Home Herbal Monograph Sandal Tree

It is commonly found in the comparatively dry regions of peninsular India from Vindhya mountains southwards, especially in Mysore and Tamil Nadu, ascending to an altitude of c. 1,200 m. It has also been introduced into Rajasthan, parts of Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Orissa, where it has become naturalized at some places, but the sandalwood produced in these areas is usually of an inferior quality.

Morphology Description (Habit)

A small to medium-sized, evergreen semi-parasitic tree, with slender branches, sometimes reaching up to 18 m. in height and 2.4 m. in girth. The bark is reddish or dark-grey or nearly black, rough, with deep vertical cracks on old trees; leaves glabrous, thin, elliptic- ovate or ovate-lanceolate, 1.5-8 cm. x 1.6-3.2 cm., sometimes larger, flowers straw-coloured, brownish purple, reddish purple, or violet, unscented, in terminal and axillary paniculate cymes; the drupe globose, 1.3 cm. diam., purple-black, with hard, ribbed endocarp; the seeds globose or obovoid.

Principal Constituents

The main constituent of sandalwood oil is santalol. This primary sesquiterpene alcohol forms more than 90 per cent of the oil and is present as a mixture of two isomers, a -santalol and ß-santalol, the former predominating. The characteristic odor and medicinal properties of sandalwood oil are mainly due to the santalols. The other constituents reported in sandalwood oil include: the hydrocarbons santene, nor-tricycloekasantalene and a- and ,ß-santalenes; the alcohols santenol and teresantalol; the aldehydes nor-tricycloekasantalal, and isovaleraldehyde; the ketones l-santenone and santalone; and the acids teresantalic acid occurring partly free and partly in esterfied form, and a-and ß-santalic acids 1.


Both the wood and the oil have long been employed in medicine. They are credited with cooling, diaphoretic, diuretic and expectorant properties, and sandalwood finds several applications in household remedies: a paste of the wood is applied to burns; in fevers and headache, it is applied to the forehead and upper eyelids. The oil was at one time official in many pharmacopeias and was prescribed for the treatment of gonorrhea. It is reported to be active against Eberthella typhosa and Escherichia coli. The oil from the seeds is used in skin troubles2.

  1. Guenther , V, 183, 185-86; II, 265-69, 79, 112-16, 229, 257, 350, 438, 494, 611; Ghatgey & Bhattacharyya, Perfum. essent. Oil Rec., 1956, 47, 353; Bhati, Flavour Ind., 1970, 1, 235.
  2. Chopra, 1958, 243; Claus, 1961, 211; I.P.C., 189; Thum- gappa, Indian Perfum., 1968, 12, pt II, 11; Youngken, 286; Wren, 267; George & Pandalai, Essential Oils & Aromatic Chemicals, A Symposium, Coun. Sci. Industr. Res., New Delhi, 1955, 154.