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Facts about the Sandalwood Tree - Description and Uses
Sandalwood has been used in India since 4000 years ago. It was an essential ingredient in traditional Chinese and Tibetan medicine.
The botanical name of Sandalwood is Santalum album. Santalum album is known by many names such as White Sandalwood, Mysore Sandalwood, East Indian Sandalwood and Chandan.
The Sandalwood tree grows in abundance in Eastern India in states of Mysore, Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. This tree is also being cultivated in Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines and North Western Australia.
The Sandalwood tree is highly valued for it's Sandalwood Oil that is extracted from the heartwood of this tree.
The Sandalwood tree can live up to a hundred years.
Description of the Sandalwood Tree
The Sandalwood tree is a parasitic evergreen tree that obtains nutrients from other plants.
The following trees are suitable hosts for the Sandalwood tree -
- Horsetail tree
- Whistling thorn
- Pala Indigo
- Indian Beech
- Indian Rosewood
The Sandalwood tree grows up to 12 -15 meters in height. The bark of the tree is a reddish brown in color. The smooth trunk of the tree turns rough with age and develops deep vertical fissures.
The leaves are oval in shape arranged opposite to each other.They are bright green in color with leathery texture. The flowers are purple-brown without any fragrance. The Sandalwood trees grow well in dry, rocky and hilly terrain.
The Sandalwood tree is rich in Sandalwood Oil. The center of the tree trunk that is called the “heartwood” has the maximum concentration of this oil. The heartwood is dead wood that acts as a pillar of support to the tree.
The outer part of the tree trunk is called “sapwood” and is living. The primary function of the sapwood is to carry water from the roots to the other parts of the tree.
How is Sandalwood Oil Extracted?
The heartwood of the roots of the Sandalwood tree has a rich content of the aromatic essential Sandalwood oil.
Sandalwood oil is extracted using the steam distillation method. In this method, the heartwood is first powdered and then steam is passed through this powdered wood and comes out carrying the oil inside. The steam is then cooled to obtain Sandalwood oil.
The oil has to be extracted only after about 30 years especially during the rainy season. The trees are not felled but uprooted so that the roots can be used to extract the aromatic Sandalwood Oil.
Sandalwood Oil is pale yellow in color. It is rich and has a woody, sweet fragrance. The oil has a strong scent and lingers on for a long time.
Sandalwood Oil for Aroma Therapy
Sandalwood oil has been used in Ayurveda medicines from thousands of years ago. It has a soothing, relaxing effect and is used in aromatherapy.
Sandalwood oil is used for massaging the body. Massaging with Sandalwood oil relieves stress and has a calming effect.
Medicinal Uses of Sandalwood Oil
In traditional Chinese and Indian medicine Sandalwood oil is used for curing health conditions such as digestive problems, cough, laryngitis, sore throat, nervous disorders, depression and anxiety.
The Sandalwood oil is used for skin care to cure dry, cracked or chapped skin, rashes and acne. It is suitable for all types of skins.
Use of Sandalwood Oil in Perfumes
Sandalwood Oil is largely used by the perfume industry. Sandalwood Oil acts as a base and helps to blend individual aroma of oils used in making natural perfumes also known as “Attar”.
Sandalwood Oil blends and preserves the individual smell of each essential oil used to make the perfume. It helps to merge two essential oils together without overpowering the aroma of other essential oils that are used.
Uses of Sandalwood for Spiritual Purposes
Sandalwood is used for -
- crafting deities of God for worship
- making incense that is burned during worship
- constructing parts of temples
Sandalwood is also used for making meditation beads and Sandalwood paste that is used in many sacred rituals
Sandalwood trees are being cut down in large numbers and are almost extinct in the wild. The Government of India has banned the export of Sandalwood to prevent further cutting down of these trees.