Guide to Sandalwood

Sandalwood is a type plant that belongs to the Santalum family. The plant has a massive, fine-grained yellow wood that retains its fragrance for a long time. In fact, oils are extracted from the wood of sandalwood, and it has a lot of benefits. Sandalwood is one of the most expensive woods in the world. Both the oil and the forest produce a very distinctive fragrance. In this article, we are going to learn more about sandalwood and its uses

True Sandalwoods

Sandalwoods are hemiparasitic trees, which means they derive some of all of their nutritional requirements from other living plants. They are a part of the same botanical family as the mistletoe, and the most popular members of this group are the Indian sandalwood and Australian sandalwood. Other members of this botanical family also produce fragrant wood, and most of them can be found in Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka, Hawaii, Nepal, Australia, and Indonesia.

  • Hawaiian Sandalwood –  This type of sandalwood has a total of three species, and they were all exploited and used between 1790 and 1825. They were considered to be high-quality sandalwood. The Hawaiian sandalwood species eventually ran out, and a fourth species occurred in the subalpine areas, but it was never exported. Today, two species of the Hawaiian sandalwood exist. Still, they are not relatively common, and they did not have the chance to reproduce abundantly.
  • West Indian Sandalwood – This type of sandalwood is now a threatened plant species in South India. They commonly grow in the Western Ghats and in other mountain ranges such as the Shevaroy Hills and Kalyaran. Sandalwood trees in India, Nepal, and Pakistan are all government-owned, and they control how and when these trees are harvested. However, most of them are still being illegally cut down. This is because recently, the price of sandalwood oil skyrocketed to $2,000 per kilogram.

On the other hand, Indian sandalwood is being cultivated on a large scale in Kununurra, a region in Western Australia. These species are the ones that are used to produce sandalwood oil commercially. However, they are not to be confused with the genuine West Indian Sandalwood.

  • Australian Sandalwood – This type of sandalwood is commonly used by perfumers and aromatherapists. This is because the oil concentration of the Australian sandalwood completely differs from other sandalwood species. During the 1840s, Australia was the biggest export earner of sandalwood. In 1875, the first sandalwood oil was distilled, and it became one of Australia’s top products. However, when the 20th century came, their sandalwood oil production became irregular. But in the late 1990s, Western Australian sandalwood was brought back to life. In 2009, more than 20,000 kilograms of sandalwood oil were exported per year, where most of it went to fragrance industries in Europe. Come 2011, the overall production of Western Australian sandalwood has decreased.

How is Sandalwood Produced?

To be able to commercially produce sandalwood with high-levels of fragrance, you will need to have at least a 15-year-old sandalwood tree. The amount of oil and quality depends on the age and location of the tree. Older sandalwood trees tend to have the highest oil content and fragrance quality. As of 2018, the Western Australian sandalwood is the most produced in the world, and the majority of the trees are grown in the region of Kununurra in Western Australia. Today, Western Australian Sandalwood can cost up to AU$ 16,000 per ton, which is why it also sparked the illegal trade of the sandalwood oil. Some reports say that illegally produced sandalwood oil can cost around AU$ 2.5 million. Sandalwood is one of the most expensive wood in the world. That is why it is commonly harvested by removing the entire tree and not sawing it down at the trunk. The root and stump of the sandalwood tree also possess a high level of sandalwood oil, and they can also be sold and processed.

Different Uses of Sandalwood 

Perfumes – Sandalwood oil delivers a pleasant, creamy, warm, smooth, and distinctive soft smell along with a precious wood scent. Aside from that, it also contributes to the longevity of the perfumes. If sandalwood oil is used in smaller proportions when making perfumes, it acts as a fixative, which allows the pressure in the perfume to vaporize. Sandalwood is also one of the main ingredients in creating a floral-ambery scent in a perfume.

Food – Indigenous people in Australia eat the nuts, kernels, seeds, and fruit of local sandalwoods. Early Europeans who lived in Australia used sandalwoods in cooking a traditional Australian soda bread called damper by infusing it with its leaves. They also used sandalwood’s fruit when making pies, jams, and chutneys.