Originally published on Guide to Aromatherapy
Traditionally, sandalwood essential oil, also sometimes called sandalwood Mysore, is extracted from the heartwood of East Indian sandalwood trees (Santalum album). The oil is present in trees of 10 years and older, but the trees are only regarded as mature between the ages of 40 and 80 years.
The tree is a native of India and Indonesia, but unfortunately has been harvested at unsustainable levels in its natural habitat and is a protected species. However, as sandalwood oil is so popular, not just for aromatherapy, but also for Ayurvedic medicine and sacred uses, other areas have established Santalum sp. plantations, including Australia and many parts of Southeast Asia.
Three varieties of sandalwood are now used for extracting oil, Santalum austrocaledonicum (Sandalwood Vanuatu), Santalum ellipticum (the Hawaiian sandalwood), which are both regarded as high quality, and Santalum spicatum (the Australian sandalwood), which is not. There is also another oil which is sometimes labelled Sandalwood Amyris, Amyris balsamifera, which is unrelated.
Sandalwood oil has a nutty or woody fragrance which is popular with men, even though it has sweet overtones. It is often used commercially as an ingredient in aftershave. The color of the oil ranges from pale yellow to pale gold.
Shavings of sandalwood are sometimes used as incense for calming the mind during meditation, amongst other purposes. You can also use the oil in a burner to achieve the same effect.
Sandalwood oil is regarded as soothing, calming and grounding. It is used in aromatherapy for anxiety, burnout, confusion, cynicism, depression, recurring dreams, exhaustion, failure, fatigue, fear, grief, insecurity, irritability, listlessness, stress, worry and to promote happiness, intuition and perseverance; for skin care, including dry eczema, blemished, scarred and sensitive skin; to treat tinnitis, sinusitis, chest and urinary tract infections, sore throat, laryngitis and as an antiseptic, antispasmodic, astringent, emollient and insect repellent. It is used in Ayurvedic medicine for itching and gastritis.
It’s always important to ensure that any oil you purchase is 100% pure essential oil, but this is even more vital with rarer oils and those which are in danger of extinction because of over-harvesting. Disreputable suppliers are often tempted to adulterate with potentially dangerous fake chemically-derived products in the name of the quick buck. Make sure that you choose a reputable supplier to be sure that you are getting what you pay for.