TRUE SANDALWOODS: THE DIFFERENT SPECIES, THEIR QUALITY, THEIR EXTRACTS & THEIR APPLICATIONS
SANDALWOOD DIFFERENT SPECIES:
Sandalwoods, Santalum in Latin, belong to the Santalaceae family of tree.
Over 19 species of Sandalwood exist in the world, appreciated for the density and longevity of the timber.
Of these, only a few Sandalwood species produce a highly aromatic heartwood.
Aromatic Sandalwoods are the most value, most-East Indian Sandalwood in particular- have been considered “sacred” in many cultures for thousands of years. Their timber is carved into decorative object for temples and cultural rituals and events. It is distilled to produce the precious Sandalwood essential oils.
The most valued Sandalwoods in term of essential oil production are:
- Santalum album, aka East Indian Sandalwood or White Sandalwood, native to INDIA, the islands of Timor and Sumba (INDONESIA) and cultivated in Australia (North), Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Sri Lanka.
- Santalum austrocaledonicum aka yellow sandalwood or Pacific sandalwood: naturally found in the PACIFIC ISLANDS, FIJI, HAWAII, NEW-CALEDONIA, and VANUATU.
- Santalum macgregorii naturally found in INDONESIA and PAPUA NEW GUINEA
- Santalum lanceolatum native to AUSTRALIA (South)
- Santalum paniculatum native to HAWAII
- Santalum spicatum, native to AUSTRALIA (West) aka West Australian Sandalwood
All aromatic Sandalwood are characterised by the presence of natural Santalol (alpha-Santalol and beta-santalol) compounds in their wood, concentrated in the heartwood and in the roots, and thus in their essential oil.
Sandalwood essential oils are somewhat viscous.
The Indian native Sandalwood essential oil, Santalum album, despite all its scarcity, remains THE standard reference in term of fragrance quality, aromatic and molecular build, this is the most sought after.
Australia now produces both Australian Sandalwood (Santalum spicatum) and Indian Sandalwood Santalum album)
Australian Sandalwood (Santalum spicatum): is native to Australia and found predominantly in the middle and southern parts of Western Australia.
Since the 1990’s, Santalum album is grown in North-Australia plantations, from seedling imported from India.
AT eOil, WE OFFER THE FOLLOWING TRUE SANDALWOOD ESSENTIAL OILS OPTIONS:
- Chemical build: 57to 80% santalol (Cis-alpha-Santalol, cis-beta-Santalol), epi-beta-Santalol, alpha-Santalene, trans-alpha-Bergamotol
- Santalum album, is low in farsenol and contains no beta-caryophyllene, no d-cadinene, no amyroline, etc
- Aroma: Sweet, Woody, buttery, warm, sensual, and enveloping. Pale yellow to yellow, somewhat viscous.
- Uses: Considered a sacred oil by many cultures, Indian Sandalwood essential oil has many traditional applications (ritual ceremonies, religions, meditation, ayurveda and Asian medicine) and properties used in healthcare formulations, in aromatherapy, skincare formulations, personal hygiene, body care, mind relaxation and natural cosmetics. East Indian sandalwood is sought after by natural perfumers (high-end perfumes) for its excellent fixative qualities that give a perfume a deep warm long and lasting presence.
- Chemical build: 51 to 65% santanol. (Cis-alpha-Santalol, cis-beta-Santalol), cis-Lanceol, epi-beta-Santalol, cis-epi-beta-Santalol). No beta-caryophyllen, no d-cadinene, no amyroline…
- Because of the high content in alpha and beta santalol, Pacific Sandalwood (Yellow Sandalwood) is the closest, in its built and in its wellbeing application, to Indian Sandalwood. But Pacific sandalwood has a slightly different aroma than Indian Sandalwood.
- Aroma: In Pacific (Yellow) Sandalwood, the resinous cedarwood comes outs notes at first followed by the softer warm, woody, somewhat buttery aroma; Its dry down though, is unmistakably that of sandalwood.
- Uses: Same as Indian Sandalwood, aromatherapy, wellbeing, High-end perfumery.
- Chemical build: 20 to 45% Santalol (cis-alpha-Santalol, cis-beta-Santalol), farnesol, cis-Nuciferol, cis-beta-Curcumene-12-ol, epi-alpha-Bisabolol
- Uses: Australian Sandalwood essential oil has a lower santalol composition which limits its therapeutic benefits and applications. Used to create relaxing atmospheres with diffusers blends, As a natural fragrance in cosmetics, soaps and in perfumery.
- Aroma: very woody, with pine and cedar, spicy somewhat creamy and sensual, unmistakably sandalwood.
A side NOTE ABOUT AMYRIS:
Amyris essential oil, from the Amyris balsamifera tree is often referred to, and commercially sold as Sandalwood. Although it has some of the warm and woody aromatic notes of sandalwoods, Amyris is part of the Rutaceae family, and is NOT a Sandalwood. It has an aroma, properties, and applications closer to those of the cedarwood. Because of its stronger woody aroma and its fixative qualities Amyris essential oil is often used in perfumery as a cheaper alternative to true Sandalwoods
Amyris balsamifera, from the Dominican Republic, Haiti. Produces Amyris oil so called West Indies Sandalwood and commercially often offered as Sandalwood.
Aroma: Very woody, Reminiscent of Cedarwood, resinous.
Amyris essential oil steam distilled from twigs, tree branches.
Chemical build: No santalol in Amyris oil, up to 20% beta-caryophyllen, d-cadinene, amyroline, etc (Valerianol, Elemol, 7 epi-alpha-Eudesmol, 10 epi-gamma-Eudesmol, beta-Eudesmol
Uses: in Natural perfumery as a cheaper fixative alternative to Sandalwood. In Aromatherapy similar applications to Cedarwood essential oil.
- cultivated in massive plantations. To make the essential oil, the tree is uprooted, the branches separated from the trunk and the roots removed from the ground. It is then reduced into small pieces or granules before being sent to the various distillation units in the sector. The essential oil is mainly developed in the roots and the tree is uprooted during the rainy season so that the roots are filled with the precious essential oil.
VULNERABILITY, PROTECTION, CONSERVATION, and EXPLOITATION OF SANDALWOOD.
Like most of the aromatic sandalwood species, the Santalum album, native to India, Sri Lanka, and Indonesia specifically, is listed as vulnerable (VU) by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and is protected in its natural habitat (in the wild) by strict regulations.
Not only has the slow growing tree been over-exploited in its natural environment, but the specie is also highly affected by the Spike disease, who has destroyed many of the trees.
Under IUCN regulations, the cutting of all (worldwide) aromatic Sandalwoods, in the wild, is strictly prohibited.
For the past 20 years (early 2000s) Sandalwoods exploitation in India, are restricted to sustainably managed Agro-forestry cooperatives and private farms. The sale of its products (Raw Timber and oil) is monitored by the Indian Government, through its forest, environment, and climate change department (Directorate General of Foreign Trade – DGFT in short).
Nowadays, the only legal exploitation of sandalwood timber, worldwide, comes from trees grown in plantations. Those exploitations whether private, farmers-coops or NGOs projects, are monitored by their relevant state institutions, who fix and grant quotas. Each planted tree must be inspected and registered before cutting authorization are granted, and trees are only uprooted when they have reached the right concentration of oil in their heartwood. For each uprooted tree, another sapling must be planted.
SANDALWOOD TREE USES:
Aromatic Sandalwood are precious not only for their essential oils. Historically, whole parts of Sandalwoods trees have been part of the cultural, spiritual, and traditional healthcare of many a people in the world. Sandalwoods are still used for:
THE BARK who contains tannin that are used in dyes.
THE FRUITS that are used as food; Sandalwood fruits are edible and have been consumed as bush food. The kernels are used to make a fixed oil (carrier oil)
THE LEAVES that are appreciated by animal that graze freely in nature (cattle, sheep, goats…)
THE TIMBER- (BRANCHES, TRUNK, AND ROOTS): Sandalwood timber is usually dense, durable, and strong. Superior quality Sandalwoods produce a fine grain, oily, and aromatic heartwood, and roots. The timber is used in precious or cultural ornamental carving (boxes, statuettes for temples, prayer beads…) and to extract the highly valuable essential oil.
- Sandalwood essential oil is distilled from the aromatic heartwoods and roots (Sandalwood roots contain the maximum concentration of oil). The essential oil is used in Aromatherapy, herbal formulations, and traditional medicines cosmetics, high end perfumery and the manufacture of personal hygiene products and cosmetic (soaps, creams, lotions).
- Powder from the heartwood is used to make incense sticks, burnt as perfumes in houses and temples, or is ground into a paste and used as a cosmetic.
SANDALWOOD ESSENTIAL OIL DISTILLATION:
- Leaves, branches, bark, and sapwood (wood parts that surround the heartwood) are removed and re-cycled.
- Roots and heartwood are cut in logs to be sold and/or exported (Government Quotas applied).
- A part of the logs is reduced to chips and powdered to be steam distilled for essential oil and sandalwood hydrosol.
- Microwave hydro distillation (‘Green distillation’), a modern method of distillation that use less water and yields more essential oil, is now often the preferred in modern distilleries.
UPCYCLING BY-PRODUCT OF SANDALWOOD ESSENTIAL OIL DISTILLATION:
After the distillation process, Sandalwood powder is dried and used for the manufacture of incense sticks or cones, or incorporated into various herbal ritual or cosmetics products (body scrubs or soaps).