Sandalwood is a class of wood belonging to trees in the Santalum family. Medium in size and hemi-parasitic (meaning they rely on neighbouring host trees for nutrients and moisture), the trees have an aromatic heartwood centre which, unlike other aromatic woods, retains its unique aroma for decades.
There are 15 different species of sandalwood in the world, the most notable of which are Indian sandalwood (Santalum album) and Australian sandalwood (Santalum spicatum), each with its own distinct aroma profile. Australian sandalwood grows in the arid central west of Australia; whereas Indian sandalwood, originating from Mysore in India, is grown in sub-tropical north of Australia.
The heartwood centre is used in the distillation process to create sandalwood oil, often described as ‘liquid’ gold due to its rarity and high price tag.
Both Australian sandalwood and Sandalwood Album have long and impressive histories. Considered the ‘king’ of all woods, Sandalwood Album has been used for thousands of years as a natural Ayurvedic medicine, and in Buddhist and Hindu religious practices. In fact, the first known statue of Buddha was made using sandalwood. Such was its elevated status, it was declared a ‘royal tree’ in 1792, to be grown exclusively by the Sultan of Mysore. Australian sandalwood enjoyed a similar status within Australian Aboriginal culture used for centuries as a traditional medicine, a food source and for spiritual purposes.
Today, science has proven what our ancestors already knew – that sandalwood is one of nature’s true wellbeing ingredients. It has been said that Alpha-santalol is the active therapeutic component which gives sandalwood oil its anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant and moisturising properties, ideal for use in skincare and cosmetic products. Research shows it can also reduce anxiety and calm the mind, which is why it is popular with aromatherapists.
Whilst both species contain alpha-santalol, Indian sandalwood possesses up to three times more than its Australian counterpart.