Indian Sandalwood: Unraveling the History, Science, and the Battle Against Endangerment

Did you know Sandalwood is the second most valuable wood in the world? 
Mysore Sandalwood (Santalum album), also known as "The Royal Tree", is an Indian Sandalwood species and it's one of the most valuable and widely used aromatic ingredients in the world.

The heartwood (the central part of trees) contains Sandalwood's healing and aromatic compounds called alpha and beta santalol. These compounds have been proven to calm the mind and nourish and protect the skin. The Santalum album species has the highest concentration of alpha and beta santalol. 


Sandalwood isn't some trend. Uses of it has been for more than four millennia. 4,000 YEARS. It has such a deep, cultural and religious heritage in India. From religious practices, to being burned for cremations. In modern times only a small fragment is added to the pyre for symbolic purposes. It's also featured as a construction material in temples and elsewhere.

Funnily enough, despite being one of the oldest perfume ingredients, Sandalwood has only been used in European and American perfumery for the past two hundred years. 

Sandalwood is well loved and favoured for it's longevity. (if tested on a strip of paper, it stays on for a long time) This distinct warm and powdery scent works as a ‘fixative’, balancing other ingredients and keeping them ‘true’, in a composition. Its sweet creaminess is used a base of  feminine perfumes. It does however, have medium to low projection (maybe one of its few downsides) 

Sandalwoods aren't just your average trees. They are actually medium-sized HEMIPARASITIC trees and part of the same botanical family as European mistletoe. Sandalwood is indigenous to the tropical belt of the peninsular India, Malay Archipelago and northern Australia, the most famous oil being from the Indian Mysore region (that's where it got its name). 

To extract the deep, sweet woodiness, wood or root chippings are steam-distilled. It's been featured prominently in many incense blends.

Unfortunately, Sandalwood is so coveted that it's become endangered. Because it's such a valuable commodity, Sandalwood trees have been cut down in India, largely for production of perfume and incense  and often enough illegally harvested. While great efforts have been made to conserve Indian Sandalwood to ensure we can continue having it, it is an uphill battle and we can only hope that sustainable practises will assist with keeping this beloved treasure around for a little while longer.


Sifr Aromatics remains true in buying its Sandalwood and ingredients from ethical and renewable sources, we have suppliers that have worked with us even from our grandfather's time! We are also constantly on the lookout for new suppliers. Australia for example, is growing their own variety of Sandalwood; Santalum spicatum.

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