If you’ve ever smelled Tahitian Monoi Oil, you’ve smelled a tropical heaven. In an instant, you are transported to an exotic tropical island with white sand beaches and blue-green ocean. But what is Monoi Oil? What are the uses of Monoi Oil? What are the benefits of Monoi Oil?
HISTORY OF MONOI OIL
Monoi (Moh-noy) comes from the Reo-Maohi language and means “scented oil” and “sacred oil”. It is said that the origins of monoi oil may be traced back to the Maori, the peoples from Southeast Asia who migrated to what is now known as French Polynesia. Although the Polynesian peoples of New Zealand were living on the islands since 500BC, we don’t know exactly when the oil was first made.
Although not the first European to find the islands, British navigator, James Cook, wrote of the natives of French Polynesia using the oil for medicinal and religious use as well as for cosmetic purposes in the 16th century.
From birth to death the oil featured prominently in the lives of the Maohi people. The bodies of newborns, as well as Maohi sailors, were covered in the oil to keep them from dehydrating in the hot summers and from getting chilled when the weather cooled. At death, bodies were embalmed and then perfumed with the oil which was also used in ancient Polynesian religious rites. During ceremonial rites in the temples, Maohi priests anointed sacred objects with the oil and offered the monoi oil to their deities for purification. Interestingly, even today many divers rub their bodies with Monoi oil prior to diving to protect them from the cold salt water.
Commercial production of monoi oil began in 1942 at the Parfumerie Tiki, in Papeete, Tahiti, when the official Appellation d’Origine was issued by the French government declaring the only true monoi oil was that prepared meticulously in French Polynesia from the tiare flower and refined Tahitian coconut oil. The coconut oil is as special as the flower since coconuts grown in the coral-rich soil yield a less greasy oil that readily soaks into the skin.
MONOI TIARE TAHITI
Not only was the oil important in the daily lives of the Polynesian, the Tiare flower (Gardenia tahitensis) figured deeply in their lives. The flower was prepared in various manners to treat common maladies such as a headache, sunburn and the common cold. The delicate star-shaped, white flowers were placed in water bowls in the huts or “fares” to allow the fragrance to penetrate the entire home. It is Tahiti’s national flower and grows freely and blooms year round. Visitors and guests were greeted with necklaces of the beautiful flower.
The tiare flowers that are used in Monoi de Tahiti (monoi oil) are hand-picked while they are still unopened and immediately taken to the official manufacturing plants where the pistils are removed and the remaining flower is soaked in highly refined Tahitian coconut oil for a minimum of 15 days. This process is called “enfleurage” (flower soaking). The decree of Appellation d’Origine, requires each manufacturer to soak a minimum of 15 tiare flower per liter of refined coconut oil.
Benefits of Monoi Oil
Long used as a beauty treatment by the native peoples, the secret of monoi oil was first shared in Europe during WWII and later to large cities in the US. Monoï oil has a long list of benefits including:
- moisturizing the skin (dry skin, acne, psoriasis)
- Monoi Oil benefits hair (excellent treatment for dandruff, hair loss, split ends and frizzy hair)
- slowing signs of aging (skin discoloration, wrinkles
- balancing cholesterol levels,
- soothing inflammation,
- preventing oxidative stress,
- minimizing allergic reactions,
- protecting against sun damage,
- strengthening the immune system and
- promoting good sleep habits
- alleviating scarring and discomfort from pregnancy stretch marks.
WHAT ABOUT TAKING MONOI OIL INTERNALLY?
While all parts of the tiare plant have been used historically to treat a sore throat, headache and constipation the early Polynesians, it is NOT advisable to take Monoi oil internally since it naturally contains methyl salicylate (oil of wintergreen). It should remain a topical oil for the skin and hair.
WHO SHOULD AVOID USE?
For individuals who commonly have sensitive skin, this oil may cause inflammation or irritation although some say it is nonirritating. If you have sensitive skin, prior to use, apply a small amount of this oil to a patch of skin on the inner aspect of the forearm and watch for any negative reactions for 3-4 hours before adding it to a larger area of your skin or scalp.
USE IN COSMETICS
This swoon-worthy concoction of native coconut oil and tiare flowers is commonly found in products for the hair. When clinical tests were conducted on the Repair products for hair (by Carol’s Daughter cosmetics) they found that after only a onetime use of the shampoo and hair mask, hair breakage was reduced by 96 percent. In another test of hair, benefits called a “stretch-pull test” (which simulates normal wear and tear) non-monoï-treated hair snapped after 10,000 pulls, while monoï-treated strands lasted through 130,000 pulls!
In a small study conducted by the Institut du Monoï, a nonprofit founded by the Tahitian government to promote Monoi oil, women’s skin showed a 27 percent increase in elasticity over 28 days of use.
When we look at products that allow us to live healthy, natural lives what could be better than a paradise-evoking, scented all natural product that has amazing benefits for the hair and scalp as well as the skin? Monoi oil is a luxury oil found in a number of amazing products such naturally water-resistant, the monoï in Ojon Color Sustain Gloss Finishing Hair Spray coats strands with a frizz-fighting barrier; Parfumerie Tiki’s Monoï Tiki Tahiti has been made by the same family in Papeete since 1942 and includes a tiare flower in every bottle; Carol’s Daughter Monoï Repairing Conditioner leaves hair more resistant to breakage; The Body Shop Spa of the World Polynesian Monoi Radiance Oil, for Body and Hair; and BelleCote Wrinkle Erasing Serum.