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Sandalwood is an exotic and fragrant herb that is well known throughout the world not just for being an excellent furniture wood but also for its many healing properties. It is one of the highly prized trees in the world and the oil obtained from sandalwood holds medicinal value though it is sought after for its warm and woody fragrance.

Interestingly, sandalwood was used as a medicine in ancient Egypt along with an embalming agent for the dead. It is not hard to decipher that this oil must have some preserving components too.

Sandalwood is the same sacred Chandan tree of Indian native land, threaded intricately into culture and beliefs. It is considered an apt offering for Hindu rituals and is believed to be one of the purest herbs.

The mention of the sweet and loving fragrance of sandalwood is found in the poems of Rabindranath Tagore and it’s healing properties have been mentioned by ancient ayurvedic experts like Charaka and Sushruta.

Even in the modern century sandalwood can be found in most houses in India, whether it is in the form of a sacred wood or as a beauty product.

If you are yet unaware of the cosmetic marvel that sandalwood is, you should definitely read this article. Also, if you are a home remedy expert, it might give you some insights into the delicate workings of sandalwood components and exactly how they can help you get that flawless and shiny skin.

But first, let us know some more about sandalwood.

  • Botanical name: Sandalwood is the heartwood of the sandal (chandan) tree, Santalum album.
  • Family: Santalaceae
  • Common name: Sandalwood, Chandan
  • Parts used: Wood, volatile oil
  • Native region and geographical distribution: Sandalwood is a native of India and it naturally grows in Chile, New Zealand, and Indonesia.
  1. Types of sandalwood
  2. Sandalwood benefits
  3. Sandalwood use
  4. Sandalwood side effects

Red sandalwood and white sandalwood

Both white sandalwood and red sandalwood are well-known for their skin and health benefits. However, apart from the obvious colour difference, there are some other differences between the two, which are:

  • White sandalwood is obtained from the Indian sandalwood tree Santalum album and red sandalwood is obtained from a different tree, Pterocarpus santalinus.
  • While white sandalwood is present in excess and is a parasitic plant, red sandalwood takes long to grow.
  • White sandalwood has a much stronger scent than red sandalwood.
  • White sandalwood is more commonly used in the form of oil and red sandalwood is more commonly used in the form of a powder.

Red sandalwood was an endangered species, however, recently it has been shifted to the near threatened category in the IUCN list.

Sandalwood is just the herb for your skin and hair but its use is not just restricted to cosmetic purposes as it finds a wide range of uses for your health. Let us explore some of the scientifically proven health benefits of sandalwood and its oil.

Sandalwood for face and skin

It is hard to list the benefits of sandalwood without beginning with its benefits for the face and skin. Sandalwood powder is widely used in skin care and facial creams and it is individually used as fairness and skin tightening pack. But does any of that have scientific proof to it?

It doesn’t come as a surprise that both red and white sandalwood are extensively studied for their skin benefits. White sandalwood oil has been found to possess both anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.

In vitro and in vivo (animal based) studies indicate that sandalwood oil can lower the amount of certain inflammatory molecules in the body which are specifically targeted for reducing psoriasis and dermatitis. Being an antioxidant, it helps to wipe off all the age spots, wrinkles and UV damage from your skin.

Furthermore, the chemical components present in Santalum album oil have been demonstrated to be efficient in inhibiting the growth of drug-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, which is the most common pathogen affecting the skin. Not only this, it works against skin yeast infections and viruses like herpes.

And red sandalwood is not far behind in thefor skin benefits either. Just like Santalum album, red sandalwood is an excellent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant. In the traditional system of medicine, a topical application of red sandalwood is used to treat skin diseases and inflammatory skin conditions.

Preclinical studies indicate that a paste made from red sandalwood powder and petroleum jelly can be useful for improving wound healing as it increases collagenesis (formation of skin collagen).

Acne 

Acne is one of the most common skin condition which is caused due to clogging of skin pores with dead skin cells or oil. Propionibacterium acnes is the causative organism for acne. Sandalwood has a dual action on those pesky pimples, it stops the growth of acne-causing bacteria and reduces skin inflammation caused by acne. As an astringent, it tightens the skin and helps close pores. Thus, eliminating the risk of acne in the future.

Whip up a sandalwood face pack by mixing some rosewater and honey and say goodbye to skin problems.

Skin Whitening/Lightening

If you are one of those who is tired of the synthetic bleaching creams or worried about the possible side effects of long-term use on the skin then you need not worry. Sandalwood has long been known as a skin whitening agent in Ayurveda.

According to Ayurveda, skin whitening agents reduce pitta dosha and rakta dhatu, the two components responsible for colour development in foetal skin. Thus, acting as varnya and providing a lighter tone and a natural glow to the skin.

Due to the rising demand for natural cosmetic and skin care products, a lot of research has been done to provide evidence to this claim.

Sandalwood hosts a chemical compound known as alpha-santalol which actively reduces melanocytes (skin pigment cells) in the skin by inhibiting an enzyme known as tyrosinase, thereby, providing a fairer looking glow to your skin.

Whip up a batch of sandalwood face mask by mixing some sandalwood with rosewater and a pinch of turmeric and some aloe gel.

Sandalwood for hair

Though sandalwood is well known for its skin benefits, it does have some benefits for your hair as well.

Studies indicate that inhaling a synthetic sandalwood variant can stimulate the growth of hair from the roots. It does so by activating growth factor IGF-1 and reducing apoptosis (cell death) of hair cells. Burn some sandalwood oil in an oil burner and get longer and healthier hair.

Sandalwood also has some anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, which means that it may help slow down ageing and premature greying of the hair along with age-related hair damage. Red sandalwood is traditionally used to reverse hair greying.

Though no studies have been done to confirm these benefits for hair, all of these properties have been well studied on skin tissue.

Nonetheless, sandalwood is a natural alternative to any chemical and is relatively harmless.

You can always add a dash of sandalwood to your hair mask along with some coconut oil or olive oil and aloe gel.

(Read more: How to stop hair fall)

Sandalwood for diabetes

Increased or unmanageable blood sugar levels can pose a serious threat to health and well being. Diabetics usually find it hard to keep hyperglycemia (high blood sugar) under control and most anti-diabetic medicines have one or the other effect on the body in the long term. As a natural anti-diabetic, sandalwood may be a respite to some.

Preclinical studies suggest that alpha-santalol, the biologically active compound present in sandalwood effectively reduces blood sugar levels. Being a good source of this compound, sandalwood oil is an excellent hypoglycemic agent (reduces blood sugar).

In an animal-based study, regular administration of sandalwood was found to reduce blood glucose by acting as a hypolipidemic (reduces blood cholesterol). 

In a study mentioned in the Journal of Nanoscience and Nanotechnology, nanoparticles made from red sandalwood with zinc oxide, when given together, can better manage diabetes than either of these alone. This is because zinc improves insulin production and function and sandalwood is a natural anti-diabetic.

(Read more: Diabetes symptoms)

Sandalwood for allergic rhinitis

Allergic rhinitis is a condition marked by sneezing, itching and watery eyes among others. It is usually triggered by the presence of an allergen such as dust or pollens and is quite troublesome.

In a random control trial, inhalation of aroma oils was found to reduce rhinitis symptoms along with improving sleep quality and reducing fatigue. The study included a 15-minute inhalation for about a week.

It was further suggested that santalol reduces allergic rhinitis by activating the parasympathetic nervous system.

However, more studies are still needed to confirm this property of sandalwood and find the exact mechanism of action along with its safety profile.

Sandalwood for stress and anxiety

Sandalwood possesses a sweet and woody scent and has sedative action, which is excellent for calming your nerves and providing relief from everyday stress and anxiety. It is widely used in aromatherapy as a relaxant and for stress busting.

In vivo studies demonstrate the neuroleptic (tranquilising) effect of alpha and beta santalol in sandalwood and sandalwood oil.

According to a pilot study mentioned in Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice, sandalwood may have some relaxing and anti-anxiety properties. Sandalwood not only alleviates anxiety but also provides you with a better mental clarity and improves mood which is helpful in improving work performance and day to day activities. Though more studies are needed to confirm this evidence.

Sandalwood as an antimicrobial

Microbes like bacteria, fungi or viruses enter our body by various means and cause disease and sickness. In various studies, sandalwood oil has demonstrated antibacterial action against common human pathogenic bacteria such as Escherichia coli, Salmonella typhimurium and Staphylococcus aureus. It has also been found to significantly reduce the growth of Helicobacter pylori, that causes stomach ulcers and Candida albicans, common pathogenic yeast.

While antibiotics and antifungal treatments are available for inhibiting bacterial and fungal growth, there is no specific treatment for virus borne infections. A number of natural herbs have shown antiviral activity against a wide range of pathogens, sandalwood is one such herb. It has been suggested to reduce the growth of herpes virus and human papilloma virus along with HIV virus in in vitro studies. Though human studies are still to be done, the efficiency of sandalwood can’t be denied against this virus.

Sandalwood has anticancer properties

Sandalwood and alpha-santalol have been extensively studied for their anticancer potential. Both sandalwood oil and alpha santalol reduce the growth and spread of various types of cancer such as skin cancer, prostate cancer, and breast cancer.

A further study demonstrates that sandalwood breaks down mutated DNA in case of breast cancer and thus reduces the proliferation of cancerous cells. Apart from alpha-santalol, beta-santalol, and nuciferol were suggested to be the active anti-cancer compounds in this study.

Though more studies are still needed in this field, sandalwood and all of its components have been suggested to be a natural and safe chemotherapy agent.

Other benefits of sandalwood

  • Traditionally, sandalwood is known to cure cough and bronchitis. It is a natural expectorant, which means it helps expel phlegm from the body.
  • In traditional Indian medicine, sandalwood is used as an aphrodisiac to improve libido. You can either inhale sandalwood oil (put it in a diffuser) or use some sandalwood in your lotion or oils to reap this benefit.
  • Sandalwood calms the nerves and is hence used to reduce muscle spasms and cramps.
  • It is traditionally used as a carminative for reducing stomach gas and flatulence. Sandalwood paste, when applied on the forehead is used to reduce fevers.
  • To reduce the side effects of dehydration, sandalwood paste is given along with some coconut water.
  • Sandalwood oil is an excellent diuretic, which along with its anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties, is useful for relieving urinary tract infections.
  • Sandalwood essential oil and the paste of sandalwood powder have been found to reduce elevated blood pressure.
  • Sandalwood is cooling to the skin, so, it can be used to reduce the itching and rashes in case of prickly heat. Just mix it with some rosewater and a pinch of turmeric and put an even layer on the affected area.

As varied are its uses, sandalwood and sandalwood oil can be used in many ways. You can either use it topically in the form of a paste or oil or ingest it as a health supplement. Since the effect of sandalwood ingestion may vary depending on individual physiology, it is always advisable that you talk to your doctor before ingesting sandalwood in any form. Here is a short list of ways you can add sandalwood in your routine:

  • Massage oil or bath: Add sandalwood to your massage oil or bath to get rid of dry and itchy skin and relieve tension and stress off your muscles. Massaging sandalwood oil on chest or nose can help relieve congestion and reduce cough.
  • Inhalation: If you are not as fond of massage or long baths, you can get yourself an oil diffuser or put a few drops of sandalwood oil on a cotton ball (to be put near you) for inhalation. This may aid in reducing nausea and vomiting along with anxiety and stress reduction.
  • Sandalwood tea: Though the oral use of sandalwood is not as famous or well known, it is used in Ayurveda and herbalism for treating various conditions like flatulence, diarrhoea and UTIs. A tea can be made by adding sandalwood powder to a cup of warm water, which must be taken under the supervision of a doctor.
  • Paste: Sandalwood paste can be mixed with various other components (oils and herbs) to prepare hair or face masks for reducing ageing signs and achieving clear and flawless skin or long hair or to get rid of skin conditions like prickly heat and acne.
  • Sandalwood based products: Due to the increasing awareness and demand for sandalwood, there are a wide range of sandalwood based cosmetic and health products available, which you can easily buy at a local store.
  • In some cases, sandalwood use has been found to cause irritation and itching in humans.
  • Sandalwood is known to reduce blood sugar levels, so if you are a hypoglycemic or a diabetic on medications, it is best that you talk to your doctor before taking sandalwood as a health supplement.
  • Sandalwood has been suggested to be an abortifacient. Pregnant women are advised to stay away from it or talk to a doctor to know more about its safety profile.
  • Due to the absence of safety evidence, breastfeeding mothers should also not use sandalwood or sandalwood oil.
  • If you are using the essential oil of sandalwood, it is always recommended to use a carrier oil such as almond oil or olive oil to dilute it since the use of essential oils directly may be harmful. Just add a few drops of it (generally 1% essential oil per ounce of carrier oil) to your choice of carrier oil and you are set to go.

Medicines / Products that contain Sandalwood

References

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