Hidden Secrets of Sandalwood & the Sandalwood Plant

Relaxing & Grounding


Botanical name (Latin): Santalum album
Plant family: Santalaceae
Aroma profile: Sandalwood Essential Oil smells rich, deep and sweet yet is delicate, woody and floral.
Perfumery note: Base
Essential oil extraction method: Steam distillation
Native region/origin
: India
Growing habit: Shrubs can grow up to 3 meters (10 feet) tall
Parts used: Wood

Benefits of Sandalwood Essential Oil

Sandalwood oil retains a prominent place in many traditional medicines due to its purifying nature, having demonstrated anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory, and anti-oxidative activity in controlled laboratory studies. It also retains a strong reputation for addressing emotional imbalances due to the calming and uplifting character of its scent.

Used in aromatherapy, Sandalwood Essential Oil is known to help ground and quiet the mind, supporting feelings of peace and clarity. A renowned mood enhancer, this essence is reputed to facilitate all kinds of related benefits, from reduced feelings of tension and anxiety to higher quality sleep and increased mental alertness to enhanced feelings of harmony and sensuality. Centering and balancing, the smell of Sandalwood complement meditation practices by promoting a sense of spiritual wellbeing. A calming oil, it is further reputed to help manage feelings of discomfort due to headaches, coughs, colds, and indigestion, promoting feelings of relaxation instead.

History of Sandalwood Essential Oil

Sandalwood is a luxurious essential oil with an exquisitely soft, sweet, and woody scent that is characteristic of Oriental perfumes and incense. Sandalwood oil comes from the heartwood of trees in the Santalum genus. It is one of the most expensive oils in the world on account of the trees’ extremely slow growth, taking decades to mature before they can be harvested for oil production.

There are approximately 30 species of sandalwood trees that occur throughout Asia, Australia, and the Pacific region but only a few are widely used for essential oil. East Indian Sandalwood from the Santalum album tree is the source of the classical essential oil, which is still considered the best quality. However, due to aggressive overharvesting, this species is now endangered and produces a limited supply of oil. Efforts are underway to increase sustainable cultivation of East Indian Sandalwood. NDA sources its Indian Sandalwood only from licensed producers who purchase the raw material through auctions conducted by the Government of India under strict sustainability controls. As the supply of this oil is likely to remain limited for some time, a popular alternative is an Australian Sandalwood from the Santalum spicatum tree, which is aromatically similar and also easier to sustainably produce.

The use of Sandalwood has been documented back 4000 years, originating in India and spreading through ancient Egypt, Greece, and Rome. Applications for this material were versatile, spanning the aesthetic, the practical, and the spiritual. Ancient Arabs used pulverized Sandalwood to make incense and solid perfumes while in China, Tibet, and Nepal, this thick and hardy wood was used to build sculptures in temples and monasteries. East Indian Sandalwood oil has further been used as an ingredient in traditional Ayurvedic and Chinese medicines for centuries, as part of treatments for the common cold, muscle and digestive problems, infections, inflammation, and to address mental health.

There is a longstanding association between Sandalwood and divinity; the Ancients were fond of building temples and other sacred structures with it, Egyptians used it in embalming and religious rituals, and Indian Muslims burned it as incense to elevate the souls of the recently deceased. Sandalwood still plays a prominent role in Indian spiritual rituals, as it is considered a meditation aid and is often burned on altars as a means of divine communication. In Buddhist practices, it is considered one of three integral incenses, along with Agarwood and Clove.

Today, Sandalwood remains one of the most commercially valuable trees, although its applications have been drastically reduced due to overharvesting and it is now mainly used to produce oil. Inimitably rich and creamy, Sandalwood’s essence is so highly valued and costly that it is often referred to as “liquid gold”, appearing frequently in high-end perfumes and cosmetics. It is further one of the most prized aromatherapy oils, renowned for its superb fragrance and reputed benefits.

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