Sandalwood Oil Health Benefits & Side Effects


Sandalwood oil has been used in the Indian Ayurvedic system and Chinese medicine since the early 1800s to treat stomach pains, vomiting, and gonorrhea. Sandalwood oil major health benefits are its antidepressant, aphrodisiac, astringent, calming, disinfectant, diuretic, expectorant, sedative, and stimulant properties.

Sandalwood (Santalum album L.) of family Santalaceae is a fragrant wood, commonly known as East Indian sandalwood. The oil of sandalwood is derived by steam distillation from chips and billets cut from the heartwood trees that are at least 30 years old and are used in perfumes, cosmetics, and sacred unguents. 

The oil of sandalwood is pale yellow to a green brownish, with the characteristic soft, sweet, warm, woody and fruity aroma. 

Uses of Sandalwood oil

Sandalwood oil is a significant item of commerce, used in many personal care products and perfumes, is listed in the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Food Chemicals Codex as a natural flavoring ingredient. The Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has classified the oil as a Listed Medicine, available as an active ingredient in many non-prescription products. 

This oil is used as a fragrance in many soaps, detergents, cosmetics, aromatherapy, and fragrances. Sandalwood oil is an excellent base and fixative for other high-grade perfumes and, by itself, is an excellent, mild, long-lasting, and sweet perfume (1).

Geographic Distribution

Sandalwood is a mid-sized evergreen tree widely distributed in the Indian subcontinent, Malaysia, and Australia, Indonesia, and Taiwan.

Constituents of Sandalwood oil

Sandalwood oil contains sesquiterpene alcohols α-santalol (44–60%) and β-santalol (20–32%), epi-β-sanalol (3–6%). Also, present the ester santyl acetate (3–6%) and sesquiterpene hydrocarbons α- and β-santalene (7–30%) and epi-β-antalene (4–7%). The main ingredient of sandalwood oil are α-santalol β-santalol and santenone that has many therapeutic properties,  also contain santalic and teresantalic acid, aldehyde, pterocarpin and hydrocarbons, isovaleric aldehyde, santene, santenone (2).

Health benefits of Sandalwood oil

Sandalwood oil exhibits various pharmaceutical properties such as sublime, aphrodisiac, diuretic, and urinary antiseptic properties (3). This oil also contains astringent, restoring, relaxing, disinfecting, soothing, calming, antidepressant, anti-inflammatory, antifungal, astringent and other properties as follows

1. Anti-inflammatory properties of Sandalwood oil 

It contains a natural antiseptic compound which exhibits anti-inflammatory properties. Application of Sandalwood oil may use as an attractive natural therapeutic agent for reduction of psoriasis and eczema/atopic dermatitis, common warts, and serious condition molluscum contagiosum (4). 

2. Treat acne

Sandalwood oil has antimicrobial properties which show wonderful effect on mild to moderate acne in which 90% of patients benefited after 2 months of treatment without any adverse effect (5).

3. Treat Psoriasis

Application of Sandalwood oil is tolerable and helpful in alleviating mild to moderate psoriasis symptoms as it contains santalols suppress pro-inflammatory events by keratinocytes and dermal fibroblasts. Therefore, this oil may be useful as a potential treatment of a variety of pathophysiologic inflammatory and autoimmune skin ailments, including psoriasis (6). 

4. Protect from skin cancer

Alpha-santalol is a naturally occurring sesquiterpene found in Sandalwood oil act as a chemopreventive agent. It blocks the cell cycle progression, involves cell death induction through apoptosis as well as inhibit  UV-induced AP-1 activity skin carcinogenesis. Therefore, sandalwood oil plays beneficial effects upon skin, reducing the likelihood of promotion of pre-cancerous cells to actinic keratosis (AK) and skin cancer (7).

5. Lighten the skin color due to anti-tyrosinase and anti-cholinesterase properties

Tyrosinase and cholinesterase is an important enzyme which plays an important role in skin color and brain signal. However, alpha-santalol obtained from Sandalwood oil is a strong inhibitor of both tyrosinase and cholinesterase. Thus, this oil may be helpful for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease, as well as in skin-care (skin fairness) (8).

6. Treat Anxiety

Sandalwood oil may act as an anxiolytic agent and possess properties like calming effect without sedation, as well as a lack of dependence, tolerance, or withdrawal thus this oil in aromatherapy, is very safe and helpful for the treatment of anxiety disorders (9).

7. α-Santalol of Sandalwood oil reduces stress

Sandalwood essential oils contain α-santalol and many other bioactive constituents which significantly reduce systolic blood pressure, especially during the recreation phase. Sandalwood oil inhalation induces relaxation rather than activation at the physiological level during a stressful experience and reduces salivary cortisol levels. Therefore, inhalation of sandalwood oil can facilitate recovery during and after exposure to cognitive and social stress (10).

8. Induce sleep

Presence of santalol in Sandalwood oil aromatherapy may act via the circulatory system, absorbed into the blood through the respiratory mucosa, and then exert its action. Therefore, santalol may be useful in patients having difficulty maintaining sleep by a decrease in total waking time and an increase in total non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep time (11).

9. Healthy brain

α- and β-santalol found in Sandalwood oil is an excellent antioxidant and antiapoptotic activity show wonderful effect on the extension of the lifespan. It also inhibits the ROS generation and germline cell apoptosis. 

This oil also shows wonderful effect on the improvement of learning and memory.  Therefore, sandalwood oil may be useful as a redox-based neuroprotectant for the prevention and management of age-related neurological disorders (12). 

10. Improves mood

Sandalwood oil inhalation increases attentiveness and mood because the presence of alpha-santalol which increases arousal level thus aromatherapy of sandalwood oil is beneficial to keep calm and relaxation (13).

11. Manage diabetes

Sandalwood oil contains high amount of α –santalol (53.8 %) which play an important role in the improvement in insulin secretion and glycemic control thus reduce blood sugar levels (14).

12. Antiviral properties of Sandalwood oil

It is a good source of β-Santalol (100 μg/ml) which is very beneficial for antiviral activity against influenza A/HK (H3N2) virus by inhibition of viral mRNA synthesis (15). This oil is also inhibiting the replication of Herpes simplex viruses-1 and -2 (16).

13. Antimicrobial properties

Sandalwood oil is a cheap and effective antiseptic topical treatment. This oil also shows antibacterial activities against Helicobacter pylori (a leading cause of chronic gastritis and peptic ulcer) (17).

Side effect of Sandalwood oil

Research study supported that sandalwood oil is less toxic because it has a long history of oral use without any adverse effect reported. 

Sandalwood oil is approved for food use by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Flavor and Extract Manufacturers Association (FEMA) and Council of Europe (CoE). However, we need precaution like harmful if swallowed, sometimes irritating to eyes and skin; may cause sensitization by skin contact (18)

It also may cause mucous membrane irritation or numbness, gastrointestinal irritation, and dermal irritation. Ocular exposure may cause irritation, erythema, pain and possible chemical conjunctivitis (19, 20).

Edited By: Dr. Asha Jyoti Bharati




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