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Sandalwood oil: A precious essential oil from heartwood of the sandalwood tree

Sandalwood (Santalum album L.), called white sandalwood, is a commercially important plant species that belongs to family Santalaceae and is known in Sanskrit as Candana, in ancient Greek as Santalon, in Medieval Latin as Santalum (Erligmann, 2001), and in Indonesian as Cendana. It is naturally grown along China, India, Philippines, Australia, and Indonesia. In Indonesia, Sandalwood trees can be found in the Eastern part, susch as Timor, Sumba, Alor, Rote, and Pantar Islands (Haryjanto et al., 2017).

Recently, there is an international concern regarding the sustainability of sandalwood trees due to its complex cultivation requirements, continuous harvesting, a long development heartwood of 20–25 years old, and limited regeneration which cause a serious decline in sandalwood population to meet the world demand for its heartwood and oil (Howes et al., 2004). Aside from being a source of essential oil which is used in perfumes and cosmetic products, sandalwood is also extensively used as incense and for making pieces of furniture, ornaments, and wood carving. The oil is one of the most ancient perfumery material and a highly valued essential oil (Erligmann, 2001; Ratnaningrum and Indrioko, 2015).

Figure 1: Mitra Ayu production specialists operating Supercritical CO2 Extraction Column

Sandawood oil is commonly extracted from the heartwood of sandalwood using a steam distillation producing an average yield of 3.0–6.5% (Burfield, 2000; Das, 2016). Kusuma and Mahfud (2017) tried to extract sandalwood oil by a microwave air-hydrodistillation, but the oil yield was only 1.3%. At Mitra Ayu, we process Sandalwood Oil by Steam Distillation and also by Supercritical CO2 Extraction.

The quality of sandalwood oil is highly determined by the content of santalols which are the main alcohol compounds in this oil. According to ISO (2002), sandalwood oil should be evaluated by using gas chromatography analysis for quantifying santalol content in the range of 41–55% for Z-α-santalol and 16–24% for Z-β-santalol. Sandalwood oil produced by Supercritical CO2 Extraction at Mitra Ayu comprises of about 40% of α-santalol and 20% of β-santalol.

The quality of sandalwood oil is also influenced by species, age, size of sandalwood tree, extraction method, origin and so on (Haryjanto et al., 2017). In addition, the adulteration with the vegetable oils and other solvents due to reasons of cost and technical may influence the quality of the oil (Erligmann, 2001).

Sandalwood oil is a pale-yellow to yellow liquid with the characteristic sweet, woody, balsamic, cashew, terpene, herbal, and spicy odor and also woody, sandalwood, balsamic, and floral with a terpenic nuance of flavor (The Good Scents Company, 2023). In food industry, this oil can be used as a natural flavor ingredient with a daily consumption of 7.4 µg/kg (Burdock and Carabin, 2008). Moreover, sandalwood oil is commonly used as fragrances for the body, aromatherapy, incense, medicines and cosmetics (Das, 2016; Dickinson et al., 2014). Health benefits of sandalwood oils have been reported in some literatures, such as anti-inflammatory (Sharma et al., 2018), anti-diarrhoeal (Guo et al., 2014), antioxidant and anti-aging (Francois-Newton et al., 2021), and chemopreventive (Dickinson et al., 2014). Other therapeutic properties of sandalwood oil are reviewed by Das (2016) and Erligmann (2001).

At Mitra Ayu, we offer 2 types of Sandalwood oil: Sandalwood oil Steam Distilled and Sandalwood oil CO2. The Santalum album wood are wild harvested from East Nusa Tenggara, Indonesia. For more information, please visit the product page or contact us here.


(1) Burdock, G.A., and Carabin, I.G. (2008). Safety assessment of sandalwood oil (Santalum album L.). Food and Chemical Toxicology, 46: 421–432.

(2) Burfield, T. (2000). Natural aromatic materials – odors and origins. Atlantic Institute of Aromatherapy, Florida.

(3) Das, K. (2016). Chapter 82: Sandalwood (Santalum album) oils. In Essential oils in food preservation, flavor and safety (ed. Preedy, V.R.). Elsevier Inc., pp. 723–730.

(4) Dickinson, S.E., Olson, E.R., Levenson, C., Janda, J., Rusche, J.J., Alberts, D.S., and Bowden, G.T. (2014). A novel chemopreventive mechanism for a traditional medicine: East Indian sandalwood oil induces autophagy and cell death in proliferating keratinocytes. Archives of Biochemistry and Biophysics, 558: 143–152.

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(6) Francois-Newton, V., Brown, A., Andres, P., Mandary, M.B., Weyers, C., Latouche-Veerapen, M., and Hettiarachchi, D. (2021). Antioxidant and anti-aging potential of Indian sandalwood oil against environmental stressors in vitro and ex vivo. Cosmetics, 8: 53.

(7) Guo, H., Zhang, J., Gao, W., Qu, Z., and Liu, C. (2014). Anti-diarrhoeal activity of methanol extract of Santalum album L. in mice and gastrointestinal effect on the contraction of isolated jejunum in rats. Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 154: 704–710.

(8) Haryjanto, L., Widowati, T.B., Sumardi, Fiani, A., and Hadiyan, T. (2017). Variation of chemical compounds of sandalwood oil from various provenances in Indonesia. Jurnal Pemuliaan Tanaman Hutan, 11: 77–86.

(9) International Organization for Standardization (ISO). (2002). Second edition, ISO 3518.

(10) Kusuma, H.S., and Mahfud. (2017). Kinetic studies on extraction of essential oil from sandalwood (Santalum album) by microwave air-hydrodistillation method. Alexandria Engineering Journal, 57: 1163–1172.

(11) Howes, M.-J.R., Simmonds, M.S.J., and Kite, G.C. (2004). Evaluation of the quality of sandalwood essential oils by gas chromatography-mass spectrometry, Journal of Chromatography A, 1028: 307–312.

(12) Ratnaningrum, Y.W.N., and Indrioko, S. (2015). Response of flowering and seed production of sandalwood (Santalum album Linn., Santalaceae) to climate changes. Procedia Environmental Sciences, 28: 665–675.

(13) Sharma, M., Levenson, C., Browning, J.C., Becker, E.M., Clemens, I., Castella, P., and Cox, M.E. (2018). East Indian sandalwood oil is a phosphodiesterase inhibitor: A new therapeutic option in the treatment of inflammatory skin disease. Frontiers in Pharmacology, 9: 200.

(14) The Good Scents Company (2023). Odor descriptors for sandalwood. (accessed on 10 March 2023).

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