Definitions

true sandalwood

Sandalwood

[san-dl-wood]
for the film industry in India see Cinema of Karnataka
Sandalwood is the name for several fragrant woods and their essential oil. Most are medium-sized hemiparasitic trees in the genus Santalum of the Santalaceae family. 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 various purported medicinal qualities. The local name in Indonesia and Malaysia is "Cendana" (Pronounced Churn.dar.nar). They are also some of the heaviest forms of wood in the world.

Sandalwoods

  • Santalum album, or Indian sandalwood, is currently endangered and consequently very expensive. Chandan(Chondon-pronounced in Bengali or other Indian languages) is the Indian name for sandalwood (specifically santalum album), which grows on the western ghats of the Indian subcontinent. In Hindu rituals chandan paste, prepared from the wood of the chandan tree, has occupied an important position of puja materials since antiquity. On the forehead, a tilaka (mark) of Chandan paste is applied during pujas. Deities representing violent attributes are often smeared with chandan paste to cool them down.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 widely 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. In the 1840’s, sandalwood was Western Australia’s biggest export earner. Oil was distilled for the first time in 1875, and by the turn of the century, there was intermittent production of Australian sandalwood oil.

Amyris balsamifera, also known as West Indian sandalwood, is a member of the rutaceae family and not a true sandalwood. The tree is native to Central and South America and the Caribbean. Most commercially available amyris oil is distilled in Haiti.

The fragrant wood of Pterocarpus santalinus is referred to as red sandalwood.

Production

To 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.

Use

Fragrance

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 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 as various species of santalum genus and the oil of West Indian sandalwood (Amyris balsamifera) from the family of Rutaceae.

Religious use

In Hinduism, sandalwood is often used for rituals or ceremonies. It is used as an embalming paste 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, sandalwoods 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.

Medicine

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 properties. It is used in aromatherapy and 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. Because of its strength, sandalwood oil should never be applied to the skin without a carrier oil.

Technology

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

Food

Australian Aborigines ate the seed kernels, nuts, and fruit of sandalwood.

References

  • Mandy Aftel, Essence and Alchemy: A Natural History of Perfume, Gibbs Smith, 2001, ISBN 1-58685-702-9
  • The Good Scents Company, West Indian (Amyris balsamifera) content http://www.thegoodscentscompany.com/data/es1028831.html
  • Essential Oils Company, East Indian (Santalum album) Glc Test Report http://www.essentialoilscompany.com/swglc.htm

External links

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