Properties and uses of Sandalwood

Properties and uses of Sandalwood is commercially known as Sandalwood Oil. The heartwood that constitutes the central part of the tree is valued for its fragrance. Sandalwood Oil is used in perfumes, cosmetics, aromatherapy and pharmaceuticals. Extensive research has shown that sandalwood exhibits considerable genetic diversity for different traits. Sandalwood Oil recognized as a medicinal treatment in pharmacopoeias from a variety of countries, including Britain, France, Japan and Belgium.


To produce commercially valuable sandalwood with high levels of fragrance oils, the harvested “WILD” trees have to be at least 60 years of age.


Unlike most trees, sandalwood is harvested by toppling the entire Santalum tree instead of sawing them down at the trunk. This way, valuable wood from the stump and root can also be sold or processed for oil. Sandalwood Oil is a pale yellow to yellow viscous liquid, with a sweet, fragrant, persistent, spicy, warm, woody, milky and nutty notes.



Traditionally, the fragrant heartwood of sandalwood trees was used in medicines. The Sandalwood Oil is approved for use by the US Food and Drug Administration, Flavour and Extract Manufacturers Association, Council of Europe and Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives.

On account of acute scarcity of Sandalwood Oil, search for novel synthetic raw materials imitating the characteristic odour profile of Sandalwood Oil has become a challenging task. Extensive studies are being carried out to investigate the structure–odour relationship.

The oil is used for its therapeutic effects in Ayurveda, Chinese and Tibetan medicinal systems. It is used in the treatment of common colds, bronchitis, fever, dysentery, piles, scabies and infection of the urinary tract, inflammation of the mouth and pharynx, liver and gall-bladder complaints and as an expectorant, stimulant, digestive and as a muscle relaxant.

A recently conducted in vitro study has shown that Sandalwood Oil is effective on methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and antimycotic-resistant Candida species. In another study, a crude extract as well as isolated compounds of Sandalwood Oil (primarily α- and β-santalol) showed antibacterial activity against Helicobacter pylori, a Gram-negative bacterium which is strongly linked to the development of duodenal, gastric and stomach ulcers.

Sandalwood Oil exhibited virulence against isolates of drug-resistant herpes simplex virus type I. The oil also showed anti-carcinogenic activity. A recent study reports that β-santalol exhibited anti-influenza A/HK (H3N2) virus activity of 86% with no cytotoxicity at the concentration of 100 μg/ml. Sandalwood Oil elevates pulse rate, skin conductance level and systolic blood pressure and brings about higher ratings of attentiveness and mood in humans.


Cosmetic / Perfume

The oil from the heartwood, extracted by steam distillation or by solvent, is used for cosmetics, perfumery, aromatherapy and medicinal purposes.

It is extensively used in perfumery, cosmetics, aromatherapy and pharmaceutical industry. The attributes are due to two forms of a sesquiterpene alcohol – α-santalol (7– 60%) and β-santalol (7–33%). Being good fixatives these are highly valued in perfumery and toiletry industry, especially for certain delicate scents that are extremely rare and fragile. No composition of the heavy or oriental type of perfume is complete without an ample dose of Sandalwood Oil.

Most perfumery and toiletry industry use Sandalwood Oil as the base because of its inherent capacity to absorb most of the ethereal notes of other whole herbs or flowers, as it can enhance their perfumery status and stability. Perhaps one of the most precious perfumery materials from antiquity down to modern times, the popularity of Sandalwood Oil has shown no signs of waning.

Carving / Art

The heartwood is described as astringent, bitter, moderately hard, heavy, durable, yellow or brown in appearance, with an oily texture and is an exquisite material for carving intricate designs.

The carved images of gods and mythological figures have a high demand in the market. It is no wonder that Sandalwood is the most expensive wood in the world. A wide variety of articles such as boxes, cabinet panels, jewel cases, combs, picture frames, hand fans, pen holders, card cases, letter openers and bookmarks are made from Sandalwood.


Ceremonial / Religious Importance

A mixture of heartwood and sapwood is powdered and made into incense or joss-sticks which are used in eastern religious ceremonies. Sandalwood is sacred and is used in religious ceremonies and is an important ingredient in ‘homa’ (havana), a Sanskrit word which refers to any ritual in which making offerings into a consecrated fire is the primary action. Among the Buddhists, Sandalwood is burnt during prayers and meditation.

Sawdust, wood shavings from carving, or wood residue after oil distillation may be used. The sapwood is white or yellow and not scented, and is used in preparing turnery item and agarbattis.

The aromatic of the sandalwood lower trunks and root stock of native Santalum species were harvested in great quantity and shipped to China, where they were used to make incense, fine furniture, and other desirable products.



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