The Benefits and Uses of Sandalwood Essential Oil

Powdered and whole sandalwood
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Sandalwood essential oil is a type of essential oil commonly used in aromatherapy. Sourced from the wood of trees in the genus Santalum, sandalwood essential oil contains aromatic compounds thought to offer a variety of health benefits.

Sandalwood essential oil is also used as an ingredient in perfume. In addition, sandalwood essential oil is frequently incorporated into religious ceremonies or practices in certain spiritual traditions. For example, Buddhists sometimes use the scent of sandalwood to maintain alertness during meditation.


In alternative medicine, sandalwood essential oil is often touted as a natural remedy for the following health problems or conditions:

  • Anxiety
  • Coughs
  • Diarrhea
  • Indigestion
  • Insomnia
  • Nausea
  • Sore throat

Additionally, sandalwood essential oil is said to enhance libido, improve mood, and relieve stress.

How It Works

In aromatherapy, inhaling the aroma of sandalwood essential oil (or absorbing sandalwood essential oil through the skin) is thought to transmit messages to a brain region involved in controlling emotions. Known as the limbic system, this brain region also influences the nervous system. Alternative medicine proponents suggest that essential oils may affect a number of biological factors, including heart rate, stress levels, blood pressure, breathing, and immune function.

Health Benefits

Although research on the health effects of sandalwood essential oil is fairly limited, there's some evidence that sandalwood essential oil may offer certain benefits. Here's a look at some key findings on the aromatherapeutic use of sandalwood essential oil:

1) Anxiety

Several preliminary studies suggest that sandalwood essential oil may help alleviate anxiety. In a pilot study published in Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice in 2006, for instance, researchers found that receiving aromatherapy massage enhanced with sandalwood essential oil helped reduce anxiety in patients undergoing palliative care.

In addition, a 2009 study from Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine found that aromatherapy massage involving the use of sandalwood essential oil helped lessen anxiety among women with breast cancer. The study included 12 breast cancer patients, each of whom received a half-hour aromatherapy massage twice a week for four weeks.

It should be noted that the aromatherapy massage in the above study also included sweet orange essential oil and lavender essential oil, and that it's unknown whether the treatment's anxiety-reducing effects resulted from the aromatherapy, the massage, or the combination of the two therapies.

2) Insomnia

Sandalwood essential oil shows promise as a means of promoting healthier sleep, according to a preliminary study published in the Japanese Journal of Psychopharmacology in 2007. In tests on rats, the study's authors determined that santalol (a major component of sandalwood essential oil) offers sedative effects that may be of some benefit to individuals with sleep-maintenance insomnia (a condition marked by difficulty in staying asleep).

How to Use It

When combined with a carrier oil (such as jojoba, sweet almond, or avocado), sandalwood essential oil can be applied directly to the skin or added to baths.

Sandalwood essential oil also can be inhaled after sprinkling a few drops of the oil onto a cloth or tissue, or by using an aromatherapy diffuser or vaporizer.


Sandalwood essential oil should not be taken internally without the supervision of a health professional. Internal use of sandalwood essential oil may have toxic effects.

In addition, some individuals may experience irritation when applying sandalwood essential oil to the skin. A skin patch test should be done before using any new essential oil. 

The oil should not be applied at full-strength or in excessive amounts to the skin.

It's also important to note that self-treating a chronic condition with sandalwood essential oil and avoiding or delaying standard care may have serious consequences.

Pregnant women and children should consult their primary health care providers prior to using essential oils.

Where to Find It

Widely available for purchase online, sandalwood essential oil is sold in many natural-foods stores and in stores specializing in self-care products.

Using It for Health

Due to the limited research, it's too soon to recommend sandalwood oil as a treatment for any condition. It's also important to note that self-treating a condition and avoiding or delaying standard care may have serious consequences. If you're considering using it for any health purpose, make sure to consult your physician first.

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