The kukui nut tree is also known as the Candlenut tree, Varnish tree, Indian or Belgian Walnut tree, buah keras, or kemiri. Here, we provide you with in-depth information on the various benefits that kukui nut oil has to offer.
Kukui nut tree (scientific name Aleurites moluccana, family Euphorbiaceae) grows wild in tropical regions, in mountainous forest areas, especially Hawaii, the Pacific Islands , and south-east Asian countries like Indonesia and Malaysia. It was originally native to Polynesia, and was introduced into Hawaii by seafaring voyagers. It is also the state tree of Hawaii. The word kukui means enlightened in Hawaiian language. The tree is tall, towering 30 feet above the ground. The foliage consists of pale green ovate leaves with widespread branches, and small, round kukui nuts. The seed has a toughened exterior coat with a high concentration of oil. Kukui nut trees are cultivated mostly for their oil, which is used locally and is not yet a very popular commodity in international markets.
A kukui nut tree usually produces 60-180 lbs of nuts. The shells inside the nuts are removed and the oil is obtained after roasting and hard-pressing the kernels. The nuts yield approximately 20% of their weight in oil. It is yellow with a tinge of amber. The oil has a high concentration of linoleic acid – 40%. Other constituents are linolenic acid – 27%, oleic acid – 19%, and palmitic acid – 6%; the oil is also rich in vitamins A, C, and E. Traditionally, kukui nut oil has been in use for centuries in Hawaii. Awareness about the immense benefits of this oil is gradually increasing.
Benefits of Kukui Nut Oil
It is used to soothe sunburns, dry and damaged skin, wounds, chapped lips, lesions, skin infections like eczema, psoriasis and conditions like acne. It is a non-greasy oil and acts as a wonderful moisturizer. It can be easily absorbed by the skin and penetrates skin pores deeply helping to hydrate very dry skin. Native Hawaiians use this oil to massage infants for soft, healthy skin.
The oil has antioxidant properties, which prevent free radical cell damage.
Refined kukui nut oil is used in the preparation of cosmetics like lotions, bath soaps, body scrubs, body washes, and essential oils used for massage and aromatherapy.
This oil acts as an excellent exfoliator, getting rid of dead skin cells and helping to regenerate new ones.
The oil improves skin elasticity and is used to reduce the appearance of scars, stretch marks, crow’s-feet, and wrinkles.
Amino acids present in this oil are used as additives in shampoos and hair treatment products for treating damaged hair and scalp. For best results, it is recommended that people suffering from dull and unhealthy hair, massage kukui oil onto the scalp because it acts as a conditioner and helps hair to regain lost moisture, protects against split ends, and works as a stimulating agent on scalp for hair growth. It also checks the growth of dandruff and soothes dry, itchy scalps.
In Hawaii, hospitals use kukui oil to treat cancer patients suffering from radiation treatment burns.
The oil was used to light lamps by the ancient Hawaiians. They shelled the kukui nuts, and placed them in stones and earth, skewered on coconut fronds and used them as candles. Hence the tree came to be known as the ‘Candlenut tree’.
The oil is used to obtain certain types of varnishes and paints.
Hawaiians preserve their fishing nets by applying kukui oil to them.
It is also used as a waterproofing agent for boats, canoes, and surfboards.
A small amount of kukui oil is used as a food flavoring agent in salad dressings and seafood. However, as it has a laxative effect, its use is restricted in food, but it has applications in home remedies.
This oil is chemically treated to obtain alternative sources of fuel such as biodiesel, which resembles the biodiesel prepared from other vegetable oils.
This oil has numerous health benefits, so be sure to include it in your daily skin care regimen to get a glowing, vibrant skin. The shelf life of kukui nut oil is 8-12 months. It should not be exposed to direct heat and sunlight or it may turn rancid. As a word of caution, people allergic to nuts should consult a doctor before using any kind of oil prepared from nuts.