Sandalwood Santalum album a member of the Santalaceae family is a parasitic, evergreen tree and can grow to a height of about nine metres or 29 feet. It has leathery leaves and small purple flowers. It is native to southern Asian with most of the world’s production being in the Mysore region of eastern India. The Indian government now only permits the harvesting of mature trees that are approaching the end of their long lives (thirty to sixty-four years). Sandalwood is another oil, which is becoming increasingly difficult to obtain or at least the genuine article. Sandalwood has a long history in the spiritual and cultural life of Asia. Sandalwood incense is burned in Buddhist and Hindu temples and it has been used as a meditational aid for thousands of years. It quietens the mental chatter that can so often distract the meditator. It also has an important place in Ayurvedic, Tibetan and traditional Chinese medicines.
A yellow brown essential oil is steam distilled from the coarsely powdered dried heartwood by steam or water distillation with a yield of 3 — 5%. Its major components are alcohols (80 – 90%) santalols, tricycloekasantalol, borneol. It has a sweet, spicy, woody aroma and blends well with bergamot, cedarwood, cypress, frankincense, juniper, jasmine, lavender, patchouli, pine, rose, ylang ylang, vetiver, clove, black pepper, rosewood, geranium oakmoss, benzoin and myrrh.
Sandalwood is reported to have diuretic and urinary antiseptic properties. It is extensively used as a fragrance ingredient in soaps, detergents, creams, lotions and perfumes, also commonly used in incenses. It is used as a flavor component in major categories of food products including alcoholic and nonalcoholic beverages, frozen dairy desserts, candy, baked goods, and gelatins and puddings. In Chinese medicine, sandalwood is reportedly used to treat stomachache, vomiting and gonorrhea. It was formerly used in Europe for pains, fevers and ‘strengthening the heart’.
Psychologically, sandalwood has calming, sedative and tonic properties and is useful for depression, insomnia, nervous tension, neuralgia and stress problems. It helps feelings of isolation, aggression, grief and irritation. On the physiologicallevel sandalwood has calming, diuretic, anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties and has been used for urinary bladder infections, cystitis, any inflammation or congestion of kidney and bladder; digestive problems; muscle spasm, sciatica, lumbago and neuralgia. Used often in meditation blends.
Sandalwood supports all healing work. It helps clam and comfort. It is grounding and helps reconnect one with one’s sense of being. It helps to open the heart to trust and to receive healing energy. It quiets the mind and promotes deep meditation and wisdom. It can also promote positive self-esteem. It can help to promote spiritual sensuality and teach one to delight in one’s senses and sexuality and to appreciate the beauty of life. Sandalwood is used in spirituality, meditation, sex and healing blends.
Note: There is a lot of concern these days about the sustainability of Sandalwood. The oil is becoming rarer and rarer. The Indian Government has placed restrictions on the trade in Sandalwood but in spite of this there is still a lot of illicit trading in the wood. Although most of the wood is not felled for the essential oil trade the spill off reaches us as well. Australian Sandalwood Santalum spicatum has been suggested by a number of people as a possible substitute. According to Mark Webb the chemical constituents of Australian Sandalwood is similar to that of East Indian Sandalwood. East Indian Sandalwood contains about twice as much santalol as Australian Sandalwood and Australian Sandalwood containing higher levels of farnesol and alpha-bisabolol. Australian Sandalwood is a bit different aromatically with the top note not as sweet as East Indian Sandalwood and slightly resinous. Research has shown Australian Sandalwood has excellent anti-microbial properties as well as good anti-inflammatory properties. Further research is required on its potential for helping with skin conditions. Traditionally the aborigines of Western Australia made a cough medicine from S. spicatum by soaking or boiling the inner bark in water. The inside of the nuts was used as a rubbing medicine for colds and stiffness. It is considered to be useful in quietening mental chatter and still the mind, allowing one to move into deep meditative states.— Bush Sense, Australian Essential Oils and Aromatic Compounds.
Contraindications:. Generally considered non-toxic, non-irritating, non-sensitizing and non-phototoxic.
Albert Y. Leung & Steven Foster , Encyclopedia of Common Natural Ingredients used in Food, Drugs, and Cosmetics, John Wiley & Sons, 1996
Beverley Hawkins, Aromatherapy 101 Course 1999 revised 2000, 2001,2002, 2003, 2004,2006
Mark A. Webb, Bush Sense, Australian Essential Oils & Aromatic Compounds, Griffin Press, Adelaide, 2000