Scientific Name(s): Santalum album L.
Common Name(s): East Indian sandalwood oil, Sandalwood, Santal oil, White or yellow sandalwood oil, White saunders oil
Indigenous to India and Indonesia, sandalwood is an evergreen tree that grows to 8 to 12 m in height and 2.5 m in girth.1 The bark is smooth and gray-brown in color, and the small flowers have numerous short stalks.
Sandalwood oil has a warm, woody odor and is commonly used as a fragrance in incense, cosmetics, perfumes, and soaps.1 It also is used as a flavoring for foods and beverages. The wood has been valued in carving because of its dense character.2, 3, 4
In traditional medicine, sandalwood oil has been used as an antiseptic and astringent, and for the treatment of headache, stomachache, and urogenital disorders. In India, the essential oil, emulsion, or paste of sandalwood is used in the treatment of inflammatory and eruptive skin diseases.5 The oil has been used in Ayurvedic medicinal system as a demulcent, diuretic, and mild stimulant.1 The leaves and bark of Santalum have been used by early Hawaiians to treat dandruff, lice, dermatitis, and sexually transmitted diseases.6 Sandalwood oil has also demonstrated repellency against the crop pest, Tetranychus urticae (two-spotted spider mite), with santalol suggested as the effective component.7
The essential oil of sandalwood is obtained from the heartwood of the tree.8 The light yellow, volatile oil contains about 90% santalols with 35% to 49% being alpha-santalol, 14% to 33% beta-santalol, 0% to 5% alpha-trans-bergamotol, and 1% to 7% epi-beta-santalol.9 The santalols are responsible for the pleasant odor of sandalwood, although 2-furfuryl pyrrole may also contribute an effect.2
The seeds yield about 50% of a viscid, dark red, fixed oil containing stearolic acid and santalbic acid. Gas chromatography "fingerprinting" of sandalwood oil has successfully analyzed the complex components.10
Uses and Pharmacology
Sandalwood is a fragrant wood from which an oil is derived for use in foods and cosmetics. The oil is rarely used medicinally today, but its widespread use as a popular fragrance continues. Reliable clinical studies are lacking in support of the effects of sandalwood oil. Tertiary resources document the oil as having diuretic and urinary antiseptic properties.11
Herpes simplex viruses 1 and 2
Animal and in vitro data
Sandalwood oil inhibited the replication of herpes simplex viruses (HSV) 1 and 2, with inhibition was more pronounced against HSV-1. The effect was dose dependent and the oil was not virucidal.12 Another in vitro study found sandalwood oil to exert inhibitory activity against HSV-2 (IC50 of 0.0015%).13
Sandalwood oil (along with the essential oils thyme, and hyssop) was found to exert virucidal activity against acyclovir-sensitive and resistant strains of HSV-1. The investigators suggested that mechanism of action must differ from that of acyclovir, given that it was effective against acyclovir-resistant strains and might be attributed to inactivation of the virus before it enters the cell.14
Research reveals no clinical data regarding the use of sandalwood oil for the treatment of herpes infections.
Animal and In vitro data
Some isolates of Santalum album were found to be active against Helicobacter pylori.15 S. album was also found to inhibit Escherichia coli, Staphylococcus aureus, and Pseudomonas aeruginosa, with the aqueous leaf extract showing a higher inhibition zone than with the stem extract.6
Beta-santalol was found to exert antiviral activity against influenza A/HK (H3N2), with a suggested mechanism of inhibition in late viral RNA synthesis.16
Research reveals no clinical data regarding the use of sandalwood oil for its antibacterial effects.
Alpha-santalol is believed to exert its chemopreventive effects, particularly against skin cancer, through the induction of apoptosis and tumor suppressor protein. It also inhibits cell proliferation through induction of G2/M phase arrest.8
Animal and in vitro data
Sandalwood oil may have chemoprophylactic effects on skin papillomas. Treatment (5% in acetone, w/v) on 7,12-dimethylbenz[a]anthracene-(DMBA)-initiated and 12-O-tetradecanoyl phorbol-13-acetate(TPA)-promoted skin papillomas and TPA-induced ornithine decarboxylase (ODC) activity in CD1 mice significantly decreased papilloma incidence by 67% and TPA-induced ODC activity by 70%.5
Daily oral feedings of sandalwood oil to adult male Swiss albino mice for 10 and 20 days led to a dose-dependent increase on glutathione S-transferase (GST) activity and acid soluble sulfhydryl (SH) levels. Although the mechanism of action is unclear, the enhancement of GST activity and acid-soluble SH levels may suggest a possible chemoprophylactic action on carcinogenesis.17
Similarly, alpha-santalol was found in a dose-response study to decrease DMBA-TPA–induced skin tumor incidence and multiplicity, ODC activity, and DNA synthesis in CD-1 mice. A superior effect was noted with a 5% application of alpha-santalol as opposed to 1.25% and 2.5%. Additionally, alpha-santalol in 2.5% and 5% concentrations as pretreatment reduced ultraviolet B UVB-initiated skin tumor development.8
Alpha-santalol activated caspase-3 activity, causing apoptosis in androgen-dependant and -independent human prostate cancer cells. The survival of these cells was affected by alpha-santalol in both a concentration- and time-dependent manner.18
Additionally, various lignans from S. album were found to exert cytotoxic effects against HL-60 human promyelocytic leukemia cells and A549 human lung adenocarcinoma cells.19
Research reveals no clinical data regarding the use of sandalwood oil for chemoprophylaxis.
Animal and in vitro data
In a study of streptozocin-induced diabetic rats, S. album petroleum ether fraction 10 mcg/kg given twice daily for 60 days was associated with a reduction in blood glucose, hemoglobin A1c. In addition, total cholesterol, triglycerides, and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels were reduced, while high-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels increased.20
Research reveals no clinical data regarding the use of sandalwood oil for cardio-metabolic risk.
Anxiety/Mood/Arousal/Central nervous system effects
Animal and in vitro data
Intraperitoneal administration of alpha- and beta-santalols in mice increased hexobarbital-induced sleeping time. Oral, intraperitoneal, and intracerebroventricular administration of alpha-santalol reduced rectal temperature and spontaneous motor activity more effectively than beta-santalol. However, beta-santalol was found to decrease acetic acid-induced writhing more effectively than alpha-santalol.21
Though not statistically significant, leg and foot massage with sandalwood oil reduced anxiety in patients.22 Topical administration of sandalwood oil produced "harmonizing" effects (ie, a reduction in the level of autonomic nervous system arousal but no behavioral level deactivation) in healthy volunteers, whereas alpha-santalol had relaxing/sedative effects.23 Inhalational sandalwood essential oil and alpha-santalol affected various physiological parameters and self-ratings of arousal in humans.24
For the treatment of urological problems, a dose of 1 to 1.5 g daily is recommended for no more than 6 weeks. It should be dosed in a resistant coating that is protected against gastric secretions. The oil should not be ingested internally in its natural state.1, 25
Pregnancy / Lactation
Information regarding safety and efficacy in pregnancy and lactation is lacking.
None well documented.
Sandalwood oil can cause dermatitis in sensitive persons, although it is generally considered to be nonirritating to human skin.2, 11, 26 A case report described a 65-year-old man with a scaly, hyperpigmented plaque on his forehead and fissuring of his fingers (markedly on the thumb and index finger). He reported daily use of sandalwood paste on the lesions for 8 years, and a patch test with sandalwood was positive. The lesions disappeared after discontinuation of sandalwood, although hyperpigmentation remained.27 Another case report described a photoallergic reaction resulting from exposure to a cosmetic product containing sandalwood oil.28
Sandalwood oil has GRAS status as a flavoring agent in food by the Flavor and Extract Manufacturers' Association, and the FDA also recognizes sandalwood oil as a natural flavoring.1
The oral toxicity of sandalwood oil in rats was found to be 5.58 g/kg and 3.8 g/kg for alpha-santalol. The dermal toxicity of sandalwood oil and alpha-santalol in rabbits was reported as more than 5 g/kg.1
Sandalwood oil was found to be irritating in mouse and rabbit skin test models. The santalols and related compounds have been identified in the blood of mice that inhaled sandalwood fumes under experimental conditions, indicating that systemic absorption of these compounds can occur.29
This information relates to an herbal, vitamin, mineral or other dietary supplement. This product has not been reviewed by the FDA to determine whether it is safe or effective and is not subject to the quality standards and safety information collection standards that are applicable to most prescription drugs. This information should not be used to decide whether or not to take this product. This information does not endorse this product as safe, effective, or approved for treating any patient or health condition. This is only a brief summary of general information about this product. It does NOT include all information about the possible uses, directions, warnings, precautions, interactions, adverse effects, or risks that may apply to this product. This information is not specific medical advice and does not replace information you receive from your health care provider. You should talk with your health care provider for complete information about the risks and benefits of using this product.
This product may adversely interact with certain health and medical conditions, other prescription and over-the-counter drugs, foods, or other dietary supplements. This product may be unsafe when used before surgery or other medical procedures. It is important to fully inform your doctor about the herbal, vitamins, mineral or any other supplements you are taking before any kind of surgery or medical procedure. With the exception of certain products that are generally recognized as safe in normal quantities, including use of folic acid and prenatal vitamins during pregnancy, this product has not been sufficiently studied to determine whether it is safe to use during pregnancy or nursing or by persons younger than 2 years of age.
Copyright © 2018 Wolters Kluwer Health
Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.