Australian sandalwood (Santalum spicatum¸ Santalaceae), an evergreen tree growing up to 13 feet in the wild, has a rough, furrowed, fibrous bark on the lower portion of its trunk and becomes bluish to grayish and smooth on the upper portions of the trunk. The fragrant heartwood of the tree, from which the essential oil is distilled, is brown, with the outer sapwood being pale beige. Native to Western and South Australia, Australian sandalwood is a parasitic tree. growing near other trees and grasses, with raspberry jam tree (Acacia acuminata, Fabaceae) and mulga (A. aneura) being common hosts. The slow-growing tree can take between 50–100 years to reach legal felling size in the wild.1 The small green and red flowers occur in loose, branching clusters known as panicles and are said to be “carrion-scented.”2 The fruits turn from green to brown and are edible.
Harvesting entails pulling out the tree and its roots, traditionally harvested from undomesticated stands of trees; however, Australian sandalwood plantations have also begun to produce the essential oil.3 As the tree can grow in dry, arid conditions where the soil can be nutritionally deficient and dry, Australian sandalwood is suitable for drought-prone regions.2
The heartwood contains over 100 different sesquiterpenes, with α-santalol (20-25%), santalenes (4-8.5%), α-bisabolol (3-5%), β-santalol + nuciferol (20-30%), farnesol (3-5%), z- α(trans) bergamatol (3-5%), and epi β santalol (2-3%) being the basic breakdown.1,3 Used in perfumes and incense, the essential oil is a base note and good fixative with a rich, creamy, sweet-woody, exceptionally smooth aroma, with fresh warm undertones.1,4 The essential oil may help with stress, anxiety, and nervous tension, helping create inner peace and serenity. It can also be beneficial for dry skin, eczema, acne, and psoriasis. Therapeutic properties include anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, expectorant, carminative, and emollient.
The Sustainable Herbs Program offered a webinar entitled Partnerships in Sourcing Australian Sandalwood with Clinton Farmer, current Chairman of Kutkabbuba Aboriginal Corporation, and Keith Drage, Managing Director of WA Sandalwood Plantations, which can be found here: https://sustainableherbsprogram.org/webinar/plants-people-and-commerce-conversations-on-ethnobotany/.
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1Battaglia S. The Complete Guide to Aromatherapy, 2nd ed. Virginia, QLD, Australia: Perfect Potions; 2003.
2Santalum spicatum - (R.Br.) A.DC. Plants for the Future website. Accessed January 19, 2022. https://pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Santalum+spicatum.
3Moniodis J, Jones CG, Renton M, et al. Sesquiterpene variation in West Australian sandalwood (Santalum spicatum). Molecules. June 2017;22(6):940. doi: 10.3390/molecules22060940.
4Sandalwood – Australian, premium. Eden Botanicals website. Accessed January 19, 2022. https://www.edenbotanicals.com/sandalwood-australian-premium.html.