The health benefits of sandalwood oil can be attributed to its long list of properties. It acts as an expectorant, a disinfectant, a memory booster and is anti-inflammatory. In more recent years, science has begun to explore the uses of the oil in controlled studies with promising results that support many of the medicinal uses involving sandalwood oil by people for centuries. The studies also help to introduce new ways that the oil can be used, both in daily life and in more serious conditions, paving the way for a bright future for sandalwood oil.
It should be noted that studies involving sandalwood alone are scarce but the oil has received plenty of attention in recent years. It is listed in the USP Food Chemical Codex as a natural flavoring ingredient. It is Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS), making it safe for human consumption. It has also been approved by the Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration for topical and inhalation products as a listed medicine and has been approved as a Commission E herbal product in Europe. All of these titles mean that the little scientific research that has been conducted on the oil show promising results and little negative side effects, if any.
A study recently published in the Chinese Medicine Journal shows that frankincense and sandalwood essential oils have the potential to kill cancer cells, especially bladder cancer cells. The study was completed at the University of Oklahoma, where it was discovered that the distinct chemical constituents of each specific oil played a part in destroying the cancer cells. Specifically, sandalwood’s high levels of sesquiterpenes was credited with the death of the cancer cells. The study showed that while frankincense was able to tackle different types of tumors, sandalwood may be more beneficial for keeping the body healthy while it fights off cancer, because of its antibacterial activity. It could be a beneficial oil for people to use during chemo treatments, which often lead the body more susceptible to disease and infection.
A 2006 study was geared towards evaluating the effectiveness of aromatherapy when it comes to anxiety. The controlled trial was broken down into three groups. The first group was instructed to receive aromatherapy massages with sandalwood oil. The second group also received aromatherapy massages, but with sweet almond oil. A third group was administered sandalwood oil through an aroma stone, a device that heats the oil and distributes it through a room. The study did not release specific numbers but states that the first and third groups seemed to display less anxious symptoms. The second group also experienced less symptoms but the final report of the study points towards the sandalwood eliminating more anxiety than the sweet almond oil alone. Sandalwood is one of the most common oils used in aromatherapy, especially when it comes to anxiety and this study has opened the doors for more definite scientific evidence.
Wounds and Healing
A study published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology showed that the skin may not only be affected positively by the topical application of sandalwood but also by its scent. The study was conducted at the Ruhr-Universitat Bochum and researchers reported that keratinocytes, which are the cells that make up the outermost layer of the skin, contain olfactory receptors. Humans have nearly 350 different types of olfactory receptors in the nose, which would make sense. It is surprising to learn that these have also been discovered in the intestines and kidneys. But the discovery of the olfactory receptors on the skin led the researchers to investigate how the aroma of sandalwood could encourage healing. The research showed that when these receptors were activated by the scent of sandalwood, a signal in the body was triggered. This led to greater cell proliferation and the faster movement of skin cells. This is critical when skin is repairing itself from damage. This repairing process increased by 34% when sandalwood was sensed by the receptors.
An Australian based company recently developed the first over the counter acne product that contains sandalwood oil. Their required clinical trials showed that 91% of participants saw improvement in their acne after two weeks of using the product. The company credits sandalwood oil’s antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties for its success and makes note on their product that the essential oil has been used for centuries because of its ability to heal skin.
A controlled study in 1999 focused on sandalwood oil and its effectiveness against Herpes simplex viruses-1 and -2. The results showed that the oil inhibited the replication of the virus in both types but more significantly against HSV-1. While more studies are certainly needed, sandalwood oil could be effective against dangerous viruses.
Scientific studies have found conflicting results when using sandalwood oil in the following circumstances. This isn’t to say that sandalwood oil won’t work at all for these conditions, as many have experienced positive results without scientific backing.
-Stomach conditions, including gas, bloating and indigestion
-Urinary tract and kidney infections
-Stimulation of the reproductive system in both men and women
Sandalwood is classified as a very safe essential oil. It should still always be diluted and if given to children or infants, it should be heavily diluted and approved by a doctor. Allergic reactions are extremely rare but can be severe. Always test for allergies before applying the oil to a large portion of the body. There have been rare reports of dermatitis developing after using sandalwood oil. Improper use of the oil can lead to chest pains, difficulty breathing and general tightness in the chest. If you have any adverse reactions to sandalwood oil, seek medical attention immediately.
Due to a lack of scientific studies that show the oil to be perfectly safe, sandalwood oil should be avoided by pregnant and breastfeeding women. There are few reports of sandalwood interacting with other medications but consult with a doctor before medicating with any essential oil if you take any prescribed drugs.