Sandalwood essential 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. Sandalwood may offer some health benefits as well.

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

Sandalwood and its essential oil are prized in the field of alternative medicine. It’s traditionally used to help treat a variety of conditions. Most of its traditional uses haven’t been scientifically tested, but some research suggests sandalwood may help treat certain health problems.

Sandalwood essential oil has many traditional uses. For centuries, East Indian sandalwood oil has been a popular ingredient in Ayurvedic medicine, the folk medicine of India. It’s also been used in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM).

In these traditions, sandalwood oil has been used with other therapies to help manage:

Sandalwood’s scent also makes it a popular choice for perfumes and aromatherapy. In aromatherapy, aromatic oils are used to promote mental and physical health outcomes. Many ancient cultures practiced aromatherapy. It remains popular among some people today.

Few of the traditional uses of sandalwood oil have been tested with modern science. There is a lack of studies evaluating the health benefits of sandalwood. This is why scientific research on its health benefits is limited.

Some studies have supported the idea that sandalwood has health perks. For example, research suggests that sandalwood may help:

  • anti-inflammatory
  • manage anxiety
  • support wound healing
  • guard against skin cancer
  • fight bacteria


Sandalwood may have anti-inflammatory effects by altering cell signaling in the body. There is some evidence that sandalwood may help decrease inflammation in the case of skin disorders such as psoriasis and atopic dermatitis.


One study of 87 women undergoing a breast biopsy showed that lavender, sandalwood, and orange-peppermint aromatherapy helped reduce their anxiety. Their beginning anxiety levels were self-reported, as were their anxiety levels after the aromatherapy.

Another study of 32 people in Vienna, Austria, had participants inhale lavender and sandalwood oil. The study found that the participants” blood pressure levels were lower and that the cortisol levels in their saliva were lower after the aromatherapy.

Wound healing

Researchers from Ruhr-Universität Bochum in Germany found that skin cells contain olfactory receptors for sandalwood. When they activated those receptors, it appeared to promote skin cell growth.

Skin cancer

A study reported in the Archives of Biochemistry and Biophysics suggests a compound found in sandalwood oil may help fight skin cancer. That compound is called α-santalol. Some studies have shown that this component can help promote cell death of cancerous cells.

The free alcohols found in sandalwood oil are known as santalol. They’re responsible for its scent and effects. To meet the international standard for authentic sandalwood oil, a product must have a minimum free alcohol level of 90%.

Because sandalwood oil is in high demand, there are synthetic products on the market. The United States is one of the largest importers of sandalwood oil, so there’s a chance you may find lesser quality oils on your local shelves. To improve your chance of finding authentic sandalwood oil, check the label for signs that it’s derived from Santalum album. Words like “scented oil” or “perfumed oil” might indicate a synthetic product.

There are many ways to use sandalwood oil in aromatherapy at home. You can:

  • put a few drops in an ounce of your favorite lotion
  • heat it in a small kettle of water to scent your home
  • evaporate it using an essential oil infuser
  • mix a few drops with an ounce of carrier oil like sweet almond oil and apply to your skin

Some people have allergic reactions to essential oils. They most often occur when people apply essential oils directly to their skin. If you’re concerned about an allergic reaction, test a small amount of sandalwood oil mixed with a carrier oil or lotion on a small patch of your skin. Wait to see if you react before using larger amounts.

Although concrete medical proof is lacking, sandalwood oil may have many health benefits. More research is needed to confirm the health benefits of sandalwood oil. In the meantime, the scent alone may be comforting and enjoyable. That may be reason enough to give aromatherapy with sandalwood oil a try.