potion will gain a more solid consistency in cooler room temperatures.
Clairvoyance and Intuition
As I mentioned, the protective spirit Nyamplungan, who shares his name with the nyamplung (kamani) tree, appears as a giant, protective bat. Bats are associated with clairvoyance and intuition, as they are required to “see” in the dark (using sonar and other sensory stimuli), and they are very attuned to subtleties. What’s more, traditional uses of parts of the kamani tree (neither of which I recommend trying at home) have involved both healing the eyes and—where enemies are concerned—blinding people. Clearly the tree is aligned with seeing and not seeing, or seeing clearly what is not visible to the physical eyes.
To enhance your clairvoyance or any other type of intuitive ability, you might:
· • Spend time in quiet contemplation with a kamani tree, particularly at sunrise or sunset.
· • Add a few drops of tamanu oil to your bathwater.
· • Take a vibrational essence made from the flower or tree (provided you can find one from a trusted source or create one safely).
· • Inhale the scent of the blossom.
In Hawaii, Tahiti, Samoa, and a number of other areas, the kamani tree is considered holy: it’s planted in and around sacred places, and its wood is used to carve sacred relics. In the Polynesians, it was once believed that the gods hid in kamani trees to observe people making sacrifices to them. To align with the Divine realm for spiritual purposes or to request support in any life area, spend time in quiet contemplation with a kamani tree, place a bit of kamani wood on your altar, or respectfully gather a blossom and bring it into your home. You might also bring kamani into your yard to bless your outdoor space and consecrate it to the Divine.
In Samoa there is a legend about a king who found that one of his two wives had poisoned the child he had with his other wife. In response, he ordered that she be placed in a kamani tree and that the tree be set on fire. When the tree refused to burn, sparing her life, the king called it the “tree of life” because it had chosen to rescue the woman from certain doom. The woman was promptly placed on a different island and lived the rest of her life free from punishment. (Notice how this legend, like the legend in the “Acclimatization” section above, mirrors the kamani seed’s action of drifting from one island to another and taking root in the new locale.)
One wonders whether the tree knew something the king didn’t (perhaps that the woman was actually innocent), but whether or not the legendary woman was guilty as charged, the legend illustrates that the kamani tree is aligned with forgiveness and pardon, even in the face of a seemingly unforgivable crime. If your magical intention involves forgiving yourself or another for a particularly egregious action, kamani might be just the ingredient for you. Try spending time with a kamani tree, placing his blossoms on your altar, or taking a sea salt bath and then anointing your heart and belly with the seed oil (tamanu oil).
Healing and Regeneration
Here is where tamanu oil really shines: it’s truly a panacea when it comes to skin issues. It’s been used to help heal burns, cuts, scrapes, sores, wounds, insect bites, allergic reactions, scabies, rashes, acne, old scars, and even extreme conditions like chemical burns, post-surgical wounds, leprosy, and cancer. The amazing thing about it is that it doesn’t just heal: it disinfects, combats inflammation, and helps actually regenerate the tissues. (Notably, this magical quality is mirrored in the way that the tree itself helps heal and regenerate compromised coastal areas by knitting loose sand together with its roots to discourage erosion and help ecosystems rebuild. In fact, kamani trees were employed in just this way after the tsunami on the coast of Samoa in 2009.)
On Fiji the kamani is called dolno, which translates to “no pain.” While island countries have known about this veritable miracle cure for centuries, its growing popularity in other locations has been relatively recent. Unlike many essential oils, tamanu oil is more like a mild carrier oil, like sweet almond or jojoba, although it does have a light, comforting, myrrh-like scent. It can be rubbed directly onto the skin. Do be careful when purchasing it to make sure that it’s pure, organic, and cold-pressed.
In addition to physical healing, you might magically employ tamanu oil if you have an emotional wound such as intense grief or heartbreak that could use a little miraculous healing. For this purpose, say an invocation or prayer and ritually anoint your heart, belly, and brow. If the tree grows in your area, you might plant one or more of them in your yard to heal and regenerate after serious loss or intense emotional pain of any kind.