Indian Sandalwood

Santalum album (Santalaceae)

Characteristics

Evergreen tree, 4-9 m tall. Up to one hundred years old. It parasitizes the roots of other tree species with a haustorium adaptation on its own roots, but without major detriment to its host. Bark reddish to brown (to black), smooth in young trees, becoming cracked with a red reveal. Heartwood pale green to white (“album”). Leaves thin, opposite, ovate, glabrous. Fruit is produced after three years, viable seeds after five. Seeds are distributed by birds.

The plant is widely cultivated because of its valuable wood. Indian Sandalwood (Santalum album) is the primary source of sandalwood and the derived oil. The woods are heavy, fine-grained and unlike many other aromatic woods, they retain their fragrance for decades. Indian Sandalwood still commands high prices for its essential oil, but due to lack of sizeable trees it is no longer used for fine woodworking as before.

Distribution

Native to southern India and Southeast Asia. Now cultivated in India, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Australia and some parts of Oceania.

Natural Medical  Properties

Sandalwood contains 3 – 6% essential oils (predominantly the sesquiterpenols alpha- and beta-santalol), resin and tannins.

It is an aromatic, bittersweet, astringent herb that cools the body, calms the mind, relieves spasms and improves digestion.

It has diuretic, analgesic, antiseptic, expectorant and stimulant effects.

The wood or essential oil is taken internally in the treatment of genito-urinary disorders, fever, sunstroke, digestive problems and abdominal pain.

A paste of the wood is used externally to treat skin complaints.

Sandalwood oil is little used in modern herbalism, its main application is in aromatherapy.

Did you know?

The high value of the species has caused its past exploitation to the point where the wild population is vulnerable to extinction.

Further reading:

Literature

World Flora Online
WorldChecklist of Selected Plant Families
A working list of all plant species