Sandalwood

lat. Santalum Album

Group: WOODS AND MOSSES

Sandalwood Santalum Album
Sandalwood Santalum Album
Sandalwood Santalum Album
Odor profile: The classic oriental woody note, milky, soft, sturdy, rich, with a green top note and a satisfying lingering scent. The best quality used to be the Mysore sandalwood variety from India, nowadays greatly reduced to the point of extinction from perfumery due to shortage of the natural material (the species is protected from harvesting because it's an endangered species). Australian sandalwood and New Caledonian sandalwood are different species with a harsher odor profile.

Sandalwood oil gives a sweet and woody fragrance and is one of the most valuable ingredients. Sandalwood is obtained from the trees of the genus Santalum. The wood is heavy and yellow in color, as well as fine-grained. It retains its fragrance for a long time. Sandalwood has been valued for its fragrance, carving, medical and religious qualities. It is used in preparing all types of perfume compositions especially Indian attars like Hina, Gulab, Kewda and Jesmine in which the natural essential oils from floral distillation are absorbed in sandalwood oil.

Common name:
Sandalwood, Indian sandalwood, Fragrant sandalwood, White sandalwood, Chandan, Sandal

Botanical name: Santalum album

Family: Santalaceae (Sandalwood family)

Origin: India, Indonesia, Ceylon, Australia, Pacific Islands, etc. The finest quality comes from the forests of India, mostly from Karnataka, Mysore, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Andhra Pradesh.

Plant Part: Wood

Extraction Method: Steam

Colour: Golden Orange with brown tones

Consistency: Medium to Viscous

Note: Base

Aroma Strength: Medium
 


HISTORY

The documented use of Sandalwood goes back 4000 years to India, Egypt, Greece and Rome. Many temples and structures were built from Sandalwood. In Egypt, people used it in embalming.


MYTH

In India, people believed that termites never attack sandalwood. For that reason, they considered it a symbol of vitality. Sandalwood has been a part of the religious and spiritual traditions of India since prehistory and has been effectively used as a traditional medicine from ancient times.

HABITAT and DISTRIBUTION

The sandalwood tree is indigenous to mountain districts of south India and the Malayan Archipelago. Plant biologists describe that tree as indigenous to southeast Asia and having been introduced into India by traders. About 90% of the world's production of sandalwood oil is from India.
 

BOTANY

Sandalwood is a small evergreen tree growing to 18 m in height and 2.4 m in girth, with slender drooping branches. The tree reaches its full maturity in 60 to 80 years, which is when the center of the slender trunk (the heartwood) has achieved its greatest oil content.

The sapwood is white and odorless while the heartwood is yellowish brown and strongly scented. Leaves are 3.5 to 4 cm in length, elliptic, lanceolate glabrous and petiolate; inflorescence terminal or axillary, paniculate cyme; flowers are bisexual, many, and brownish purple in color; perianth campanulate; there are 4 stamens, exerted, alternating with 4 rounded obtuse scales. The sandal tree grows almost exclusively in the forests of Karnataka, followed by Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Andhra Pradesh (India), Timor Islands of Indonesia etc. The sandalwood tree is not felled, but is instead uprooted in the rainy season, when the roots are richer in the precious essential oil. The best quality oil comes from the Indian province of Mysore and Tamil Nadu.

BLENDS WELL WITH

Sandalwood blends well with most oils. The list includes Clove Bud, Lavender, Geranium, Patchouli, Jasmine, Benzoin, Bergamot, Clary Sage, Coriander, Cypress, Fennel, Frankincense, Galbanum, Myrrh, Palmarosa, Pepper Black and Peppermint.

AROMATIC DESCRIPTION

Sandalwood has a rich, balsamic, sweet fragrance with delicate wood notes. The oil has a woody, exotic smell, subtle and lingering and the color is pale yellow to pale gold.

CHEMICAL CONSTITUENTS

Sesquiterpenes; Sesquiterpenols; Sesquiterpenals; (includes 80 to 90% terpeniod alcohols including A and B-santalols [67%], which is a mixture of two primary sesquiterpenic alcohols), santalic and teresantalic acid, aldehyde, pterocarpin and hydrocarbons, isovaleric aldehyde, santene, santenone.

EXTRATION and UTILISATION

Sandalwood oil is obtained using steam distillation of powdered wood soaked in water for about 48 hours. Distillation is carried out at a steam pressure of 1.4-2.8 kg/cm2 for 48-75 hours. The oil content is about 10% in roots and 1.5-2% in chips which have a mixture of heartwood and sapwood.

USAGE

Fragrance

The fragrance of sandalwood has relaxing properties and also reduces stress and promotes restful sleep. It is reputed to be an aphrodisiac. Sandalwood oil provides perfumes with a striking woody base note. Sandalwood smells not unlike other wood scents, except it has a bright and fresh edge with few natural analogues. When used in
smaller proportions in a perfume, it is an excellent fixative to enhance the other fragrances. The oil from sandalwood is widely used in the cosmetic industry and is expensive.

Aromatherapy Use

Sandalwood is a part of traditional medical systems such as Chinese medicine and the Indian healing science known as Ayurveda. Sandalwood is commonly used for cosmetics and skin care, being useful for dry, cracked and chapped skin, rashes and acne. It is suitable for all skin types and is non-toxic.

Spiritual Use

Sandalwood is used in various ways in the spiritual traditions of the India. It is considered beneficial for meditation and for calming and focusing the human mind. It is used as incense in temples or on personal altars to remind us of the fragrant realms of the heavens. Deities of various kinds are fashioned from Sandalwood, then installed in a shrine or temple or placed upon the home altar. When Sandalwood was more abundant, the wood was used to construct parts of temples. Drops of sandalwood oils can be applied to the forehead, the temples or rubbed between the eyebrows before beginning rituals. In this way, it helps to set the stage and prepare the mind to begin its inward journey. This treatment also used for meditation.

Other uses

Sandalwood is highly prized as a wood for carving and is also used for making souvenirs and other items requiring fine workmanship. In India, the sapwood of sandal is used for wood turning, particularly toy-making; the wood comes mainly from trimmings and immature trees killed by disease. Sawdust from heartwood prepared for distillation is valuable enough to be collected and sold for use as incense for religious purposes, as well as for scenting clothes and cupboards.

Images: album cover of sandalwood by Clinton Steeds,  sandalwood forest by madpai, Sandalwood Church by jeffk
 


Author: Dr. Chandra Shekhar Gupta

Senior Research Fellow
Plant Quarantine Division
National Bearue of Plant Genetic Resources
Pusa Campus, New Delhi

 



 

 

 

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