Sandalwood is the name of a class of fragrant woods from trees in the genus Santalum. The woods are heavy, yellow, and fine-grained, and unlike many other aromatic woods they retain their fragrance for decades. As well as using the harvested and cut wood, essential oils are also extracted from the woods for use. Both the wood and the oil produce a distinctive fragrance that has been highly valued for centuries. Consequently, the slow-growing trees have been overharvested in many areas.
Sandalwood essential oil provides perfumes with a striking wood base note. Sandalwood smells somewhat like other wood scents, except it has a bright and fresh edge with few natural analogues. When used in smaller proportions in aperfume, it is an excellent fixative to enhance the head spac] of other fragrances.
Sandalwood oil in India is widely used in the cosmetic industry. The main source of true sandalwood, S. album, is a protected species, and demand for it cannot be met. Many species of plants are traded as “sandalwood”. Within the genus
Santalum alone, there are more than nineteen species. Traders will often accept oil from closely related species, such as various species in the genus Santalum, as well as from unrelated plants such as West Indian Sandalwood (Amyrisbalsamifera) in the family Rutaceae or bastard sandalwood (Myoporum sandwicense, Myoporaceae). However, most woods from these alternative sources will lose their aroma within a few months or years.
Isobornyl cyclohexanol is a synthetic fragrance chemical produced as an alternative to the natural product.
Sandalwood paste is integral to rituals and ceremonies, to mark religious utensils and to decorate the icons of the deities. It is also distributed to devotees, who apply it to the forehead or the neck and chest. Preparation of the paste is a duty fit only for the pure, and is therefore entrusted in temples and during ceremonies only to priests.
The paste is prepared by grinding wood by hand upon granite slabs (popularly known as Saane kallu in Kannada) shaped for the purpose. With slow addition of water a thick paste results, which is mixed with saffron or other such pigments to make Chandan.
Sandalwood is considered in alternative medicine to bring one closer to the divine. It gives a cool soothing effect to the body thus reducing the body heat. In Thirupathi after religious tonsure, Sandal paste is applied to protect the skin. Sandalwood essential oil is used for Ayurvedic purposes and treating anxiety.
Sandalwood is considered to be of the padma (lotus) group and attributed to Amitabha Buddha. 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 when offering incense to the Buddha.
Chinese and Japanese Religions
Sandalwood, along with agarwood, is the most commonly used incense material by the Chinese and Japanese in worship and various ceremonies. It is used in Indian incense, religiously or otherwise