Sandalwood oil has been harvested from precious woods since ancient times, and it’s been mentioned in Chinese and Sanskrit writings dating back to over 4,000 years ago.
The sandalwood oil is steam distilled from the wood of the Sandalwood tree (Santalum Spicatum) found in Australia and the Indian sandalwood (Santalum album) found in south India, and most recently from Hawaii. The oil that these trees produce has a base perfumery note that produces a woody, musky, earthy aroma that is very relaxing; unlike many other aromatic woods, the Santal wood species retain their scent for decades, and this is one of the main reasons why Sandalwood is a long used scent in perfumes, for both men and women. In fact, the essence is also known as an aphrodisiac, especially for men.
Australian sandalwood oil is produced as an economical and ecologically responsible alternative to the more expensive Indian sandalwood. Indian sandalwood thrives on very little water in south Indian soil, and is frequently found in the cities of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. Indian sandalwood (often known by the region it is grown, Sandalwood Tamil Nadu) is quite treasured and valuable due to the level of regulations placed upon the growing and harvesting of the tree in its native countries. Before these regulations, there was such widespread illegal harvesting and selling of the Santalum album species that it was feared it would become extinct. The poachers and illegal harvesters were harvesting the trees at as young as 15 years maturity when ideally they need to grow for closer to 30-40 years. Regulations are now in place to ensure the trees are able to grow to maturity and the trade of Indian sandalwood is handled by the government rather than illegally, which causes a true scarcity of the precious Indian sandalwood. It makes sense that it is such a hot commodity, given the widespread uses of this versatile oil!
Hence it has become an option for those looking for all of the wonderful benefits the Indian Sandalwood provides, yet grown sustainably and more affordable than Indian Sandalwood. According to some studies, the constituents of these two oils are the same with the main difference being that the Australian Sandalwood aroma is lighter than the deep scent of the Indian Sandalwood. The largest reserve that grows Sandalwood is located in Western Australia, an incredible 1.6 million kilometers plantation with plans to involve employing Aboriginal people with fair partnerships in the growing and harvesting of Sandalwood. This would provide income streams to the indigenous people group as well as returning some ownership of this native commodity to them.
Beyond the perfume and aphrodisiac effects already mentioned, sandalwood has a long tradition of being used in meditation and in a spiritual context. It is widely believed that using sandalwood oil in combination with meditation will help your meditation reach new levels, due to its ability to clear your mind and break up negative thought patterns.
Another task that sandalwood oil is up to is repelling insects. Researchers used various essential oils to see which would repel two-spotted spider mites (TSSM). The results? “From initial trials, sandalwood and common thyme oils were observed to be the most effective against TSSM adult females. Subsequent trials confirmed that only sandalwood oil was significantly active (87.2 ± 2.9% mortality) against TSSM adult females.” (1) This is a great non-toxic alternative to consider!
Sandalwood is antiviral, anti-oxidant, and also anti-inflammatory. When applied topically, it can soothe irritated skin due to common skin irritations such as eczema or acne. A sequesterpine called alpha-santalo makes up 55% of sandalwood oil. Alpha santalo is studied to cause a large decrease in inflammation markers, which can be used in a multitude of ways.(2) This same sequesterpine (a-santalo) has been shown to do even more than that! It has been studied and shown to be anti-cancer. (3) When placed with cancer cells (breast, prostate, melanoma and non melanoma), the a-santalo caused cell death in the cancer cells. It’s truly an amazing oil!
A study discovered that the same sequesterpinoid discussed above, alpha-santalo, has the ability to help calm the nervous system.(4) This is likely what has made it such a cornerstone in meditation and creativity realm, but can serve well beyond that space. As sandalwood is both a tonic and a sedative, it can really help improve low mood, assist in dealing with grief, and can help calm anxiety. A separate study done on patients in palliative care stated, “The results do seem to support the notion that Sandalwood oil is effective in reducing anxiety.” (5)
As you can see, Sandalwood is a diverse and powerful essential oil with a long history and tradition. Please do take a look at the Australian Sandalwood page [link to prod page] to find out more about what oils it blends well with as well as tips on how to use it for maximum benefits.