What is Sandalwood Essential Oil?
Sandalwood essential oil is a by-product extracted from the wood of Santalum trees (album and spicatum species), which are evergreens belonging to the Santalaceae family.
The sandalwoods are medium-sized hemiparasitic (grows by joining the root system of other trees) trees, and part of the same botanical family as European mistletoe.
Notable members of this group are Indian sandalwood (Santalum album) and Australian sandalwood (Santalum spicatum). Others in the genus also have fragrant wood. Mainly, we can find them in India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Australia, Indonesia, Hawaii, and other Pacific Islands.
The essential oil, is extracted by steam distillation of wood pieces from ripened sandalwood trees, between 40 and 80 years old. The older the tree, the stronger its aroma.
Sandalwood essential oil blend well with bergamot, orange, neroli, lemon, mandarin, rosewood, geranium, lavender, jasmine, grapefruit, black pepper, myrrh, rose, vetiver and ylang ylang essential oil.
The main chemical components of Sandalwood oil (Santalum album) are santalol, santyl acetate and santalene.
Physical characteristics of East Indian Sandalwood oil (Santalum album)
Aspect: limpid liquid, somewhat viscous
Colour: almost clear to yellow
Odour: heavy, sweet and very lasting aroma
Physical characteristics of Australian Sandalwood oil (Santalum spicatum)
Aspect: limpid liquid, somewhat viscous
Colour: colourless to light yellow
Odour: strong lasting characteristic aroma of the wood
Sandalwood Essential Oil in History
Throughout history, sandalwood essential oil has been part of religious traditions in India, and other Asian countries. Currently, sandalwood tree is considered sacred and is used in various religious ceremonies, including weddings and celebrations of baby births.
Sandalwood essential oil has been used for more than 4 thousand years, becoming the oldest known perfume in the world.
Varieties of Sandalwood Tree
The highest quality variety of sandalwood is Santalum album, also known as East Indian sandalwood oil.
Hawaii and Australia also produce sandalwood, but it is not considered to have the same quality and purity as the Indian variety.
Due to the increase in demand for sandalwood from India, this has become pricey, making it the most expensive essential oil available in the market.
Also, because the high demand, many trees are cut and collected immature, resulting in a decrease in the total tree population. In India, sandalwood has been almost extinct due to the lack of sustainable agricultural practices.
If you are interested in the long-term sustainability of the sandalwood you buy, you should know that Australian sandalwood is being produced in a more environmentally friendly way, and is considered a comparable alternative.
Also, you can consider the use of synthetic versions if you only need to obtain the fragrance for elaboration of soaps or other aromatic products.
Properties of Sandalwood Essential Oil
The therapeutic properties of sandalwood oil include: anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, antispasmodic, anti-microbial, anti-proliferative, anti-cancer, astringent, carminative, diuretic, emollient, expectorant, sedative and tonic.
Below you will find a brief detail about its most known properties:
Antiseptic and Anti-viral
Sandalwood oil is a great antiseptic and is safe for internal and external use. It helps protect internal wounds and ulcers from infections.
Through topical application it protects wounds, sores and pimples from contracting infections.
It is also an excellent anti-viral agent. It has been found to be beneficial in preventing the replication of common viruses, such as herpes simplex.
When applied to the skin, reduces inflammation or mild irritation in superficial wounds, pimples or warts. However, it is recommended to perform a patch test to avoid allergic complications. Sandalwood oil, like almost all other essential oils, must be blended with a carrier oil before its topical application.
Also, thanks to its antiseptic effects, it has been used for centuries to treat urinary and broncho-pulmonary infections.
To relieve sore throat, gargle with about 3 drops of sandalwood oil diluted in a cup of water.
Sandalwood essential oil alleviates all types of inflammations, from those that cause brain damage, to those that affect the digestive, nervous, circulatory and excretory systems.
It can also provide relief for mild inflammations such as insect bites, contact irritations, and other skin problems.
A study in 2014, found that the active ingredient in sandalwood, Santalol, helps decrease markers of inflammation in the body called cytokines. Additionally, it is believed that sandalwood oil acts in a similar way to NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), but without the potential negative side effects.
Sandalwood essential oil works against spasms and contractions by relaxing the nerves, muscles and blood vessels.
Although very mild, sandalwood essential oil can induce contractions in the gums, muscles and skin, which offers advantages such as better muscle strength and tighter skin.
Deodorant and Disinfectant
Its fragrance keeps microbes and small insects away, so it is widely used in incense sticks, sprays and fumigants.
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Relaxes the skin, relieving inflammation and irritation. The benefits of emollients are effective for soothing and healing dry skin due to almost any cause, including: eczema, psoriasis, atopic dermatitis, hypothyroidism, diabetes and kidney disease.
On the skin, sandalwood album oil has also shown promise in clinical trials for treatment of acne, psoriasis, eczema, molluscum contagiosum, common warts and also those caused by the human papillomavirus.
It is especially effective in the treatment of cough, but also fights infections that cause colds, flu and mumps.
Invigorates and tones the body, promoting the proper functioning of each system of our organism.
Benefits of Sandalwood Essential Oil
Sandalwood essential oil is composed of two primary molecules, alpha and beta santalol. These molecules produce the strong fragrance associated with sandalwood.
Alpha-santalol, specifically, has been evaluated for its multiple health benefits, including its ability to control the blood glucose level (in mice), alleviate inflammation and reduce the proliferation of skin cancer.
The benefits of sandalwood oil are numerous and among the most common we can point out the following:
Promotes Mental clarity
One of the main advantages of sandalwood oil is that promotes mental clarity when used in diffuser, incense or perfume. This is why, it often accompanies meditation, prayer, or other spiritual rituals.
A study conducted in 2006, evaluated the effect of sandalwood essential oil on the levels of attention and excitement.
Patients who received sandalwood essential oil, compared to control subjects, felt more mentally awake and demonstrated behaviors linked to increased attention and cognitive clarity.
Fights Human Papillomavirus (HPV) warts
The article called: “Sandalwood Album Oil as a Botanical Therapeutic in Dermatology”, published in 2017, mentions the importance of sandalwood oil in some aggressive dermatological viral conditions.
According to this article, pediatric clinical studies looking at Santalum album oil in the treatment of human papillomavirus (HPV) warts or Molluscum contagiosum, led to the issuance of three United States patents related to the use of sandalwood album oil for the treatment of these skin conditions. Since those early research, a number of additional studies in the field of dermatology have been initiated in the United States and Australia.
Several on-going and completed clinical trials studying sandalwood essential oil are listed on clinicaltrials.gov in a variety of indications, including Verruca vulgaris (common warts), Molluscum contagiosum, genital warts, psoriasis, oral mucositis, and atopic dermatitis.
Relaxing and soothing
Sandalwood essential oil also helps create a feeling of relaxation and peace. The 2006 study mentioned above found that, while sandalwood relaxes when inhaled or rubbed on the skin, it does not cause drowsiness like lavender essential oil. Instead, it promotes a sense of harmony and mindfulness.
Another study, published in the Journal of Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice, showed that, patients who were receiving palliative care, felt much more relaxed and less anxious when treated with sandalwood aromatherapy, compared to patients who were not treated with sandalwood before receiving care.
Alleviates Psoriasis Symptoms
Psoriasis, a chronic inflammatory skin disease marked by hyper proliferation and aberrant differentiation of keratinocytes, affects 2-3% of the world’s population.
Research into the pathogenesis of psoriasis has been hampered by the lack of models that accurately reflect the biology of the psoriatic phenotype.
East Indian Sandalwood oil (Samtalum album) has significant anti-inflammatory properties in skin models and hypothesized that sandalwood oil might provide therapeutic benefit to psoriasis patients due to its anti-inflammatory and anti-proliferative properties.
Sandalwood oil demonstrated in vitro psoriatic tissue models, to be well tolerated and helpful in alleviating mild to moderate psoriasis symptoms.
Demonstration of the ability of sandalwood essential oil to abrogate these psoriasis symptoms, supports the hypothesis that the clinically observed symptom alleviation is due to suppression of intrinsic tissue inflammation reactions in afflicted lesions.
This study presents a systematic approach to further study the underlying mechanisms that cause psoriasis, and presents data supporting the potential of sandalwood oil as a new ethnobotanical therapeutic concept to help direct and accelerate the development of more effective therapies.
Boosts memory and improves brain health
This oil improves the memory and stimulates concentration. It keeps the brain relaxed and avoids unnecessary stress and anxiety.
α-Santlol, a sesquiterpene isolated from Sandalwood oil, is known for a variety of therapeutic properties including anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, anti-viral and anti-bacterial activities.
Cell line and animal studies reported chemopreventive effects of sandalwood oil and α-santalol without causing toxic side-effects.
Researchs identified its anticancer effects in chemically-induced skin carcinogenesis in mice, ultraviolet-B-induced skin carcinogenesis in mice, and in vitro models of melanoma, non-melanoma, breast and prostate cancer.
The ability of sandalwood essential oil to induce cell-cycle arrest and apoptosis in cancer cells, is its most reported anticancer mechanism of action.
Sandalwood essential oil is also an aphrodisiac that can help increase libido and provide energy, especially for men.
It is excellent for the treatment of cough. Sandalwood essential oil helps fight the bacteria or viruses that cause cough and other respiratory diseases. In addition, it helps to relax the typical spasms caused when coughing.
Add a few drops of the oil to a handkerchief, or inhale directly from the bottle to help reduce and cure the cough.
Sandalwood essential oil has been studied for its potential to lower blood pressure. A 2004 study found that, when subjects applied sandalwood oil directly to the skin, without inhaling the aroma, there was a decrease in systolic blood pressure, compared with the control groups.
Relieves endometriosis Symptoms
Endometriosis is a painful condition that occurs when the skin of the uterus grows outside the uterus. These discomforts can be relieved by means of oil massage or aromatherapy.
Helps prevent premature aging
Sandalwood oil is rich in antioxidants. These help reduce the damage caused by free radicals that promote aging.
Add 5 drops of sandalwood essential oil to an unscented lotion. Then, apply it directly on the face to take advantage of its anti-aging benefits.
Anticancer Activity of Sandalwood Essential Oil
The ability of sandalwood oil to prevent the formation of tumors in mouse skin as a result of exposure to chemical carcinogens and ultraviolet light has been extensively studied in vitro and in vivo.
The anti-cancer effects of S. album oil and its major components have also been demonstrated in bladder cancer cells and oral cancer cells.
In two papers published in 2013, Saraswati reported that alpha-santalol, the primary component of sandalwood essential oil, is anti-angiogenic and inhibits the growth of hepatocellular carcinoma and prostate tumors in vitro and in vivo.
A common mechanistic feature in these studies seems to be the ability of the oil to cause cell cycle arrest at G2/M and to induce apoptosis and subsequent cell death.
Sandalwood essential oil also showed to induce autophagy and cell death in proliferating keratinocytes, suggesting that album oil may be able to prevent the progression of pre-cancerous conditions, such as actinic keratosis, to skin cancers.
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When sandalwood oil was screened against the National Cancer Institute’s NCI-60 panel of 60 human tumor cell lines, the oil inhibited the growth of all cells lines with IC50s ranging from 7 to 126μm (unpublished data, 2010, Southern Research Institute, Birmingham Alabama). Interestingly, this cytotoxicity was generally not seen when album oil was applied to non-cancerous cells.
A recently published study examined the effects of essential oil from Santalum austrocalidonicum trees on human breast cancer cell lines (MCF-7) and non-tumorigenic epithelial breast cells (MCF-10A). The authors demonstrated that the oil induced deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) strand breaks in both cell lines.
Unlike the MCF-10A cells, the MCF-7 cells were not able to repair the damage, and therefore, the essential oil showed a selective cytotoxicity toward the MCF-7 breast cancer cell line. It should be noted that the spectrum of components in Santalum austrocalidonicum oil differs from that seen in sandalwood oil but the general phenomenon observed might explain, in part, why sandalwood oil seems to be preferentially cytotoxic towards cancerous cell lines.
Other recent publication presented data showing that, in cultured keratinocytes, sandalwood oil enhanced expression of transcription factors (snail, twist) and mesenchymal factor (vimentin), all of which are related to the epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT). S. Album oil also promoted epidermal wound healing in vivo compared to vehicle control.
Uses of Sandalwood Essential Oil
Sandalwood essential oil is commonly known for its sweet and woody aroma. In addition, it is often used as a base for perfumes, incenses, cosmetics, and after-shave products. It mixes easily with other oils, so it is very versatile, for the same reason, it is often added in other fragrances.
The essential oil of sandalwood can be blended with a carrier oil and applied as a perfume. It can also be added to creams, lotions, sprays or even hair products. In this way, you can take advantage of its many benefits.
Traditionally, thanks to its healing properties, sandalwood essential oil has been a significant therapeutic agent in Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine.
In these traditions, it has been used to treat urinary infections, digestive problems, cough, depression, as well as infections in general. Sandalwood essential oil also has a calming effect on the body, similar to lavender essential oil.
Sandalwood essential oil also brings benefits to our skin. Reduces inflammation and helps soothe the skin of the face or body when there are problems arising from the presence of eczema, or any other skin disorder.
Some studies indicate that sandalwood essential oil has diuretic properties, which means that it can help eliminate toxins and heavy harmful metals from the body.
This happens because it causes an increase in the frequency of trips to the bathroom to urinate.
Do not forget that you should always follow the instructions of essential oils to know if they are suitable for intake or not.
Aromatherapy and Sandalwood Essential Oil
The essential oil of sandalwood is the fundamental protagonist of a multitude of aromatherapy treatments.
This aroma helps stimulate the mind and body. It can be an effective tool when it comes to fighting depression, fatigue and anxiety.
Try using it with an essential oil burner or diffuser during your meditation sessions or in your mindfulness practices.
You can also experiment to mix the sandalwood oil with other aromas to create your perfect aromatic essence.
How to apply Sandalwood Essential Oil?
There are different ways to enjoy the benefits of sandalwood essential oil. In steam therapy, it can be used as an aphrodisiac, as well as to help cough, bronchitis, respiratory infections, asthma, insomnia, nervous tension and stress.
In addition, you can also add a massage oil or bath water to help with bladder infections, respiratory infections and general relaxation.
It can be diluted and used to gargle if the throat is sore or dry.
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Another use is adding a few drops to a lotion or cream to treat cracked, dry, or inflamed skins. In addition to moisturizing the skin, it will also protect against aging.
Is Sandalwood Essential Oil safe?
The oil is generally safe, but we must keep in mind that essential oils are intended for topical use only, so we do not recommend ingesting sandalwood essential oil.
When applied to the skin, it should be diluted with a carrier oil, soap or lotion.
Young children should avoid the use of essential oils.
Sandalwood essential oil can cause allergic skin reaction in certain people, so it is important to perform a skin patch test before topical application.
In routine testing, a small percentage (0.1-2.4%) of people have been found to be allergic to album oil. However, in many of these studies, the provenance, purity, and source of the sandalwood is not clear. For example, other species of sandalwood, such as Western Australian (Santalum spicatum) or Hawaiian sandalwood (Santalum paniculatum), contain significant percentages of farnesol, an irritant, that is not found in oil from Indian Santalum album.
Side effects of Sandalwood Essential Oil
There are no major side effects reported when using sandalwood essential oil. Some people may experience minor skin irritation due to its use.
Patients with severe allergies or pregnant women should also be careful before trying any type of aromatherapy.
As with any essential oil, a small patch test should be done on the skin before using it with confidence.
Sandalwood essential oil, usually is not applied directly to the skin. It must be blended with a carrier oil or lotion, to dilute it and thus avoid unwanted effects.
Where to buy Sandalwood Essential Oil?
Generally, good quality oils, that is, 100% pure and not mixed with other substances, can be found in specialized natural herb stores.
If you can not reach a trusted naturist or herbalist shop near you, here are some recommendations:
Scent Characteristics: Fragrant, sweet, woody, floral aroma.
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Tips for a better performance and duration of your oils:
- Store them in a dark glass bottle, never plastic, not even when blended with a carrier oil.
- Keep them in cool, dark places, away from sources of heat and light.
- Maintain the container that holds it tightly closed, since they are very volatile and also, their properties would be lost or modified.