Benefits and Uses of Sandalwood Oil

What is Sandalwood Oil and where does it come from?

An essential oil obtained from steam-distilling chips and billets from the heartwood of the Santalum album tree, (1) sandalwood oil is popular for use in perfumery, cosmetics and medicinal treatments. (2,3)

Sandalwood essential oil is derived from the heartwood of the sandalwood, (4) which is a hemi parasitic evergreen (5) that grows by joining the root system of other trees. (6) The tree belongs to the Santalaceae family and is also known as East Indian sandalwood. (7)

Sandalwood oil has been used for over 4,000 years, making it among the oldest-known materials used for its exotic scent. (8) It has found its way into cosmetics and personal care products, (9) fragrances and meditative/spiritual practices. (10)

This essential oil is extracted through steam distillation of wood pieces from sandalwood trees that must be at least 15 years old. (11) The oil has a woody, exotic smell (12) and a clear to yellow color.(13) Although expensive, (14) it has many wonderful characteristics that make it useful and beneficial for health and wellness.

Sandalwood oil creates a calming, harmonizing effect for the mind, helping reduce tension and confusion. (15) It is also traditionally used in Ayurveda, India's holistic health system, for the potential treatment of somatic (16) and mental disorders. (17)

History of Sandalwood Oil:

As early as 4,000 years back, sandalwood had already been used, with caravans carrying the wood to places like Egypt, (18) Greece and Rome.(19) Many temples were built from it, while the Egyptians used the oil in embalming. (20) Sandalwood used to be made into furniture (21) and caskets, (22) but as the tree has become nearly extinct, (23) it now is mostly used for distilling the oil.

Current Uses of Sandalwood Oil:

Sandalwood oil is widely utilized for its calming and relaxing effects.(24) It is in demand as incense (25) and is recommended in Swahra Yoga for promoting unification "of the body's delicate energy centers" and in Tantric yoga for awakening sexual energy. (26) It can be used for easing depression, daily stress (27) and anxiety. (28)

This essential oil is well regarded in skin care, as it tones and relieves itching, inflammation and dehydrated skin. (29) Scar tissue, (30) eczema,(31) psoriasis(32) and acne(33) are some of the issues it can address.

Apart from topical application, you can also steam-inhale sandalwood oil by filling a large bowl with steaming water, adding one to two drops of diluted essential oil, covering your head with a towel and draping the towel around the bowl as you hold your face over the bowl and breathe in the vapors. (34) This can be a good remedy for respiratory concerns and skin conditions that emerge on the face. 

Another use for the oil is as a hair conditioner. Simply add four to six drops to your hair after a shower to help boost shine, moisture and softness. (35)

Using sandalwood essential oil directly on your skin is not recommended.  Instead, mix with some type of carrier oil, such as jojoba, coconut, sweet almond or olive oil. Sandalwood oil can also be used as a scent, medicinal aid or incense in: (36)

  • Perfumery products
  • Aromatherapy
  • Vaporizers and burners
  • Gargling (37)
  • Religious rituals (38)


Another study shows, too, that sandalwood oil could be an effective chemo preventive agent against chemically induced skin cancer in animal models. (39)

What are the benefits of Sandalwood Oil and why?

Sandalwood essential oil's main components are alpha-santalol (40 to 50 percent) and beta-santalol (20 to 30 percent). These molecules are partially responsible for the oil's fragrance. (40) Other chemical components in this essential oil that give it its scent include a-santalene, (Z)-a-santalal, (Z)-b-santalal, (E)-epi-B-santalal, (E)-epi-B-santalol, a-bergamotol and spirosantalol. (41)

Studies show that sandalwood oil may possess numerous benefits for health and wellness:(42,43)

  • Antiseptic — This oil promotes wound and cut healing, (44) and targets various skin conditions.(45)
  • Anti-inflammatory — The essential oil and paste are effective as anti-inflammatory agents. (46)
  • Antispasmodic — This oil may address spasms, particularly in your digestive system. (47)
  • Deodorant — There are individuals who use sandalwood oil to help ward off body odor. (48)
  • Tonic — It is soothing on your stomach and the digestive, nervous and circulatory systems, (49) and helps them to function harmoniously. (50)
  • Disinfectant or repellent — Its fragrance may keep small insects away. (51)
  • Emollient — It helps soothe the skin, relieve inflammation and irritation, and ease itchiness. (52)
  • Expectorant — It may help ease congestion, and alleviate asthma, colds, influenza, bronchitis, coughs and chest pain.(53,54)
  • Memory booster — Sandalwood oil helps improve memory and stimulates concentration. (55)
  • Nervine — It may help you keep calm, thus reducing unnecessary stress and anxiety. (56)
  • Aphrodisiac (57)
  • Astringent (58)


The benefits of sandalwood oil can be harnessed in different ways. In vapor therapy, it can be used as an aphrodisiac, (59) as well as to help address coughs, bronchitis, chest infections, asthma, insomnia, nervous tension and stress. It can also be blended into a massage oil or added to bath water to aid with alleviating bladder infections, eczema and stretch marks. (60)

Sandalwood oil can be diluted and used as a gargle if you have a sore throat. (61) Sandalwood oil can also be added it to a lotion or cream to improve chapped, dry or inflamed skin. It can moisturize and hydrate skin, serving as a wonderful addition in your ant aging skincare regimen. (62)

Sandalwood oil is best blended with rose, ylang ylang, jasmine,(63) bergamot, black pepper, geranium, myrrh, lavender and vetiver. (64)

Safety note:

Breastfeeding mothers and young children should avoid using sandalwood oil. Additionally, the oil may cause an allergic skin reaction in certain individuals, so you should undergo an allergen patch test to check for possible adverse effects. (65)

Make sure you get high-quality sandalwood oil from a reputable source, since some may be adulterated with castor, linseed and palm oils, which can decrease the product's quality and effectivity. (66)

While there are very few reports of sandalwood side effects, there have been a few cases of side effects, so you must use sandalwood oil with utmost caution. Individuals with allergies or hypersensitivity to sandalwood or its components should avoid using this oil, as instances of dermatitis (sandalwood itself) and photosensitivity (from the oil) have been reported. (67)


1, 4, 15, 24, 45, 57, 59 “The Essential Oils Complete Reference Guide: Over 250 Recipes for Natural Wholesome Aromatherapy,” January 31, 2017

2, 10, 28, 36 VeryWell Health, May 20, 2018

3, 37, 61 “The Five Senses,” May 31, 2011

5, 12, 41 “Springer Handbook of Odor,” February 28, 2017

6 Plant Signal Behav. 2010 Sep; 5(9): 1072–1076. Published online 2010 Sep 1

7 "Essential Oils: A Handbook for Aromatherapy Practice," 2012

8 “The Aromatherapy Book: Applications and Inhalations,” 1992

9, 25, 27 “Aromatherapy Card Deck,” Fair Winds

11, 22, 43 "Essential Oils for Healing: Over 400 All-Natural Recipes for Everyday Ailments," July 5, 2016

13 “The Essentials of Aromatherapy Essential Oils,” February 12, 2013

14, 18, 20, 30, 34, 51, 60, 62, 65 "The Healing Art of Essential Oils: A Guide to 50 Oils for Remedy, Ritual, and Everyday Use," January 8, 2017

16 “Super Ager: You Can Look Younger, Have More Energy, a Better Memory, and Live a Long and Healthy Life,” June 15, 2018

17 Planta Med 2006; 72(9): 792-800

19 “375 Essential Oils and Hydrosols,” 1999

21 “Climate Change Challenge (3C) and Social-Economic-Ecological Interface-Building: …,” June 4, 2016

23 Gulf News, May 26, 2006

26 “Complete Aromatherapy Handbook: Essential Oils for Radiant Health,” 1990

29, 54 "Herbal Cosmetics & Ayurvedic Medicines (EOU) (3rd Revised Edition)," February 7, 2013

31, 55, 66

32 “The Complete Family Guide to Natural Healing,” 2005

33, 42, 56 “Bioremediation and Bioeconomy,” October 3, 2015

35 “The Big Book of Essential Oil Recipes for Healing & Health: Over 200 Aromatherapy Remedies for Common Ailments,” June 28, 2016

38, 44 “Aromatherapy: Essential Oils for Vibrant Health and Beauty,” June 3, 2002

39, 46 Eur J Cancer Prev. 1999 Oct;8(5):449-55

40 Liebigs Ann. Chem., 1994: 601-609

47, 50 “The Healing Remedies Sourcebook: Over 1000 Natural Remedies to Prevent and Cure Common Ailments,” May 29, 2012

49 “Simply Reflexology,” 2009

52 “Natural Beauty,” February 2, 2015

63 “Secret Potions, Elixirs and Concoctions: Botanical and Aromatic Recipes for Mind, Body and Soul,”1999

64 “Master Your Metabolism: The All-Natural (All-Herbal) Way to Lose Weight,” 2003

67 "Natural Standard Herb & Supplement Guide - E-Book: An Evidence-Based Reference," July 28, 2016