Sandalwood oil is found in many perfumes and air fresheners. It’s a classic scent from a valuable tree. But the value of sandalwood oil may go beyond smell and extend to health.

Tell us about your experience with sandalwood »

Sandalwood oil comes from the wood and roots of Santalum album, or East Indian sandalwood. Sandalwood itself is used across the globe and is one of the most valuable trees in the world. Though West Indian and African sandalwood oils have been produced in the past, they’re no longer widely available.

Read on to find out why sandalwood and its oil are so prized in the field of alternative medicine.

The Health Potential of Sandalwood Oil

Sandalwood oil has a multitude of traditional uses. East Indian sandalwood oil has been popular in Ayurvedic medicine, or the folk medicine of India, as well as Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) for centuries.

In these practices, sandalwood oil is used to treat:

Did You Know?
The ancient Egyptians used sandalwood for embalming and ritual burning. Sandalwood is one of the most valuable trees in the world.
  • mental disorders
  • the common cold
  • urinary tract infections
  • piles
  • scabies
  • liver and gall bladder problems
  • digestive and muscle relaxant

Sandalwood’s scent makes it a popular choice for perfumes and for use in aromatherapy. Aromatherapy is the use of aromatic oils to achieve mental and physical health outcomes. Many ancient cultures practiced aromatherapy, recognizing the benefits of scented oils long before aromatherapy was even a word.

Not many benefits of sandalwood oil have been tested in a lab. Because aromatherapy is often considered an alternative medical therapy, research on the use of sandalwood oil as a health product is limited.

It may effective at increasing alertness. One study found that when compared with a synthetic form of oil and an odorless placebo, sandalwood oil increased pulse, blood pressure, and perspiration — all markers of arousal.

It can help with anxiety. Despite increasing arousal, another study found evidence that sandalwood oil can reduce anxiety. While the researchers admit that their sample size was too small for conclusive findings, aromatherapy massage using sandalwood oil was shown to be an effective treatment for anxiety.

Scientists have found topical potential for sandalwood oil. Research in Germany suggest that these benefits are often due to olfactory receptors in the skin. Normally we only think of these receptors as being found in the nose. Their work found sandalwood oil to have applications in wound healing and skin regeneration.

Guard against skin cancer. Research is still in its very early stages, but recent tests show that a compound in sandalwood oil, a-santalol, may have anticancer benefits. It may help guard against skin cancer by preventing the development of precancerous cells into rough, scaly patches called actinic keratosis, which can develop into skin cancer.

Win the fight against antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Scientists say essential oils including sandalwood may provide a cheap and effective way of fighting against MRSA, an antibiotic-resistant staph infection. These oils appear to prevent even antibiotic resistant strains when used topically.

How to Find Good Quality Sandalwood Oil

The free alcohols in sandalwood, known as santalol, are responsible for its scent and effects. In order to be sold as authentic sandalwood, the product must have a minimum free alcohol level of 90 percent. In the United States, the Environmental Protection Agency has set a quality standard for sandalwood oil.  

Because sandalwood oil is in such high demand, there are synthetic products on the market. And because the United States is one of the largest importers of sandalwood oil, there’s a chance you may find some of these lesser quality oils. 

You can improve your chance of finding real sandalwood oil by checking the label for an indication that the oil is authentic oil from Santalum album. Words like “scented oil” or “perfumed oil” could indicate a synthetic product.

Using Sandalwood Oil at Home

There are many ways to use aromatherapy at home. You can apply sandalwood oil directly to your skin, put a few drops in your lotion, heat it in a small kettle of water to scent your home, or add it to your bath water.

Some people have allergic reactions to essential oils. These reactions are rare, but normally occur when applying it directly to the skin. If you’re concerned about a reaction, test a small amount of sandalwood oil mixed with a carrier oil or lotion on a small patch of skin before using it copiously.

The Takeaway

Sandalwood oil may have many health benefits, though hard proof is lacking. Still, the scent alone can be comforting and enjoyable and may be reason enough to give it a shot.