Sandalwood, as an essential oil, is today available for purchase in various species. Traditionally, Santalum album has been the favorite for use as an essential oil but other species such as New Caledonian, Australian, and Royal Hawaiian are now becoming more popular for aromatherapy use. Here is a quick look at the “newcomers” to the market.
East Indian Sandalwood Essential Oil
East Indian sandalwood (Santalum album) essential oil has been the traditional species used by aromatherapists until concern grew for the future of the species. Traditionally grown in the Mysore region of India for essential oil production, the Santalum album species has faced threats from poaching, over harvesting, and political disagreements in the region. In addition to its use in medicine, it has traditionally been used as building material for temples. Sandalwood trees are slow to mature; it takes thirty years for a tree to reach maturity for extraction of essential oil.1
The aroma of sandalwood essential oil is a deep, woody, balsamic aroma with a strong tenacity (or “dry-down”), making it useful not only for aromatherapy therapeutic purposes, but also as a fixative for perfumes. The essential oil is steam distilled from heartwood of the tree.
New Caledonian Sandalwood Essential Oil
Personally, I find New Caledonian sandalwood (Santalum austrocaledonicum) essential oil the closest in aroma to Santalum album. It has the santalol-rich, deep, woody, balsamic aroma that I associate with traditional sandalwood essential oil. Indeed, Tisserand and Young state in their book, Essential Oil Safety, that New Caledonian sandalwood oil “is the closest to East Indian sandalwood (Santalum album) in terms of both composition and aroma.”2
New Caldedonian sandalwood essential oil is steam distilled from the heartwood of the tree and it is usually plantation grown. An absolute is also produced from the tree.
Australian Sandalwood Essential Oil
Australian sandalwood (Santalum spicta) essential oil is not as close in aroma to East Indian sandalwood essential oil, probably because it does not contain the same high quantity of the santalol chemical component. However, its lighter aroma may be preferred by some who do not like deep aromas.
Australian sandalwood essential oil can be steam distilled from the heartwood of the tree – or be produced by solvent extraction.
Royal Hawaiian Sandalwood Essential Oil
Royal Hawaiian sandalwood (Santalum paniculatum) essential oil is produced in Hawaii, as its name suggests. It does contain a high percentage of the santalol component3 and it is more preferable in aroma, to me, than Australian sandalwood essential oil. It is also steam distilled from the heartwood of the sandalwood tree.
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Lawless, Julia, 1995, The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Essential Oils, UK: Thorsons
Tisserand, Robert, Rodney Young, 2014, Essential Oil Safety, UK: Churchill Livingstone Elsevier
Eden Botanicals website, COA for Royal Hawaiian Sandalwood (Santalum paniculatum) Essential Oil, accessed December 28, 2015
Author is a UK-certified aromatherapist, published author and editor in aromatherapy, an approved education provider for the National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy (NAHA), an aromatherapy business owner, and Chief Editor for the NAHA Aromatherapy Journal.