Monoi (pronounced Moh-noy) is an ancient Tahitian word meaning “scented oil” in the Reo-Maohi language. No one knows exactly when the first batch of Monoi oil was created. However, its origins can be traced back 2000 years to the Maori tribe, the indigenous Polynesian people of Aotearoa (New Zealand).
18th century documents from British navigator, James Cook, who visited the French Polynesian islands, mentionned the native use of Monoi oil for medicinal, cosmetic and religious purposes.
Monoi featured prominently in the lives of these ancient people, from birth until death. It was applied to the bodies of newborns to keep them from de-hydrating in hot weather, and from getting chilled in cooler temperatures. When a person died, their body was embalmed and perfumed with Monoi oil to help facilitate their journey into the afterlife.
Monoi was also used in ancient Polynesian religious rites. During ceremonies which took place in the “maraes” (temples), Maohi priests used Monoi oil to anoint sacred objects and purify offerings to their deities. Maohi navigators used Monoi oil to protect their bodies from cold, harsh winds and salt water during long canoe expeditions at sea. (Even today, many divers rub Monoi oil all over their bodies prior to diving for the same purpose.) Monoi oil is also used to treat common cold, headaches and sunburn.
In 1942, Monoi oil began to be manufactured commercially, since when it has become popular in Europe and the US.