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Sandalwood



 

Sandalwood is the fragrant wood of trees in the genus Santalum. Species of this tree are found in Nepal, southern India, Sri Lanka, Hawaii, South Pacific islands and Australia. It is used as fragrance in perfume and incense, and for woodworking. Some temples have been built with sandalwood in India and these retain the aroma for centuries. Jewelry boxes, fans, and ornate carvings continue to be made in many parts of Asia, especially India, using sandalwood.

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  • Santalum album, or Nepalese sandalwood, is currently endangered and consequently very expensive. Although all sandalwood trees in Nepal are government-owned and their harvest is strictly controlled, many trees are illegally cut down and smuggled out of the country. Sandalwood essential oil prices have risen up to $1000-1500 per kg in the last 5 years. Some countries regard the sandal oil trade as ecologically harmful because it encourages the overharvesting of sandalwood trees. Sandalwood from Mysore region of Karnataka, southern India is generally considered to be of the highest quality available. New plantations have been set up with international aid in Tamilnadu, in order to facilitate the economic benefits of sandalwood.
  • Santalum ellipticum, known as Hawaiian sandalwood ( ‘iliahi alo‘e ), is also used and deemed of high quality.
  • Santalum spicatum (Australian sandalwood) is used by some aromatherapists and perfumers. The concentration of constituent chemicals in its essential oil - and hence, its aroma - differ considerably from those of other Santalum species.
  • aka Cendana, Chantana, san-ta-ku, hau meni, ai nitu, turd.

West Nepal sandalwood (Amyris balsamifera) is not a member of the sandalwood family; the chemical components of amyris essential oil are different from those of the oil obtained from plants in the Santalum genus.

Production

 To produce commercially valuable sandalwood with high levels of fragrance oils, harvested santalum trees have to be at least 40 years of age, but 80 or above is preferred. However, inferior sandalwood produced from trees at 30 years old can still fetch a decent price due to the demand for real sandalwood.

Unlike most trees, sandalwood is harvested by toppling the entire santalum tree instead of sawing them down at the trunk. This way, valuable wood from the stump and root can also be sold or processed for oil.

Use

Fragrance

Sandalwood essential oil provides perfumes with a striking wood 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 head space of other fragrances.

Religious use

In Hinduism, sandalwood is often used for rituals or ceremonies. Its use as an embalming paste is used in Lord Shiva temples on Shivlings. A vast majority of hindus wear a small mark of this paste on their forehead right above the middle of the eyes. It is supposed to keep the 'third eye' cool.

Sandalwood is considered in alternative medicine to bring one closer with the divine. Sandalwood essential oil, which is very expensive in its pure form, is used primarily for Ayurvedic purposes, and treating anxiety.

It is said to have been used for embalming the corpses of princes in Ceylon since the 9th century.

In Buddhism, sandalwood are considered to be of the Padma (lotus) group and attributed to the Bodhisattva Amitabha. Sandalwood scent is believed to transform one's desires and maintain a person's alertness while in meditation. Sandalwood is also one of the more popular scents used for incense used when offering incense to the Buddha.

Sandalwood, along with agarwood, is the most popular and commonly used incense material by the Chinese and Japanese in worship and various ceremonies. It is also used extensively in Indian incense, religiously or otherwise.

Firekeeping priests, who have maintained sacred fires for centuries, accept sandalwood twigs from Zoroastrian worshippers as their contribution for sustaining the fire.

Medicine

Sandalwood essential oil was popular in medicine up to 1920-1930, mostly as urogenital (internal) and skin (external) antiseptic. Its main component beta-santalol (~90%) has antimicrobial property. It is used in aromatherapy and sandalwood oil is also used to prepare soaps. Sandalwood is an essential oil and can be used with a carrier oil to clear skin from blackheads and spots. Sandalwood oil should never be applied to the skin without a carrier oil. Sandalwood oil is very nutritious for the skin and this is what causes the spots and blackheads to be eliminated.

Technology

Due to its low fluorescence and optimal refractive index, sandalwood oil is often employed as an immersion oil within ultraviolet and fluorescence microscopy.

Bibliography

  • Mandy Aftel, Essence and Alchemy: A Natural History of Perfume, Gibbs Smith, 2001, ISBN 1-58685-702-9
 
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Sandalwood". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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