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"Libraries: The medicine chest of the soul."
Library at Thebes, inscription over the door
Sandalwood is an ancient, biblical essential oil that holds powerful and precious properties; with many traditional uses, it is also used widely in aromatherapy today.

Ancient Use of Sandalwood

Sandalwood (Santalum album) is known to be one of the oldest materials used for aromatic and perfumery uses; it has been used for at least 4,000 years.  The ancient Egyptians used sandalwood to embalm bodies.  Sandalwood has a number of religious connotations and, like frankincense and myrrh, it is mentioned in the bible. It is recorded that God instructed King Solomon to make his temple furniture from sandalwood.

Indian Use of Sandalwood

Indian temples are built with sandalwood in order to keep white ants at bay.  Sandalwood is also used in Indian meditation ceremonies.  The Indians combine sandalwood with rose to produce a scent called  Attar.  Sandalwood is also regarded by the Hindus as a cleansing agent for sins.  Muslim countries use sandalwood during a burial to ensure a quick ascent of the soul to heaven.

Ancient Medicinal Use of Sandalwood

In Ayurvedic medicine, sandalwood was used for respiratory and urinary infections and for the revitalization of skin; in Chinese Medicine, sandalwood was used for skin complaints, stomachache and vomiting.  The Japanese used sandalwood to honor Buddha.  Sandalwood also earns a mention in Discorides' De Materia Medica, a reference book of many medicinal plants of its time.

Distillation of Sandalwood Oil

The sandalwood tree is native to Asia, in particular India, but constant use of the tree has now made it a difficult commodity to come by, raising the price of sandalwood considerably.  However, the Indian government is trying to control its cultivation by replanting a new tree once a tree is felled.  The outer bark of  a felled sandalwood tree trunk is eaten away by ants, leaving the heartwood for commercial use.

The sandalwood tree is also found in Indonesia, Malaysia and Taiwan; it is a small, evergreen tree with a brown-gray trunk and small pink-purple flowers.  The essential oil is distilled from the heartwood and the roots of the tree.  Another factor in the high price of sandalwood essential oil is that the tree has to be over 30 years old before it is ready to produce essential oil.

Types of Sandalwood Oil

The sandalwood tree belongs to the Santalaceae botanical family.  When choosing sandalwood oil, ensure that the East Indian sandalwood (santalum album) variety is sourced; essential oil distilled from West Indian sandalwood (Amyris) is of inferior quality and does not possess the same aromatic properties.

The Properties of Sandalwood Oil in Aromatherapy

Sandalwood is a sedative oil, hence its use in meditation, as it induces a  feeling of deep peace.  Sandalwood is also anti-infectious, a decongestant, anti-depressant, a sexual tonic and an aphrodisiac.  It has been used in the healing process of major burns victims, due to its antiseptic properties.

Sandalwood also aids in the stimulation of the growth of white blood cells.  The oil is useful for chronic bronchial infections and for treating coughs.  Sandalwood is effective in helping sciatica and lumbago.  It is common as a fragrance component in soaps, cosmetics and perfumes and extensively used in incense and religious furniture making.


- Davis, Patricia 1999 Aromatherapy An A-Z UK: Vermilion
- Lawless, Julia 1995 The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Essential Oils UK: Thorsons 

This article was written by Sharon Falsetto and appeared in its original format on Suite101 as Sandalwood Essential Oil.

It is expressively prohibited to copy or use this article in any way unless written permission is given by the author Sharon Falsetto.  If it is discovered that copyright laws have not been complied with, legal action will be pursued by the author Sharon Falsetto.

CopyrightSharonFalsetto2010 All Rights Reserved
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