Sandalwood essential oil is an aromatic liquid that is obtained from the steam distillation of chips and billets cut from the heartwood of various species of sandalwood trees. The heartwood is the innermost part of the tree trunk that contains the highest concentration of oil. The most common species of sandalwood trees used for oil production are Santalum album (Indian sandalwood) and Santalum spicatum (Australian sandalwood). Other species include Santalum austrocaledonicum (New Caledonian sandalwood), Santalum yasi (Fijian sandalwood), Santalum paniculatum (Hawaiian sandalwood), and Santalum lanceolatum (Northern Australian sandalwood).
Sandalwood essential oil is one of the most expensive and rare natural oils in the world. This is because sandalwood trees grow very slowly and take at least 30 years to mature before they can be harvested for oil. Moreover, sandalwood trees are endangered due to overexploitation, habitat loss, illegal logging, plant diseases, and insect pests. Therefore, the supply of sandalwood essential oil is limited and regulated by various governments and organizations. For example, in India, sandalwood trees are considered as a “royal tree” and are owned by the state government.
Landowners who have sandalwood trees on their property must obtain permission from the government to harvest them and receive 75% of their value. The Indian government also has established sandalwood plantations to conserve the species and meet the demand. In Australia, sandalwood trees are protected by the Western Australia Sandalwood Control Act of 1929, which controls the harvest and export of sandalwood products.
How is Sandalwood Essential Oil Made?
Sandalwood essential oil is made by steam distillation of chips and billets cut from the heartwood of sandalwood trees. Steam distillation is a process that involves heating water to produce steam, which passes through the wood and carries the oil vapors. The steam and oil vapors are then condensed into a liquid, which is separated into water and oil. The oil is then collected and stored in glass bottles or containers.
The quality and quantity of sandalwood essential oil depend on several factors, such as the species, age, region, season, and method of harvesting and distillation of the sandalwood trees. Generally, older trees produce more oil with a stronger aroma than younger trees. Indian sandalwood is considered to have the highest quality and most desirable fragrance among all sandalwood species.
However, Australian sandalwood is also gaining popularity due to its similar scent and lower cost. The best time to harvest sandalwood trees is during the dry season, when the oil content is highest. The sapwood, which is the outer layer of the wood, must be removed before distillation, as it does not contain any oil and may affect the quality of the oil. The distillation process must be done carefully and slowly, as high temperatures and pressures may damage the oil.
What are the Main Components of Sandalwood Essential Oil?
Sandalwood essential oil contains more than 200 chemical compounds, but the main ones that contribute to its aroma and properties are sesquiterpenic alcohols. Sesquiterpenes are a class of organic compounds that consist of 15 carbon atoms arranged in three rings. Alcohols are compounds that have a hydroxyl group (-OH) attached to a carbon atom. Sesquiterpenic alcohols are sesquiterpenes that have one or more hydroxyl groups.
The most abundant sesquiterpenic alcohols in sandalwood essential oil are (Z)-α-santalol and (Z)-β-santalol, which account for about 50-60% and 20-25% of the oil, respectively. These two compounds are responsible for the characteristic woody, sweet, and balsamic scent of sandalwood essential oil. They also have various biological activities, such as anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, anti-cancer, anti-tumor, anti-viral, anti-diarrheal, and aphrodisiac effects.
Other sesquiterpenic alcohols in sandalwood essential oil include (Z)-epi-β-santalol, (Z)-α-exo-bergamotol, α-bisabolol, α-santalene, β-santalene, α-exo-bergamotene, epi-β-santalene, and β-bisabolene. These compounds have different scents and properties that complement or enhance the effects of (Z)-α-santalol and (Z)-β-santalol.
What are the Benefits of Sandalwood Essential Oil?
Sandalwood essential oil has various benefits for the skin, mental health, physical health, and spiritual well-being. Here are some of the main benefits of sandalwood essential oil:
Sandalwood Essential Oil for Skin
Sandalwood essential oil is widely used in skincare products due to its ability to improve the appearance and health of the skin. Some of the benefits of sandalwood essential oil for skin are:
Anti-inflammatory and Antiseptic Properties
Sandalwood essential oil has anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties that can help reduce inflammation, swelling, redness, itching, and pain caused by various skin conditions, such as acne, eczema, psoriasis, dermatitis, sunburns, insect bites, wounds, cuts, scrapes, and infections. Sandalwood essential oil can also prevent or treat skin infections caused by bacteria or fungi by inhibiting their growth and killing them.
Anti-aging and Moisturizing Effects
Sandalwood essential oil has anti-aging and moisturizing effects that can help prevent or reduce the signs of aging on the skin, such as wrinkles, fine lines, sagging skin, age spots, and dryness. Sandalwood essential oil can stimulate the production of collagen and elastin, which are proteins that provide structure and elasticity to the skin. Sandalwood essential oil can also hydrate and nourish the skin by retaining moisture and preventing water loss.
Skin Lightening and Scar Healing Benefits
Sandalwood essential oil has skin lightening and scar healing benefits that can help improve the complexion and tone of the skin by reducing hyperpigmentation, dark spots, blemishes, acne scars, stretch marks, and other marks or discolorations on the skin. Sandalwood essential oil can also promote wound healing and tissue regeneration by stimulating blood circulation and cell renewal.
Sandalwood Essential Oil for Mental Health
Sandalwood essential oil is widely used in aromatherapy due to its ability to improve mental health and well-being. Some of the benefits of sandalwood essential oil for mental health are:
Relaxing and Calming Effects
Sandalwood essential oil has relaxing and calming effects that can help reduce stress, anxiety, depression, insomnia, and other mental disorders. Sandalwood essential oil can induce a state of relaxation and calmness by activating the parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for rest and digestion. Sandalwood essential oil can also balance the emotions and mood by influencing the limbic system, which is the part of the brain that controls emotions, memory, and behavior. Sandalwood essential oil can also enhance the quality and duration of sleep by promoting the production of melatonin, which is a hormone that regulates the sleep-wake cycle.