If you’ve ever dabbled in Ayurveda or meditation, you’re likely familiar with sandalwood essential oil. Featuring an earthy aroma that induces calm and peace, this oil has been used for centuries to provide mental clarity and as an aid in meditation. As the world increasingly becomes more hectic and demanding of our time, sandalwood essential oils are a great way to escape from the madness.
Not only does sandalwood essential oil provide positive health benefits for your mind and soul, it also offers a positive impact on skin and overall well-being. This essential oil can help fight off the common cold, prevent premature aging and relieve aches and pains thanks to its antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties.
What Is Sandalwood Essential Oil?
Sandalwood essential oil is made using the oldest part of the Indian sandalwood tree, which is known as the heartwood. This portion of the tree is located at its core and produces sandalwood oils, which effuse a rich, woodsy aroma that offers a lingering sweet smell. The chips and billets from the heartwood are put through steam distillation, which results in the fragrant essential oil.
These majestic trees can live up to 100 years and are characterized by a highly aromatic woodsy scent. Native to India, the Santalum album tree has been used for centuries in Indian culture as part of religious rituals and in traditional medicine including Ayurveda. Sandalwood of the Indian variety is often used in décor when welcoming the arrival of a newborn or celebrating major lifetime milestones such as weddings.
In ancient times, the Egyptians used sandalwood in cosmetics and perfumes as well as in the embalming process and as decorations for funerals. In Sufism, sandalwood is thought to help the soul move from the earthly world into the next so it is ground into a paste and used to mark graves during funerals. Sandalwood oil has also been used in traditional Chinese medicine as a positive agent for the nervous system.
The oil extraction process consists of four steps during which water is boiled, steamed, condensed and separated to draw the oils out of the tree. The steaming water removes the oil from the tree and the entire distillation process takes 14 to 36 hours. This process is longer than that of other essential oils and that combined with the scarcity of these trees lends to the higher price point of this essential oil.
Many manufacturers believe that the older the tree, the more beneficial the oils. Studies have reinforced this belief so older trees are generally more valuable. Most producers harvest trees that are between 40 to 80 years old, although this time has shortened in many harvesting areas due to high demand.
Other Types of Sandalwood Essential Oil
While most high quality sandalwood essential oils come from the Indian tree variety, other regions produce this oil as well. Both Australian and Hawaiian sandalwood oils are steam distilled although they are typically produced from a different species of the sandalwood family known as Santalum spicatum.
Australian sandalwood oils are not harvested until the tree reaches at least 15 years of age and harvesters typically remove the entire tree and use the stumps and roots as well as the heartwood to extract the oil. Australian sandalwood has evolved as a more sustainable farming industry largely because sandalwood is native to its western region where indigenous populations have cared for these trees with a respect for the land.
Scent Profile and Compounds
Sandalwood has a woodsy aroma that is characterized by a soft, warm and creamy experience. The scent is long-lasting, making it particularly useful in perfumes. It also works as a fixative to enhance the aroma and longevity of other compounds within the perfume. The two main components in sandalwood essential oil that are responsible for a variety of health benefits include alpha-santalol and beta-santalol.
Used frequently in cosmetics, incense and hair care products, sandalwood oils easily combine with other oils and compounds making it a desirable base for a range of products. The sweet notes of sandalwood oil blend well with flower-based essential oils including rose and ylang-ylang. The woodsy notes complement spicy oils such as frankincense and citrusy oils like bergamot and grapefruit. For an extra woodsy or earthy blend, mix sandalwood with sage or tea tree oil.
Health Benefits of Sandalwood Essential Oil
1. Mood Enhancer
Sandalwood essential oil is a natural mood enhancer that can make you feel more alert and focused. The sweet aroma invigorates the senses and causes chemical reactions in the brain to produce more serotonin, the happy drug. Commonly used in funeral rituals, this scent is believed to induce calm and relieve anxiety and depression.
To reap these mental benefits, use a diffuser to emit the soft fragrance of sandalwood oil or set up a massage using this essential oil to promote relaxation and improved mood.
2. Deepens Meditation and Mental Clarity
One of the main reasons sandalwood essential oil is so popular in meditation and religious ceremonies is that it deepens mental awareness. A 2006 study published in Planta Medica showed that participants who inhaled the aroma of sandalwood oil, which contains alpha-santalol, experienced higher rates of alertness and elevated moods.
At the same time, sandalwood essential oils have relaxing compounds that help to relieve anxiety. This calming and alert awareness allows individuals to be present and grounded, which aids in setting the right frame of mind to enter meditation. In fact, a second study found that patients in four randomized counties became more relaxed when they were exposed to sandalwood aromatherapy.
With improved clarity, sandalwood also works as a memory booster to help you retain more information. Since the aroma of sandalwood improves alertness, you can more easily focus on the tasks at hand and memory is improved as you are not as distracted. In today’s demanding world, setting aside a little time for sandalwood aromatherapy can help you focus and stay on top of your daily activities.
3. Alleviates Pain
Sandalwood essential oil contains antispasmodic compounds that lend a sedative effect to its use. These compounds induce relaxation of muscles and blood vessels resulting in the elimination of spasms and contractions that can cause severe pain. These health benefits make sandalwood essential oil a good choice for use on achy muscles after a hard workout or as sports massage oil after a marathon or big game.
Sandalwood essential oils have also shown promise when it comes to treating severe pain caused by endometriosis, which is a condition caused when tissue in the uterus begins to grow outside the uterus. The anti-inflammatory properties of sandalwood oil have been shown to decrease inflammation in the uterus leading to less pain.
4. Promotes Skin Health
Sandalwood essential oils have been shown to provide positive health benefits when it comes to skin care. Used in a wide variety of cosmetics and skin products, this essential oil can help combat common skin conditions and offers soothing effects. Sandalwood oil is frequently used in beard oils and aftershave due to its astringent properties.
As a mild astringent, sandalwood essential oil encourages skin muscles to contract, which can soothe skin after shaving. Theses astringent qualities are also beneficial in facial cleansers and toners that help to even out skin, reduce the appearance of pores and clear up acne. Make sure to use carrier oil such as coconut oil or jojoba oil when applying sandalwood essential oils to your skin as direct application can cause irritation.
In a patent held by Santalis Pharmaceuticals, researchers argued that topical application of sandalwood essential oils can help to treat tumors caused by HPV or the human papilloma virus. Their research showed that use of sandalwood oil on warts caused by this virus had the effect of minimizing or removing the warts entirely without resulting in any negative side effects.
As with many essential oils, sandalwood contains antioxidants that can help fight premature aging. These antioxidants fight free radicals caused by UV rays and pollution that can cause fine lines and wrinkles.
5. Fights Against Invading Viruses
Sandalwood essential oil features antiviral and antiseptic properties that help keep your immune system working at optimum levels. One study published in the American Society for Microbiology demonstrated that essential oils such as sandalwood and ginger had the ability to kill invading viruses and are particularly effective at targeting the herpes viruses.
These antiviral and antiseptic properties make sandalwood a good choice for preventing infections in wounds and anti-inflammatory agents can reduce redness and swelling caused by acne and warts. Simply apply 1 or 2 drops along with a carrier oil to wounds and cuts to prevent the development of an infection.
The relaxing effects of sandalwood essential oil also lend to its ability to help alleviate the symptoms of the common cold faster. Sandalwood essential oil is an expectorant, meaning it loosens mucus in the bronchial tubes and chest to reduce the incidence of cough and makes breathing deeply easier. To treat respiratory ailments with sandalwood essential oil, add 1 or 2 drops to a warm, wet washcloth and hold over nose and mouth while breathing.
6. It May Prevent Cancer
Studies have shown that topical use of sandalwood oils may help prevent the development of certain types of cancer including breast cancer, prostate cancer, melanoma and other skin cancers. One scientific review found that alpha-santalol had the ability to stop cancer cells from reproducing and even contributed to the death of these mutated cells.
Another study published in the European Journal of Cancer Prevention showed that mice pre-treated topically with five percent sandalwood oil demonstrated a 67 percent decrease in papilloma, or tumor growth, occurrence after 20 weeks. The mice also showed a 96 percent decrease in the multiplication of these skin tumors. Scientists in this study concluded that sandalwood oil could potentially be a chemopreventive agent against cancers caused by chemicals on the skin.
Side Effects of Sandalwood Essential Oil
There are very few documented side effects when it comes to using sandalwood essential oils. Widely used as a base in cosmetics and perfumes, this essential oil is safe to use for most individuals.
The most significantly reported side effect is skin irritation, typically due to a sensitivity to this particular oil. As with most essential oils, allergies can occur in certain individuals with sensitivity to sandalwood products. To avoid this side effect, test sandalwood oil on a small part of skin before using and make sure to apply with carrier oil and never directly to your skin.
Since sandalwood essential oil comes from various tree types and concentrations due to harvest age, some oils may cause more irritation or side effects than others. For example, Australian sandalwood oils contain farnesol, a known irritant that is not present in the Indian variety. If you show signs of any irritation, stop use immediately. You can try a different variety of sandalwood oil to see if your sensitivity is to the oil or to other chemical compounds present only in certain types.
Pregnant women should use caution when using any sort of aromatherapy, particularly if they experience any respiratory ailments. Always talk with your doctor before using essential oils when pregnant.
Ground Yourself With Sandalwood Essential Oil
Used for centuries in religious ceremonies and in the practice of meditation, sandalwood essential oil targets the nervous system to provide a calming effect that is beneficial for mental health. In addition, this essential oil can help improve skin clarity and offers a nice earthy touch to perfumes. With a sweet aroma and marvelous health benefits, it’s no surprise that this essential oil is in high demand.