Sandalwood has been used for over four thousand years, both the wood and oil that it produces. The oil has been used as a natural treatment for a variety of ailments. It is most commonly found in body care products, both store bought and homemade. Today the oil can be found in medicine cabinets of those who are looking for a more natural approach to treating stomach issues, anxiety and preventing infections. Here are some of the more interesting facts related to the sandalwood tree and the precious oil that it produces.
About The Sandalwood Tree
Sandalwood refers to a class of woods from trees that are part of the genus Santalum. The woods are typically heavy in weight and yellow in color. One of the most famous facts about sandalwood is its ability to hold on to its fragrance for decades, where other similar woods would lose their scent over time. The trees are mainly medium-sized and are related to the European mistletoe. The most well known sandalwood trees are the Australian and Indian versions. These trees can also be found in India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Hawaii.
At one time, sandalwood trees could be found in abundance. But as more and more cultures and countries demanded the wood and the oil that it produces, the tree was nearly pushed to extinction. Today, the trees mainly grow in India and Australia in government protected plantations. Any farm or homesteads that grow the trees must harvest them only under government permission. It is near impossible to produce enough sandalwood to meet the world’s demands because the tree takes several decades to mature. There is speculation that the tree may never be able to produce enough product to meet demands and because it is often targeted by people looking to illegally obtain the wood, it is still in danger of being wiped out.
Sandalwood In History
Sandalwood has a very long and rich history that stretches back over 4,000 years. It is mentioned in ancient Chinese manuscripts and was often used in religious rituals by many different cultures. Many ancient temples were carved from sandalwood. The ancient Egyptians imported the wood from parts of Asia to use in medicine, embalming and even ritualistic burnings that were presented to their gods. In Buddhism, it has long been one of the three essential incenses used in the religion, along with aloes wood and cloves. Sandalwood is one of the few perfumes that are approved by Islamic tradition, which also include similar scents like musk and amber. Sandalwood is most likely appreciated by so many religions because it is considered a divine fragrance that represents qualities found in godly individuals.
- Sandalwood trees are protected by local governments because of their value. Nearly 60 tons of oil is produced annually, showing just how high the demand is. This is not nearly enough to meet the general public’s desire for the oil though so there is still concern that the trees could be eliminated by individuals who illegally cut down the trees to sell less than pure oil.
- Sandalwood is a semi-parasite, which means that while the tree can survive just fine on its own it prefers to steal nutrients from the rots of other plants that are nearby using its modified roots called haustoria. This could be a type of defense mechanism because by exhausting the resources of the other plant, its normal growth is prevented which allows the sandalwood to thrive.
- Sandalwood oil’s aroma is considered an aphrodisiac and was a high prized item among women of the Orient. The oil is commonly used in baths as the scent is highly appreciated by both men and women. It has similar effects of deer musk, including aphrodisiac effects.
- Several ancient temples in Asia were built from sandalwood. Many religious accessories, including staffs and rosaries, are made from the wood as well. The wood has earned the name “Liquid Gold” by many because of its precious nature.
- Sandalwood provides countless jobs and has an economy of its own. Mysore, an area in India that is known to produce the best sandalwood oil on the planet, is also known as “Sandalwood City”. Employees work in incense factories, rolling valuable sandalwood paste on bamboo skewers. They also carve different objects and shapes out of the hard yellow wood, like boxes, beads, statues and combs.
- The sandalwood tree can live to be a hundred years old. A tree should be at least forty years old before harvested and gets better with each passing year. This is because more oil develops within the heartwood of the tree and the aroma also intensifies. The roots actually hold the most oil but when a tree is illegally cut down, most of the roots are left in an effort to get away quickly.
- The center of the tree, known as the heartwood, is actually dead. It acts as a pillar of support for the large tree. The outer portion of the tree is living and is called sapwood. This is the part of the tree that carries water from the roots to each area of the tree. The heartwood is where the essential oil is contained.
- Sandalwood was once a common wood to use to construct furniture or carve into jewelry. This is now much more rare and the companies that do still sell these products usually offer certification to ensure their customers that the sandalwood was obtained legally.
Sandalwood and Sandalwood Oil Today
Sandalwood oil is still used today in Indian medicine and has become more popular in Western medicine as well, as people look for more natural ways to treat medical conditions. It is used to treat stomach conditions, skin irritations and prevent serious infections, both internal and external. Before using sandalwood oil as a medication, speak with your medical professional. Always be sure that you are buying a high quality oil that has not been diluted or made from a young tree to experience all that sandalwood truly has to offer.