USEs & BENEFITS
"As if to prove love would conquer hate, the sandalwood perfumes the very axe that lays it low."
These words, belonging to the great Bengali poet and artist Rabindranath Tagore, illustrate, without recourse to conceit, the powerful emotive force of this precious gift of the plant world.
So, what do we know about this conqueror of hate and champion of love?
Although the tree is cultivated in but a few far eastern countries, sandalwood can be found far and wide—from Indonesia in the east, to Chile in the west, and from the Hawaiian Archipelago in the north, to New Zealand in the south. And isn't it fitting that only the heartwood, the core or heart of the tree, bears scent and is therefore highly valued for its fragrance?
Of course, where there's love, there's divinity! Sandalwood chips and oil are almost universally esteemed, with one or both showing up in Hindu, Buddhist, and Shinto temples and shrines; Muslim mosques; and Christian churches the world over. Indeed, this spiritual association goes back to antiquity. The ancient Egyptians, who seemed to have benefitted from all the essential oils of their times, imported the wood and used it in medicine, for embalming the dead, and in ritual burning.
And today? Well, sandalwood’s popularity has not waned in the least. In fact, it's more popular now due to the use of its oil in food products like confectionary, baked goods, and beverages of every description. Sandalwood is also extensively used in perfumery, cosmetics, aromatherapy, and the pharmaceutical industry.
The heartwood is quite dense, with a slightly oily texture that makes it perfect for intricate carvings. Thus, sandalwood is prized in the market of carved devotional figures and statues. It is also more commonly available in the form of fine jewelry boxes, hand fans, artistic door carvings, and the like.
So, as you can see, its love never ends!
BENEFITS OF SANDALWOOD
Please note that this section is for information purposes only. The benefits/effects listed below are not necessarily clinically proven, they are mainly the reported experiences of users and practitioners of folk and traditional healing/medical systems. This information is not intended as medical advice. Always consult a suitably qualified health-care practitioner for medical advice.
Sandalwood wood, normally burned as incense, is said to have many benefits. A few are listed below.
1. Relieves anxiety: Burn some before that big deadline. It's a stress buster!
2. Improves sleep quality: Forget about counting sheep! Due to its stress busting characteristics, it makes a great sedative.
3. Lowers blood pressure: Why put up with the side effects of medication?! Sandalwood's relaxing aroma is said to lower systolic blood pressure.
4. Heals wounds: Burning sandalwood is said to create a healing atmosphere.
5. Acts as a natural air freshener: Instead of spraying synthetic chemical air fresheners that cause headaches, burn some sandalwood incense as aromatherapy.
Like the wood itself, sandalwood essential oil is also said to have many benefits, some of which are listed below.
1. Antiseptic: Safe for both internal and external uses, sandalwood essential oil helps protect internal wounds and ulcers from infections. At the same time, it can be applied to sores, boils and pimples to protect them from infection.
2. Anti-inflammatory: A journal of pharmacology says that sandalwood has a cooling effect and provides relief from all types of inflammation in the brain, digestive, nervous, circulatory, and excretory systems that may result from infections, fever, poisoning, insect bites or wounds.
3. Antispasmodic: Because it's a natural relaxant and sedative, sandalwood essential oil is said to be effective against spasms—relaxing nerves, muscles, and blood vessels. So, it is said to be helpful in treating cramps, aches and coughs.
4. Astringent (contracting property): Astringent substances can help strengthen gums and muscles and tighten skin. This is good news for those who have problems and illnesses that affect those parts of the body.
5. Ability to close or heal wounds: It soothes the skin and helps scars and spots heal much faster. The paste has been used as a skin pack. That's why it's extensively used in soaps, lotions, and creams.
6. Relaxation of intestines and abdominal muscles: This sedative effect can help relieve bloating.
7. Diuretic: The relaxing and anti-inflammatory properties of sandalwood essential oil are said to help soothe away inflammation in the urinary system and induce relaxation which helps promote the easy passage of urine. This also increases urination which is the body’s natural way of removing harmful substances.
8. Disinfectant: Research suggests the oil disinfects mucous membrane in the urinary and bronchial tracts. How about mixing some in your bath water or with other lotions to apply on the skin and wounds to protect them against infection? Weren't you always told by your mother to drink your milk? Well, add some oil to your milk to help with infections in the throat, stomach and intestines! Sandalwood essential oil is also said to be a great natural insect repellant which is why it is used in sprays and fumigants to fumigate large areas.
9. Skin Care: Sandalwood oil soothes the skin, can relieves irritation, is said to cure infections and can keep you fresh and cool. It has shown promise in clinical trials as a treatment for acne, psoriasis, eczema and common warts.
10. Treats Coughs: Why use cough syrup when you can use nature's prescription! Sandalwood essential oil acts as an expectorant and is especially effective for treating coughs. It is said to fight viral infections like those that cause the cold and flu!
11. Lowers Blood Pressure: Try taking the essential oil with water or even milk to lower your blood pressure if you're suffering from hypertension. Do remember to consult with your healthcare provider before taking such measures!
12. Sedative Effect: Sandalwood oil is a sedative so it can help control anxiety, fear, stress and restlessness—inducing relaxation, calmness, concentration, inner vision, and positive thoughts.
These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.
THE FUTURE OF SANDALWOOD
Due to the growing number of people seeking alternative treatments for illnesses, the demand for natural essential oils has greatly increased. This high demand has caused some sandalwood species to become threatened or endangered which has led to the creation of organizations focused on developing sustainable ways of cultivating threatened essential oil raw materials.
One such organization is Sanatol, an Australian based company that is dedicated to the sustainable management of East Indian sandalwood (Santalum album) and to an ethical and sustainable supply of its essential oil. Research suggests that unless there's human intervention to protect and preserve this species, there's a real probability of its extinction in as little as 100 years, especially due to the difficulty in cultivating it.
Red Sandalwood (Pterocarpus santalinus) was first put on the endangered list in 1997. This was due to over-harvesting to keep up with the high demand. The Indian government regulated it which lead to a flourishing black market. It fetched huge prices on the international market for its use in making luxury items, musical instruments, and medicine. The government then banned its export and tightly controlled its harvesting. It also went after the sources of illegal trade and export. After years of this effort, the Red Sandalwood tree was finally taken off the endangered list in July of 2018.
If we are to continue to enjoy and benefit from these beautiful trees, we may very well need more government oversight and control of their harvesting and trade.
The ashes of sandalwood
Are like the poignant remnants
Of you and me-
And fragrantly sweet!