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Sandalwood: Uses, Benefits, Side effects & More!

By Dr Smita Barode +2 more

Introduction 

Sandalwood refers to the wood (heartwood) from tree species belonging to the family Santalaceae and genus Santalum.1 The wood from these trees has a characteristic aromatic fragrance. There are many species of trees that fall under this genus, of which the East Indian sandalwood (Santalum album) and Australian sandalwood (S. spicatum) are the most prominent.

Sandalwood powder and sticks

These are the two species that are mainly used to produce sandalwood oil. The Indian sandalwood grows up to 30 feet in height and is a small evergreen tree; the wood is fragrant with yellow to maroon flowers, oval leaves and dark red-black fruit.2

It is a tropical tree found all over the country, with the majority growing in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. The other states where they grow are Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Orissa, Manipur, and Madhya Pradesh.1 

Did you know?

  • Sandalwood oil is widely used in the fragrance industry in the United States. [source: ncbi.nlm.nih.gov]
  • Sandalwood has been used in traditional medicine in the United States for its anti-inflammatory properties. [source: pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov]
  • Sandalwood is considered a sustainable and renewable resource in the United States. [source: usda.gov]
  • Sandalwood trees take approximately 15-20 years to reach maturity in the United States. [source: arborday.org]
  • Sandalwood is a high-value crop in the United States, with the potential for significant economic benefits. [source: extension.psu.edu]

Other Names of Sandalwood

It is known by different names in different vernacular languages like:

  • Agarugandha, Bavanna, Chandala, Bhadrasri in Kannada,
  • Chandanam, Chandana-mutti in Malayalam
  • Gandhachakoda in Marathi
  • Valgaka in Oriya
  • Anukkam, Asam, and Sandhanam in Tamil
  • Sandal and Safaid in Urdu, etc.3

The Indian sandalwood, commonly called chandana in Sanskrit, has been in use for ages in India. It is considered a sacred part of Hindu customs. Usually, the oil extracted from the wood is used.

Properties of Sandalwood: 

The beneficial properties of sandalwood are listed in the section below.

  • It may be used due to its antioxidant activity
  • It may have anti-inflammatory properties
  • It may have anti-proliferative (inhibit cell growth) activity
  • It may show anti-microbial properties.4 

I recently came across a study that says that, according to preliminary research, ingesting a combination of white sandalwood, tamarind, and neem may help vaginal discharge and pain in women having a vaginal infection. Sandalwood is known for its anti-inflammatory and soothing properties.

Dr. Siddharth Gupta, MD

Potential Uses of Sandalwood 

The sandalwood is the central part of the tree with a characteristic fragrance. The oil extracted from this sandalwood is referred to as the East Indian sandalwood oil and is used in different health conditions. Also, the wood can be powdered and used as well. 5 

Potential Uses of sandalwood for skin: 

Potential uses of sandalwood for psoriasis: 

Psoriasis is a skin condition in which the patient develops itchy, scaly, and red patches commonly on the elbows, knees, trunk, and scalp. When applied topically on the sites where the psoriasis plaques (patches) are present, sandalwood has been shown to have reduced the severity of the disease in the studies. This is due to its potential anti-inflammatory property.6 This information is insufficient and require more human trials to suggest the uses of sandalwood for psoriasis. Therefore, people should speak to your doctor and only use sandalwood if prescribed.

Potential Uses of Sandalwood for Wrinkles, Scars & Skin Darkening: 

Over the years, it has been used as an important cosmetic product. Traditionally, sandalwood is used as an anti-ageing product as it reduces wrinkles, scars, and the darkening of the skin. This is due to its toning, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory actions.7 

Potential Uses of Sandalwood for Wounds: 

Owing to its potential anti-microbial actions (i.e., anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, and anti-viral actions) along with its anti-inflammatory effects, sandalwood may help in wound healing and is used for the same.7 However, more research is required to prove such claims.

Potential Uses of Sandalwood for Eczema: 

Eczema is a medical condition where patches of the skin become dry, scaly, red, and cause itching leading to bleeding. Sandalwood oil may be applied on the skin helps in the management of the condition due to its anti-inflammatory action.7 Consult a dermatologist before using sandalwood for eczema.

Potential Uses of Sandalwood for Acne: 

Its usefulness in treating acne is due to its anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties.7  The studies available for this effect of sandalwood are insufficient. Thus, you should consult a dermatologist before using sandalwood for acne.

I suggest if you are on lithium, see your doctor before using sandalwood products. You might need to adjust your lithium dosage. Red sandalwood may act as a “diuretic” or as a water pill. Consuming red sandalwood might impair the body’s ability to eliminate lithium. Lithium levels may rise as a result, which may have negative side effects.

Dr. Rajeev Singh, BAMS

Potential Uses of Sandalwood for the Brain: 

It may show some memory-enhancing potential, sedative and calming effect, and anti-inflammatory actions, which have been proven in animal studies. Thus, it has potential use in sleeping disorders, anxiety, and Alzheimer’s disease, for which further research is needed.7 Since data for its effectiveness on humans is insufficient, we further need to consult a doctor before using sandalwood for these conditions.

Potential Uses of Sandalwood for the Management of Cancer: 

The chemical α-santalol present in sandalwood has anti-cancer properties, as evidenced by animal and cell culture studies. Thus, it has potential use in the management of skin tumours, which must be further investigated before its use in humans.8 Moreover, cancer should be diagnosed and treated by a qualified doctor. Kindly consult a doctor for better advice.

Also Read: Ginko Biloba – Uses, Benefits, Side Effects & Precautions

Potential Uses of Sandalwood for the Treatment of Ulcers: 

An ulcer is a break in the lining of the stomach or intestine. Studies have shown that sandalwood has anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties. The sandalwood oil may be effective against H. pylori, a bacterium responsible for gastric ulcer development. Thus, the oil extract of sandalwood may be used in the treatment of stomach and intestinal ulcers.7 Ulcers are serious and must be properly treated by a doctor.

Potential Uses of Sandalwood for the Management of Infections: 

It is proven that the oil extract of sandalwood has anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, and anti-viral activity in studies. Its anti-bacterial action might make it useful in treating ulcers caused by H. pylori bacterium and skin acne caused by staphylococcal and streptococci bacteria, while its anti-viral actions might make it useful in treating skin warts, blemishes, and Molluscum contagiosum, which is an infection caused by a poxvirus. 

Scabies is a skin infection caused by a mite, causing skin burrows, itching, red rashes, and inflammation. The most common site affected is the skin webs between the fingers. Sandalwood due to antiseptic, anti-microbial, and anti-inflammatory actions, might make it useful in reducing the redness, itching, and inflammation that develops in scabies.7,9  Kindly consult a doctor for better advice before using sandalwood for its benefits.

Also Read: Coping Strategies For Stress-Related Eczema On Hands: An Overview

Potential Uses of Sandalwood for the Heart: 

Sandalwood has demonstrated cardioprotective effects by reducing heart tissue damage, antioxidant, lipid-lowering, and blood sugar lowering actions, which need more investigation in humans.7 This information is insufficient and require more human trials to suggest the uses of sandalwood. Therefore, people should speak to their concerned doctors and only have sandalwood if prescribed.

Potential Uses of Sandalwood for Diabetes Management: 

Sandalwood has blood sugar lowering properties and antioxidant actions which favour its use in diabetes, but further investigation is needed.7 

Also Read: 8 Foods for Diabetes

Potential Uses of Sandalwood for Treating Fever: 

Sandalwood has antipyretic action; that is, it reduces body temperature and can be used for treating fever. This property is supported by various animal studies.7 

Though there are studies showing the potential use of sandalwood in various conditions, but these are insufficient and there is a need for further studies to establish the true extent of benefits of sandalwood on human health. 

Also Read: Munakka – Benefits, Side Effects & Precautions

I suggest monitoring your diabetic medication dosage while consuming sandalwood. Blood sugar levels may be lowered by intake of red sandalwood extract. When used with diabetic treatments, red sandalwood extract may cause your blood sugar to drop too low. Keep a watchful eye on your blood sugar.

Dr. Smita barode, BAMS

How to Use Sandalwood? 

Sandalwood is used in the following ways.  

  • The oil is extracted from the heartwood of sandalwood by steam distillation and used.10 
  • Its powder is used as a paste and externally applied on the skin.10 

You must consult a qualified doctor before taking any herbal supplements. Do not discontinue or replace an ongoing treatment of modern medicine with an ayurvedic/herbal preparation without consulting a qualified doctor.

Also Read: Chandraprabha Vati – Uses, Benefits, Side Effects & Precautions

Side Effects of Sandalwood 

Sandalwood taken by mouth in amounts used in food is most likely safe, but its prolonged use is possibly unsafe. The most common side effects are as follows:  

  • Itching of the skin (due to the use of sandalwood incense)11 
  • Blood in the urine (kidney damage)12 
  • Allergic skin reactions due to skin surface contact11 

However, if any such reaction is noticed on using it, seek immediate medical attention. Consult your Ayurvedic physician who has prescribed it to you; they will be able to identify the cause and treat it effectively.

Precautions to Take With Sandalwood  

The following precautions and warnings are to be taken into consideration when sandalwood is being used:  

Pregnancy  

According to animal studies, sandalwood oil might affect the foetus when given to pregnant females. Therefore, it should not be taken against the advice of the consulting gynaecologist.13 

Kidney disease 

Sandalwood should be avoided by people suffering from kidney diseases as it can cause kidney damage.12 

Therefore, if you are on any medication and want to take sandalwood you must consult your doctor as they would guide you best on this.

Also Read: Gokshura – Uses, Benefits, Side Effects & Precautions

Frequently Asked Questions 

1. Does sandalwood cure acne? 

Yes, it is used for treating acne due to its anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties.7 

2. What is sandalwood? 

The term sandalwood refers to the wood (heartwood) of the tree species belonging to the family Santalaceae and genus Santalum.1 

3. Is sandalwood good for skin? 

Yes, it has many benefits when applied to the skin. It is used as a cosmetic to prevent wrinkles, reduce acne, dark spots, and heal wounds. It is also useful in skin conditions like psoriasis, eczema, Molluscum contagiosum, and scabies.7 You must consult an ayurvedic physician or dermatologist.

4. Can sandalwood be eaten? 

Sandalwood oil is added to food as a preservative or used as a flavouring agent while cooking.10 

5. Can sandalwood be applied to the face every day?  

Sandalwood is safe and can be used daily. It is to be avoided if you are allergic, as you can develop contact dermatitis (a skin rash that is caused due to contact with a particular substance).11 You must only use it if prescribed by doctors.

6. What is sandalwood good for? 

It is useful for the management of different skin conditions. It is also useful in case of infections like UTI, vaginitis, bronchitis, and gonorrhoea. It is also used for ulcer treatment. Sandalwood also has potential use as an antipyretic, sedative, and for the management of Alzheimer’s, heart disease, and cancer, for which further research is required.7,9  However, we need more scientific support and more studies on humans are also required to suggest the uses of sandalwood for these conditions. Consult an Ayurvedic physician for better advice.

7. What are the types of sandalwood? 

There are many species of trees that fall under this genus, of which the Indian sandalwood (Santalum album) and Australian sandalwood (S. spicatum) are the most prominent.2 

8. What is the difference between sandalwood and cedarwood? 

Sandalwood refers to the wood (heartwood) from tree species belonging to the family Santalaceae and genus Santalum,1 while cedarwood belongs to the genus Cedrus consisting of coniferous trees belonging to the family Pinaceae.14 

9. What is the difference between sandalwood and rosewood? 

 Tree species belonging to the family Santalaceae are called sandalwood.1 Rosewood (Aniba rosaeodora) belongs to the family Lauraceae.15 

10. What is the difference between sandalwood and teakwood? 

Sandalwood refers to the wood (heartwood) from tree species belonging to the family Santalaceae and genus Santalum,1 while teakwood (Tectona grandis) belongs to the family Lamiaceae.16 

11. What is the difference between red sandalwood and white sandalwood?  

Sandalwood refers to the wood (heartwood) from tree species belonging to the family Santalaceae and genus Santalum. There are many species of trees that fall under this genus, of which the Indian sandalwood (Santalum album) and Australian sandalwood (S. spicatum) are the most prominent. The Indian sandalwood is also called white sandalwood,1,2,17 while the tree Pterocarpus Santalinus is referred to as red sandalwood.18 

Also Read: Rosemary – Uses, Benefits, Side Effects & Precautions

References 

  1. ENVIS Centre on Forestry. Sandal (Santalum album Linn.) [Internet] Available from: http://www.frienvis.nic.in/WriteReadData/UserFiles/file/pdfs/Sandal.pdf 
  1. American Botanical Council. Sandalwood. [Internet] Available from: https://www.herbalgram.org/resources/healthy-ingredients/sandalwood/ 
  1. India Biodiversity portal. Santalum album L. [Internet] Available from: https://indiabiodiversity.org/species/show/31727 
  1. Bhattacharjee Rajsmita, Vinay Keshavamurthy; Re-discovering Sandalwood: Beyond Beauty and Fragrance. Indian Dermatology Online Journal. 2019 May-Jun; 10 (3); 296-297. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6536050/ 
  1. A.N. Arun Kumar, Geeta Joshi; Sandalwood: History, uses, present status and the future. Current Science. 2012 Dec; 103 (12); 1408-1416. Available from: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/260024158_Sandalwood_History_uses_present_status_and_the_future 
  1. Manju Sharma, Corey Levenson; East Indian Sandalwood Oil (EISO) Alleviates Inflammatory and Proliferative Pathologies of Psoriasis. Front Pharmacol. 2017 Mar; 8 (); Article 125. Available from: https://sci-hub.hkvisa.net/10.3389/fphar.2017.00125 
  1. Rakesh Kumar, Nishat Anjum; Phytochemistry and Pharmacology of Santalum album L.: A Review. World Journal of Pharmaceutical Research. 2015 October; 4 (10); 1842-1876. Available from: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/282638998_Phytochemistry_and_Pharmacology_of_Santalum_album_L_A_Review 
  1. Sreevidya Santha, Chandradhar Dwivedi; Anticancer Effects of Sandalwood (Santalum album). ANTICANCER RESEARCH. 2015 June; 35 (6); 3137-3145. Available from: https://ar.iiarjournals.org/content/35/6/3137 
  1. Tamil Nadu Forest Plantation Corporation Limited [TAFCORN]. Sandal wood products. [Internet]. Available from: http://www.tafcorn.tn.gov.in/sand.html 
  1. Kuntal Das; Essential Oils in Food Preservation, Flavor, and Safety. Chapter 82 – Sandalwood (Santalum album) Oils. Academic Press. 2016; (); 723-730. Available from: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/B9780124166417000821 
  1. R Hayakawa, K Matsunaga; Depigmented contact dermatitis due to incense. Contact Dermatitis. 1987 May;16(5); 272-274. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/3621927/ 
  1. Kidney school. Module 15 – Alternative Treatments. [Internet]. Available from: https://kidneyschool.org/pdfs/KSModule15.pdf 
  1. Noura S. Dosoky, William N. Setzer; Maternal Reproductive Toxicity of Some Essential Oils and Their Constituents. Int J Mol Sci. 2021 Mar; 22 (5); 2380. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7956842/ 
  1. New World Encyclopedia. Cedar. [Internet]. Available from: https://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Cedar 
  1. CABI. Invasive Species Compendium. Aniba rosaeodora (rosewood). [Internet]. Available from: https://www.cabi.org/isc/datasheet/5439 
  1. CABI. Invasive Species Compendium. Tectona grandis. [Internet]. Available from: https://www.cabi.org/isc/datasheet/52899 
  1. UniProt. Taxonomy – Santalum album (White sandalwood). [Internet]. Available from: https://www.uniprot.org/taxonomy/35974 
  1. FOREST LEGALITY INITIATIVE. Red Sandalwood. [Internet]. Available from: https://forestlegality.org/risk-tool/species/red-sandalwood 

Also Read: Sarpagandha – Uses, Benefits, Side Effects & Precautions

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