Sandalwood, in its various forms, is a part of most rituals in Indian homes. Its paste is as much a part of religious rituals as marriages. Along with turmeric paste, sandalwood paste is traditionally considered to be a beauty enhancer. But its virtues extend way beyond just beauty.
Sandalwood is a very fragrant wood obtained from the trees of the Santalum genus. Pure sandalwood is obtained from the Indian member of this family called Santalum Album. There are other members in this family whose wood have similar properties, but the wood and oil lose their fragrance in a few months or years.
For centuries, the multiple properties of sandalwood have been used in beauty treatments and medicines. The parts of the tree used are the wood, bark and essential oil. It is used both by itself and in combination with other ingredients in creating remedies for many conditions and problems of the skin. It is also a coolant for the body and is used as such in summer.
Here are some benefits of sandalwood:
1. Gives bright and flawless skin: Sandalwood paste applied to the skin soothes skin eruptions, rashes and itches. It promotes healing through the formation of scar tissues. Sandalwood oil can clear up scars, blemishes, spots or eczema on the skin and prevent their recurrence. A sandalwood and rose water pack can give relief from prickly heat caused by excessive sweating on the face, neck, back or anywhere else on the body. Also, a pack made of sandalwood powder mixed with coconut and almond oil can remove sunburn and mute sun tan from any part of the body. A few drops of sandalwood oil mixed with moisturiser and applied to the face daily makes the skin soft.
2. Cures skin infections: Sandalwood oil has cooling properties that can soothe itchiness of skin and clear up skin infections. It is known to reduce skin inflammation and eruptions and acne. To remove acne marks, make a mixture of sandalwood powder with some turmeric and camphor and apply it to the face or any affected part of the body. Leaving this mixture on overnight gives the best result. For psoriasis and eczema and allergies, mix sandalwood powder with very little camphor and water and apply to relieve the itch.
3. Prevents skin aging: As we age, our skin also begins to show the signs. The skin becomes looser and sags, age spots show up and the skin loses the glow of youth. Sandalwood oil can slow down this process. If it is used as soon as the signs of aging are noticed, it can make a great deal of difference. It can also work on skin that has already been affected, if used regularly. It is useful in reducing stretch marks as well. A face mask made of sandalwood powder, fuller’s earth or multani mitti with green tea will give extremely good results in preventing aging of the skin.
4. Gets rid of inflammation: It can be used to treat both internal and external inflammation. Being anti-inflammatory in nature, sandalwood has a soothing effect and provides relief from internal inflammation. It can be ingested in tonic form to soothe a sore nervous system, circulatory system, digestive and excretory system. If any system of the body is infected due to any reason, then sandalwood oil is the most natural healer. It cools down the affected area.
5. Controls spasms: Sandalwood oil is an excellent massage oil. A massage with the oil can relax muscles that have become stiff and inelastic due to a sedentary lifestyle, or sore due to exercise. The sedative effect of the oil works both at the superficial and the internal level to soothe the muscle walls. Other than muscle fibres, it works on the nerves and blood vessels relaxing them and relieving severe spasms and muscle contractions. It also helps in treating other effects of muscle contractions, such as coughing cramps and throbbing pains. Rubbing sandalwood oil mixed into a carrier oil over the throat and diaphragm relaxes the muscles and stops hiccups. When massaged over the lower belly region it helps to relieve the symptoms of menstrual cramps.
6. Heals wounds: Sandalwood oil has anti-septic properties and has been used for a long time to heal wounds. Being anti-microbial, it prevents wounds, scratches, lesions, boils and acne from getting infected or developing gangrene. Along with external applications, this essential oil can also be taken internally. To ingest this oil, a few drops can be added to warm milk to make a soothing drink. This mixture, taken regularly can help protect the digestive system from ulcers, and infections of the throat, gullet and renal system.
7. Boosts renal health: Sandalwood oil is a very good diuretic agent. It is used as a natural treatment for urinary tract and kidney infections. It cleans the kidneys by promoting urination and attacks the infection from within. By relieving soreness of the excretory system and inducing a cooling effect, the passage of urine becomes easier and amount of urine is increased. Additionally, its anti-septic properties can be used to treat inflammation of the genital organs and urinary bladder.
8. Prevents body odour: Sandalwood powder, lotions and deodorants are excellent preventives for body odour. Regular usage prevents the build-up of bacteria that causes body odour. The wonderful fragrance of sandalwood keeps you smelling fresh and clean all day.
9. Treats coughs and colds: Sandalwood oil is an effective expectorant. It is very good in treating coughs and colds. It also fights against the viruses that cause flu, mumps or any other throat-related illness. It is, in general a great agent for promoting good health.
10. Regulates blood pressure: Sandalwood oil can be of great benefit to anyone suffering from hypertension or high blood pressure. The oil has components that can regulate the blood pressure. Externally, it has been found to decrease the systolic pressure when applied directly to the skin. (Sandalwood oil is one of the very few essential oils that can be applied directly on the skin without diluting with a carrier oil). For internal use, it is consumed with either milk or water. This cuts the risk of hypertension.
11. Relieves stress and anxiety: Sandalwood oil can be of great use to relieve daily stress and anxiety. Pour a few drops of the oil on a piece of clean cloth and place it on your face after lying down. The aroma of the oil helps to release the endorphins or the feel-good hormones in the brain and aids in relaxation and destressing. Since it is sedative in nature, it has a calming effect on the nervous system. It also helps in increasing focus and attention when working.
12. Moisturises skin: Sandalwood oil mixed with a base oil forms an excellent body oil for treatment of dry skin. Mix with rose oil and a few drops of vanilla essence in a neutral oil or lotion for a fragrant moisturiser. It can also be used to make fragrances and cologne.
13. Fights skin cancer: One of the main components of sandalwood oil called santalol, has been recently found to have promise in the treatment of skin cancer. When applied to the affected skin, it displayed properties that caused the cancer cells to stop multiplying and die. Santalol is also known to have anaesthetic, anti-fungal, anti-septic and anti-bacterial properties.
14. Moisturises hair: A few drops of sandalwood oil can be mixed in hair conditioner to add moisture to hair. This is very effective for hair that is dry, brittle and prone to breaking. It is better to let it stay in the hair for a while to get the best results. However, only a small quantity of the oil should be mixed into the conditioner or the hair may become greasy.
15. Strengthens gums: The astringent effect of sandalwood has also found many uses. Many toners and aftershaves use sandalwood as an ingredient as it helps to soothe and tighten the skin. It is excellent for the gums as it can help tighten the hold that the gums have on teeth and prevent premature teeth loss.
Besides these, sandalwood has powerful disinfectant properties. This partly explains its use in religious rituals. Burning sandalwood incense sticks can drive away bugs and microbes. It is an essential part of many insect repellents. Adding a few drops of this oil to a light bulb in a room or to the ac vent in the car can make the room and car smell fresh and remain disinfected. A few drops of sandalwood oil in the washing machine with the wash load can keep the machine disinfected.
As with all chemicals or natural substances, some precautions need to be taken.
1. Although sandalwood oil can be used undiluted, it is advised to use it mixed with a neutral carrier oil.
2. Before using, it is better to do a patch test to check for allergic reactions.
3. Pregnant, lactating mothers and children below five should avoid using it altogether.
4. If any serious medical condition is present then sandalwood should be used only after consulting with the doctor.