Health Information

Sandalwood

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Uses

Principal Proposed Uses

Other Proposed Uses

The oil of the sweet-smelling sandalwood tree has a long history of use as a perfume and incense fragrance. Sandalwood oil also has a medicinal tradition in various countries, having been used for digestive distress, liver problems, acne and other skin problems, gonorrhea, anxiety, and insomnia. Additionally, it has played a role in some Hindu religious ceremonies, and has been used as a meditation aid.

What Is Sandalwood Used for Today?

Sandalwood oil has been approved by German’s Commission E for treatment of bladder infections . 1 It is not recommended as sole treatment, but rather as an accompaniment to conventional care. However, there is no meaningful evidence that it is effective for this purpose. Only double-blind , placebo-controlled studies can prove that a treatment really works, and no studies of this type have been performed with sandalwood. (For information on why such studies are essential, see Why Does This Database Rely on Double-blind Studies?)

Weak evidence, far too preliminary to rely upon at all, hints that sandalwood may have antiviral, 2 anti– Helicobacterpylori ( Helicobacter pylori is the underlying cause of most stomach ulcers ), 3 sedative, 4,5 and cancer-preventive6-8 properties.

Dosage

According to Germany’s Commission E, sandalwood oil should be taken at a dose of 1–1.5 grams daily in enteric-coated form for supportive treatment of urinary tract infections. (“Enteric-coated” products are designed so they do not open up and release their contents until they reach the small intestine.) However, this is a relatively high dose for an essential oil, and should only be used under the supervion of a physician. Non–enteric-coated products may cause stomach distress. For external use in skin conditions, a few drops of the oil are added to a cup of water.

Safety Issues

Sandalwood oil appears to be relatively safe, but it has not undergone comprehensive safety testing; in general, essential oil can have toxic and even fatal effects when taken in sufficient doses, especially by children. Allergic reactions caused by direct contact with sandalwood oil occur relatively frequently. 9-11 Sandalwood oil should not be used by young children, pregnant or nursing women, or people with severe liver or kidney disease.

Revision Information

  • 1

    Blumenthal M, Busse WR, Goldberg A, et al. (eds). The Complete Commission E Monographs: TherapeuticGuide to Herbal Medicines . Boston, MA: Integrative Medicine Communications; 1998:199.

  • 2

    Benencia F, Courreges MC. Antiviral activity of sandalwood oil against herpes simplex viruses-1 and -2. Phytomedicine . 1999;6:119–23.

  • 3

    Ochi T, Shibata H, Higuti T, et al. Anti- Helicobacter pylori compounds from Santalum album . J Nat Prod . 2005;68:819–24.

  • 4

    Okugawa H, Ueda R, Matsumoto K, et al. Effect of alpha-santalol and beta-santalol from sandalwood on the central nervous system in mice. Phytomedicine . 1995;2:119–126.

  • 5

    Hongratanaworakit T, Heuberger E, Buchbauer G, et al. Evaluation of the effects of East Indian sandalwood oil and alpha-santalol on humans after transdermal absorption. Planta Med . 2004;70:3–7.

  • 6

    Dwivedi C, Guan X, Harmsen WL, et al. Chemopreventive effects of alpha-santalol on skin tumor development in CD-1 and SENCAR mice. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev . 2003;12:151–6.

  • 7

    Dwivedi C, Zhang Y. Sandalwood oil prevent skin tumour development in CD1 mice. Eur J Cancer Prev . 1999;8:449–55.

  • 8

    Dwivedi C, Abu-Ghazaleh A. Chemopreventive effects of sandalwood oil on skin papillomas in mice. Eur JCancer Prev . 1998;6:399–401.

  • 9

    Frosch PJ, Johansen JD, Menne T, et al. Further important sensitizers in patients sensitive to fragrances. Contact Dermatitis . 2003;47:279–87.

  • 10

    Sandra A, Shenoi D, Srinivas CR. Allergic contact dermatitis from red sandalwood ( Pterocarpus santalinus ). Contact Dermatitis . 1996;34:69.

  • 11

    Sharma R, Bajaj AK, Singh KG. Sandalwood dermatitis. Int J Dermatol . 1987;26:597.