Sandalwood (santalum album) has a very long history - over 4,000 years of use - and is mentioned in Sanskrit and Chinese manuscripts.
The oil was used in religious ritual, and many deities and temples were carved from its wood.
The ancient Egyptians imported the wood from Asia to use in medicine, embalming and ritual burning to venerate their gods.
In Buddhism, it is considered to be one of the three incenses integral to Buddhist practice, together with aloes wood and cloves.
In the Zoroastrian temples it burns in sacred fires to soothe the troubles of all humanity. It is used by the Jewish, the Buddhist, the Hindus, as well as almost every other belief system for its vast diversity in attributes.
Sandalwood is among the perfumes approved by Islamic tradition, which also include musk, amber, jasmine and myrrh.
Sandalwood's "most divine fragrance" was felt to represent the divine qualities found in godly souls.
Many Asian ancient temples and religious accessories such as rosaries and staffs are made from sandalwood.
Sandalwood admirers have called sandalwood oil "Liquid Gold", due to its precious nature.
The Sandalwood is a small tree, growing to a height of about 10 meters.
It is an evergreen with rather tough green leaves. The trunk is gray brown, almost smooth, with many branches.
The flowers are formed at the tips of the branches and are pink to purple in color. Mature trees are used to produce the best quality essential oil.
The native Sandalwood tree grows almost exclusively in the forests of India and Indonesia.
As the tree grows, the essential oil develops in the roots and heartwood, which requires at least 15 to 20 years. Full maturity is reached after 60 to 80 years. The core of dark heartwood gradually develops, which is covered by outer sapwood.
The sandalwood tree is never felled, but uprooted in the rainy season, when the roots are richer in the precious essential oil. Vietnam and New Caledonia have developed genuine Sandalwood.
The best quality oil comes from the Indian province of Mysore and Tamil Nadu where the harvest of Sandalwood trees are protected by the state government.
The roots and also the heartwood of the tree, are mechanically reduced to fine chips, which are steam distilled to produce the straw yellow colored essential oil.
Sixty kilograms of oil can be extracted from a ton of heartwood.
Once the oil has been distilled it is matured for six months so that it can achieve the right maturity and perfume.
It develops from a very pale yellow to a brownish yellow. it is extremely thick and viscous with a heavy, sweet, woody and fruity aroma which is pungently balsamic.
Sandalwood oil is high in sesquiterpenes, sesquiterpenols, sesquiterpenals, aldehydes, pterocarpin and the hydrocarbons such as isovaleric aldehyde, santene, and santenone.
Sandalwood oil has a very pleasant distinctive aroma, appreciated equally by both men and women.
Sandalwood oil makes a fine massage oil, or may be added to a moisturizing cream for skin care, particularly useful for cracked or dry skin.
A few drops of the oil in a warm bath is very relaxing and will impart to the body an attractive aroma. Sandalwood oil was used traditionally for skin renewal, yoga, and meditation.
It has a scent and some aphrodisiac like effects similar to deer musk.
It is considered one of the most calming incenses and is a preferred one for meditation and is said to calm the mind, enhance mental clarity, peaceful relaxation, openness, and help promote spiritual practices.
It is said to improve interpersonal relations.