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Sandalwood is yielded by trees in the genus Santalum, which are often used for the essential oil it contains. The wood is heavy and yellow in color as well as fine-grained, and unlike many other aromatic woods it retains its fragrance for decades. The sandalwood fragrance is very distinctive and is used in countless applications. Sandalwood has been valued and treasured for many years for its fragrance, carving, medical and religious qualities.
Sandalwood is highly sought after for its sensual aphrodisiac qualities, as a relaxing d\sedative and its antiseptic puritying powers. The most important uses of sandalwood are to sedate the nervous system, subduing nervousness, anxiety and insomnia. Researches found that it relaxes brain waves & increases the productionof white blood cells to help the body rid itself of infection.Sandalwood is a well known aphrodisiac that reduces fears & makes an individual both physically & emotionally more open to a physical relationship.
Sandalwood is also considered in alternative medicine to bring one closer with the divine. Sandalwood essential oil, which is very expensive in its pure form, is used primarily for Ayurvedic purposes, and treating anxiety. (source: Wikipedia Free Encyclopedia's)
The genuine sandalwoods are medium-sized hemiparasitic trees of the genus Santalum. The most notable members of this group are Indian sandalwood (Santalum album) and Australian/Papua New Gunea sandalwood (Santalum spicatum). Several other members of the genus species also have fragrant wood and are found across India, Australia, Indonesia, and the Pacific Islands.
Santalum album, or Indian sandalwood, is currently a threatened species and consequently very expensive. It is indigenous to South India, and grows in the Western Ghats and a few other mountain ranges like the Kalrayan and Shevaroyan Hills. Although all sandalwood trees in India and Nepal are government-owned and their harvest is strictly controlled, many trees are illegally cut down and smuggled out of the country. Sandalwood essential oil prices have risen up to $1,000–1,500 per kg in the last 5 years. Some countries regard the sandal oil trade as ecologically harmful because it encourages the overharvesting of sandalwood trees. Sandalwood from the Mysore region of Karnataka (formerly Carnatic), Southern India is widely considered to be of the highest quality available. New plantations have been set up with international aid in Tamilnadu in order to gain the economic benefits of sandalwood production. Today, in Kununurra in Western Australia, Indian sandalwood (Santalum album) is being grown on a very large scale. Huge plantations surround this picturesque little town.
Santalum ellipticum, S. freycinetianum, and S. paniculatum, the Hawaiian sandalwoods (?iliahi), were also used and considered of high quality. These three species were intensively exploited for only a brief period (approximately 1790–1825) before the supply of trees ran out. Although S. freycinetianum and S. paniculatum are relatively common today, they have never regained their former abundance or size, and S. ellipticum remains rare.
Santalum spicatum (Australian sandalwood) is used by some aromatherapists and perfumers. The concentration of constituent chemicals in its essential oil – hence, its aroma – differs considerably from those of other Santalum species. In the 1840s, sandalwood was Western Australia’s biggest export earner. Oil was distilled for the first time in 1875, and by the turn of the century there was intermittent production of Australian sandalwood oil.
Sandalwood paste is integral to rituals and ceremonies, to mark religious utensils and to decorate the icons of the deities. It is also distributed thereafter to devotees, who apply it to the forehead or the neck and chest. Preparation of the paste is considered a duty fit only for the pure, and is therefore entrusted in temples and during ceremonies only to priests.
The paste is prepared by grinding pieces of the wood by hand upon granite slabs shaped for the purpose. With slow addition of water a thick paste results, which is mixed with saffron or other such pigments to make Chandan.
Sandalwood is considered in alternative medicine to bring one closer to the divine. Sandalwood essential oil, which is very expensive in its pure form, is used primarily for Ayurvedic purposes and treating anxiety.
Sandalwood is considered to be of the padma (lotus) group and attributed to Amitabha Buddha. Sandalwood scent is believed to transform one's desires and maintain a person's alertness while in meditation. Sandalwood is also one of the more popular scents used for incense used when offering incense to the Buddha.
Chinese and Japanese Religions
Sandalwood, along with agarwood, is the most commonly used incense material by the Chinese and Japanese in worship and various ceremonies. It is also used extensively in Indian incense, religiously or otherwise.
It is said to have been used for embalming the corpses of princes in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) from the 9th century.
Zoroastrians offer sandalwood twigs to the firekeeping priests who offer the sandalwood to the fire which keep the fire burning. Sandalwood is offered to all of the three grades of fire in the Fire temple, including the Atash Dadgahs. Sandalwood is not offered to the divo, a homemade lamp. Often, money is offered to the mobad along with the sandalwood. Sandalwood is called sukhar in the Zoroastrian community. The sandalwood in the fire temple is often more expensive to buy than at a Zoroastrian store. It is often a source of income for the fire temple.
Sandalwood essential oil was popular in medicine up to 1920-1930, mostly as an urogenital (internal) and skin (external) antiseptic. Its main component beta-santalol (~90%) has antimicrobial properties. It is used in aromatherapy and to prepare soaps. Due to this antimicrobial activity, it can be used to clear skin from blackheads and spots, but it must always be properly diluted with a carrier oil. Because of its strength, sandalwood oil should never be applied to the skin without being diluted in a carrier oil.
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