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Facts About the Indian Sandalwood Tree: Description and Uses

A Botany graduate, Nithya Venkat enjoys writing about plants that help to sustain life on planet earth.

Sapling of Sandalwood Tree (Santalum album)

Sapling of Sandalwood Tree (Santalum album)

The Indian sandalwood tree has been used in India since 4000 years ago as an essential ingredient in traditional medicine. The scientific name of the Indian sandalwood is Santalum album.

Santalum album is known by many names such as Indian Sandalwood, White Sandalwood, Mysore Sandalwood, East Indian Sandalwood, and Chandan.

The sandalwood tree grows in abundance in Eastern India in Mysore, Kerala, Karnataka, and Tamil Nadu. This tree is also being cultivated in Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, and North-Western Australia.

The sandalwood tree is highly valued for its sandalwood oil extracted from the heartwood of this tree. This tree can live up to a hundred years.

The wood of the sandalwood tree is yellow and fine-grained. These trees retain their fragrance for decades. Sandalwood trees are semiparasitic trees that belong to the same family as the European mistletoe.

Santalum album is a species indigenous to South India and grows in the Western Ghats and a few other mountain ranges. In Kununurra in Western Australia, the Indian Sandalwood is grown on a large scale for the commercial production of sandalwood oil.

Scientific Classification of the Indian Sandalwood







Sandalwood Flowers

Sandalwood Flowers

Description of the Indian Sandalwood Tree

The Indian sandalwood tree is a semi-parasitic small evergreen tree that is 6-8 meters tall. It obtains some of its nutrients from other plants for its growth. The sandalwood trees are drought tolerant but need a suitable host to flourish.

Santalum album is semi-parasitic, meaning that they are green and make most of their food but rely on the host tree mainly for water and nutrients.

They send out specialized roots that attach to the roots of the host plant to obtain water and nutrients from the plant. In India, Acacia and Casuarina trees are used as hosts to grow this tree.

The bark of the tree is reddish-brown. The smooth trunk of the tree turns rough with age and develops deep vertical fissures.

The leaves are ovate or ovate-elliptical, arranged opposite each other with a bright green and a glabrous texture.

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The flowers are tiny in numerous racemes in varying colors of purplish-brown, straw, reddish, green, or violet, about 4 -6 mm long. The fruit is a small, globose, fleshy drupe with an edible inner seed.

The sandalwood tree is rich in sandalwood oil. The center of the tree trunk, called the “heartwood,” has the maximum oil concentration. The heartwood is dead wood that acts as a pillar of support to the tree.

The outer part of the tree trunk is called “sapwood” and is living. The primary function of the sapwood is to carry water from the roots to the other parts of the tree.

Sandalwood Oil

The sandalwood tree is well-known for its sweet, warm, rich sandalwood oil used as a body fragrance and an ingredient in perfumes, incense, aftershaves, skincare, and many cosmetic products.

Sandalwood has been a part of the religious and spiritual traditions of India and has been used in traditional medicine for thousands of years.

Due to the high demand for sandalwood oil, these trees are cut down illegally. The trees are difficult to propagate and must grow for at least thirty years before they become suitable for harvesting.

How is Sandalwood Oil Extracted?

The heartwood of the roots of the sandalwood tree has a rich content of the aromatic essential sandalwood oil.

Sandalwood oil is extracted using the steam distillation method. In this method, the heartwood is first powdered, then steam is passed through this powdered wood, and the steam comes out carrying the sandalwood oil. The steam is then cooled and further processed to obtain sandalwood oil.

Sandalwood oil can be extracted from the tree only after about 30 years. The trees are not felled but uprooted so that the roots can also be used to extract the aromatic sandalwood oil.

Sandalwood Oil for Aroma Therapy

In India, sandalwood oil has been used in Ayurvedic medicines for thousands of years. It has a soothing, relaxing effect and is used in aromatherapy to relieve stress and have a calming effect.

Medicinal Uses of Sandalwood Oil

In traditional Chinese and Indian medicine, sandalwood oil is used for curing health conditions such as digestive problems, cough, laryngitis, sore throat, nervous disorders, depression, and anxiety.

Sandalwood oil is gentle on the skin and is used to cure skin conditions such as dry, cracked, or chapped skin, rashes, and acne.

Use of Sandalwood Oil in Perfumes

The perfume industry primarily uses sandalwood oil. Sandalwood oil acts as a base and helps blend the distinct aroma of oils used in making natural perfumes, also known as “Attar.”

Sandalwood oil blends and preserves the distinct smell of each essential oil used to make the perfume. It helps to merge two essential oils without overpowering the aroma of other essential oils that are used to make the perfume.

Uses of Sandalwood for Spiritual Purposes

Sandalwood is used for the following spiritual purposes-

  • crafting deities of God for worship
  • making incense that is burned during worship
  • constructing parts of temples

Sandalwood is also used for making meditation beads, and sandalwood paste is used in many sacred rituals.

Sandalwood Blocks and Sandalwood Powder

Sandalwood Blocks and Sandalwood Powder

Sandalwood trees are being cut down in large numbers and are almost extinct in the wild. The Government of India has banned the export of sandalwood to prevent further cutting down of these trees.


This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2014 Nithya Venkat


Nithya Venkat (author) from Dubai on August 23, 2015:

greatstuff you can start to grow a sandalwood plant in a pot but eventually you have to transfer the plant to a bigger space as it grows. Thank you for stopping by.

Mazlan A from Malaysia on August 20, 2015:

I recently met someone who owns a sandalwood plantation and he reassured me that I can plant sandalwood tree in a big plant pots and have it in our house garden. I am a bit skeptical and your article says that the tree can grow up to 15 m. Do you know if it is possible to plant it in a pot?

Nithya Venkat (author) from Dubai on July 19, 2014:

AudreyHowitt thank you for sopping by again, much appreciated.

Audrey Howitt from California on July 18, 2014:

I truly love sandalwood--just thought I would revisit this great article!

Nithya Venkat (author) from Dubai on June 22, 2014:

Lady_E thank you, they do smell wonderful!!

Elena from London, UK on June 22, 2014:

I also love the smell of sandalwood candles. Thanks

Nithya Venkat (author) from Dubai on June 12, 2014:

nighthag sadly what you say is true. Sandalwood is becoming an endangered tree and I hope this tree does not become totally extinct the way things are going. Thank you for stopping by.

K.A.E Grove from Australia on June 11, 2014:

Sandalwood is one of my ultimate favorite scents for use in aromatherapy, but sadly it is almost extinct in the wild which of course drives up the prices, but hopefully with governments such as India taking a stronger stance that may only be a temporary thing.

great hub rich with good information

Nithya Venkat (author) from Dubai on May 05, 2014:

teaches12345 thank you for your visit, much appreciated.

Dianna Mendez on May 04, 2014:

I remember my mother used this scent in lotions. Thanks for the background on this interesting tree.

Nithya Venkat (author) from Dubai on April 29, 2014:

rajan jolly thank you for stopping by. Thanks for the votes too, waiting to read your hub.

Rajan Singh Jolly from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on April 29, 2014:

Nithya, lots of useful information on Sandalwood. Interestingly, I had a hub on sandalwood in mind as well. Let's see how it goes.

Voted up, interesting and useful.

Nithya Venkat (author) from Dubai on April 27, 2014:

Anita lesic thank you.

Dream Lover from Zagreb on April 27, 2014:

interesting article about tree ;)))

Nithya Venkat (author) from Dubai on April 27, 2014:

suzettenaples thank you, yes I really do hope that the trees do not become extinct.

alway sexploring thank you, a sandalwood plaque will be great.

Nellienna thank you for stopping by and yes the aroma of sandalwood is awesome.

tramvaj thank you for stopping by, it is great to know about the amazing tree.

travmaj from australia on April 26, 2014:

Informative article, thank you. I love sandalwood. I was introduced to it on the island of Sumba in Indonesia. It was good to have additional information.

Nellieanna Hay from TEXAS on April 25, 2014:

I enjoy the aroma of sandalwood and enjoy it in incense, but had no idea how versatile the tree is! Thank you for this informative and fascinating article, Vellur!

Ruby Jean Richert from Southern Illinois on April 25, 2014:

Interesting article. Sandalwood oil is used for so many things i was unaware of. I would love to have a sandalwood plaque. Thank you for bring another educational hub...

Suzette Walker from Taos, NM on April 25, 2014:

Vellur: I love the scent of Sandalwood. I had no idea of the benefits of the sandalwood oil until reading this. This is such an interesting and informative article. I hope the tree does not become extinct. The wood is also beautiful used for carvings and in construction. Thanks for sharing your knowledge in this area.

Nithya Venkat (author) from Dubai on April 25, 2014:

Audrey Howitt thank you, sandalwood is wonderful in every way!

Jackie Lynnley I love the aroma too and it is simply divine.

AliciaC thank you for reading and am glad my hub was informative.

tirelesstravler sandalwood oil is great you should check it out. Thank you for stopping by.

Faith Reaper thank you and am glad you came to know more about this tree. Thank you for your vote and blessings. Have a great weekend.

Faith Reaper from southern USA on April 25, 2014:

Great article here, very useful and informative about the sandlewood tree. I learned a lot of the tree here that I did not know.

Up and more and away.

I hope you have a lovely weekend ahead.


Judy Specht from California on April 24, 2014:

Sandalwood perfume and incense is all I have ever heard of using sandalwood for. Must investigate the nourishing oil.

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on April 24, 2014:

I've seen products with sandalwood oil in stores but didn't know much about the tree until I read this hub. Thanks for sharing the interesting and useful information, Vellur!

Jackie Lynnley from the beautiful south on April 24, 2014:

Thank you for a very informative article about the sandlewood tree and I just absolutely love that aroma. ^

Audrey Howitt from California on April 24, 2014:

Love, love sandalwood--so it was wonderful to read more about it! Thank you!!

Nithya Venkat (author) from Dubai on April 24, 2014:

awordlover, Rachel thank you for your appreciation and vote up.

ChithrangadaSharan thank you for your visit.

Denise Handlon thank you for stopping by and am glad you enjoyed. Thank you for the vote up and pin.

billybuc thank you for your visit and yes it does grow in America.

dearabbysmom thank you for reading and vote up.

dearabbysmom from Indiana on April 24, 2014:

I use sandalwood essential oil in soaps, but had never learned about the trees. Very interesting! Voted up and interesting.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on April 24, 2014:

I don't believe it grows here, but this was interesting. I always enjoy these educational articles. Well done!

Denise Handlon from North Carolina on April 24, 2014:

Vellur-thank you for sharing so many interesting facts about the Sandalwood tree, I've learned many new things. I've always loved the sandalwood fragrance, but now I am aware of how it is extracted. I enjoyed the video as well. UP/and across except for funny. Will Pinn it and share.

Chitrangada Sharan from New Delhi, India on April 24, 2014:

I use Sandalwood in everyday life--for worships, for face pack or perfumes etc. But the information you provided in this hub is awesome and very interesting.

Good to see the picture of the Sandalwood tree. Thanks for sharing this wonderful hub!

awordlover on April 24, 2014:

This is such a pretty wood, blends with most decor. I like how your hub flowed with the way you showed your information, nice and organized.

Voted up and interesting.


Nithya Venkat (author) from Dubai on April 24, 2014:

DDE thank you, sandalwood oil is great for the skin.

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on April 24, 2014:

I have Sanadalwood oil and nourished the skin so beautifully but have learned more here about the wonder tree. An informative and interesting hub.Voted up, useful and interesting.

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