AskDefine | Define sandalwood

Dictionary Definition

sandalwood n : close-grained fragrant yellowish heartwood of the true sandalwood; has insect-repelling properties and is used for carving and cabinetwork

User Contributed Dictionary



From earlier sandal + wood.




  1. Any of various tropical trees of the genus Santalum, native to India, Hawaii, and many south Pacific islands.
  2. The aromatic heartwood of these trees used in ornamental carving, in the construction of insect-repellent boxes and chests, and as a source of certain perfumes,


Extensive Definition

Sandalwood is the name for several fragrant woods and their essential oil. Most are medium-sized hemiparasitic trees of the Santalaceae family of the genus, Santalum. The most notable members of this group are Santalum album, Indian Sandalwood and Santalum spicatum, Australian sandalwood. Several other members of the genus species also have fragrant wood and are found across India, Australia, Indonesia and the Pacific Islands. Sandalwood has been valued for centuries for its fragrance, woodworking and for various purported medicinal qualities.


  • Santalum album, or Indian sandalwood, is currently endangered and consequently very expensive. Although all sandalwood trees in India and Nepal are government-owned and their harvest is strictly controlled, many trees are illegally cut down and smuggled out of the country. Sandalwood essential oil prices have risen up to $1000-1500 per kg in the last 5 years. Some countries regard the sandal oil trade as ecologically harmful because it encourages the overharvesting of sandalwood trees. Sandalwood from Mysore region of Karnataka, Southern India is generally considered to be of the highest quality available. New plantations have been set up with international aid in Tamilnadu, in order to facilitate the economic benefits of sandalwood. Today, in Kununurra in Western Australia, Indian Sandalwood (Santalum album) is being grown on a very large scale. Huge plantations surround this picturesque little town.
  • Santalum ellipticum, known as Hawaiian sandalwood ( ‘iliahi alo‘e ), is also used and deemed of high quality.
  • Santalum spicatum (Australian sandalwood) is used by some aromatherapists and perfumers. The concentration of constituent chemicals in its essential oil - and hence, its aroma - differ considerably from those of other Santalum species.
(Amyris balsamifera) Also know as West Indian Sandalwood, is not a true sandalwood, being a member of the rutaceae family. The tree is native to Central and South America and the West Indies. Most commercially available amyris oil is distilled in Haiti.
The fragrant wood of Pterocarpus santalinus is referred to as Red sandalwood.great wood from perrys farm


thumb|left| Sandal wood leafTo produce commercially valuable sandalwood with high levels of fragrance oils, harvested santalum trees have to be at least 40 years of age, but 80 or above is preferred. However, inferior sandalwood produced from trees at 30 years old can still fetch a decent price due to the demand for real sandalwood.
Unlike most trees, sandalwood is harvested by toppling the entire santalum tree instead of sawing them down at the trunk. This way, valuable wood from the stump and root can also be sold or processed for oil.


Sandalwood essential oil provides perfumes with a striking wood base note. Sandalwood smells not unlike other wood scents, except it has a bright and fresh edge with few natural analogues. When used in smaller proportions in a perfume, it is an excellent fixative to enhance the head space of other fragrances. The oil from sandalwood is widely used in the cosmetic industry and it is expensive. The true sandalwood is a protected species and its demand cannot be met. Many species of plants are traded under the name of "sandalwood". Within the genus santalum alone, there are more than 19 varieties that can be called sandalwood. Traders will often accept oil from closely related species such like various species of santalum genus and also like oil of west Indian sandalwood (Amyris balsamifera) from the family of Rutaceae.

Religious use

In Hinduism, sandalwood is often used for rituals or ceremonies. Its use as an embalming paste is used in temples on idols. The bindi dot is sometimes created from sandalwood paste.
Sandalwood is considered in alternative medicine to bring one closer with the divine. Sandalwood essential oil, which is very expensive in its pure form, is used primarily for Ayurvedic purposes, and treating anxiety.
It is said to have been used for embalming the corpses of princes in Ceylon since the 9th century.
In Buddhism, sandalwood are considered to be of the Padma (lotus) group and attributed to the Bodhisattva Amitabha. 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 for incense used when offering incense to the Buddha.
Sandalwood, along with agarwood, is the most popular and commonly used incense material by the Chinese and Japanese in worship and various ceremonies. It is also used extensively in Indian incense, religiously or otherwise.
Firekeeping priests, who have maintained sacred fires for centuries, accept sandalwood twigs from Zoroastrian worshippers as their contribution for sustaining the fire.


Sandalwood essential oil was popular in medicine up to 1920-1930, mostly as urogenital (internal) and skin (external) antiseptic. Its main component beta-santalol (~90%) has antimicrobial property. It is used in aromatherapy and sandalwood oil is also used to prepare soaps. Due to this antimicrobial activity, it can be used to clear skin from blackheads and spots, but it must always be properly diluted with a carrier oil. Sandalwood oil should never be applied to the skin without a carrier oil because of its strength.


Due to its low fluorescence and optimal refractive index, sandalwood oil is often employed as an immersion oil within ultraviolet and fluorescence microscopy.


sandalwood in Arabic: صندل (شجر)
sandalwood in German: Sandelholz
sandalwood in Spanish: Santalum album
sandalwood in French: Santal
sandalwood in Indonesian: Cendana
sandalwood in Dutch: Sandelhout
sandalwood in Japanese: 白檀
sandalwood in Norwegian: Sandeltre
sandalwood in Polish: Sandałowiec
sandalwood in Portuguese: Sândalo
sandalwood in Chinese: 檀香木
sandalwood in Persian: چوب صندل
sandalwood in Kannada: ಶ್ರೀಗಂಧ
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