The botanical name comes from kalos, the Greek word for beautiful, and phullon, which signifies leaf. The oil resulting from this so-named "beautiful leaf" tree was used by women as face cream in Polynesia, but its benefits have been proven as well by contemporary research, according to the book The Healing Trail: Essential Oils of Madagascar. Missionaries to the Fijian Islands in the 1920s discovered that the oil relieved the painful nerve swelling of leprosy. French doctors later confirmed its success as a treatment for cuts, burns, and wounds, all traditional uses in the areas where it is grown. Additional medical research has uncovered potential benefits of compounds in the oil for diseases as serious as cancer and HIV.
To create the oil, fruit is collected after it falls from the trees in December. The nutlike seeds are removed and placed on racks to dry for a month or two, at which point they wrinkle and darken, becoming sticky with oil. At this time they are ready for the cold press extraction. The tree also grows in other parts of Eastern Africa and in India and Southeast Asia.