The Health Potential of Sandalwood


Sandalwood oil is found in many perfumes and air fresheners. It’s a classic scent from a valuable tree. But the value of sandalwood oil may go beyond smell. Sandalwood may offer some health benefits as well.

Sandalwood oil comes from the wood and roots of Santalum album, or the East Indian sandalwood tree. This is one of the most valuable trees in the world. Its products are used across the globe. West Indian and African sandalwood oils have also been produced in the past, but they’re no longer widely available.

Sandalwood and its oil are prized in the field of alternative medicine. It’s traditionally used to treat a variety of conditions. Most of its traditional uses haven’t been scientifically tested, but some research suggests sandalwood may help treat certain health problems.

How is sandalwood used traditionally?

Sandalwood oil has many traditional uses. For centuries, East Indian sandalwood oil has been a popular ingredient in Ayurvedic medicine, the folk medicine of India. It’s also been used in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM).

In these traditions, sandalwood oil has been used with other therapies to manage:

the common cold

urinary tract infections

liver and gallbladder problems

digestive problems

muscle problems

mental disorders



Sandalwood’s scent also makes it a popular choice for perfumes and aromatherapy. In aromatherapy, aromatic oils are used to promote mental and physical health outcomes. Many ancient cultures practiced aromatherapy. It remains popular among some people today.

Few of the traditional uses of sandalwood oil have been tested with modern science. There is a lack of studies evaluating the health benefits of sandalwood. This is why scientific research on its health benefits is limited.

What does the research say?

Some studies have supported the idea that sandalwood has health perks. For example, research suggests that sandalwood may help:

increase alertness

manage anxiety

support wound healing

guard against skin cancer

fight bacteria


A study reported in Planta MedicaTrusted Source found that aromatherapy with sandalwood oil increased participants’ pulse, blood pressure, and perspiration. These are markers of alertness.

Wound healing

Researchers from Ruhr-Universität Bochum in Germany found that skin cells contain olfactory receptors for sandalwood. When they activated those receptors, it appeared to promote skin cell growth.


Research reported in Complementary Therapies in Clinical PracticeTrusted Source suggests that aromatherapy massage with sandalwood oil may help reduce anxiety. The sample size was too small to draw conclusive findings, but the results were promising.

Skin cancer

A study reported in the Archives of Biochemistry and Biophysics suggests a compound found in sandalwood oil may help fight skin cancer. That compound is called α-santalol. Some studies have shown that this component can help promote cell death of cancerous cells.

Antibiotic-resistant bacteria

Scientists in the Journal of Crano-Maxillofacial Surgery suggest that essential oils may provide some disease-fighting properties against methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). This is a staph infection that is resistant to certain antibiotics. However, if you have a MRSA infection, it’s important to seek medical attention right away in order to receive timely treatment.

How can sandalwood be used at home?

There are many ways to use sandalwood oil in aromatherapy at home. You can:

apply it directly to your skin

put a few drops in your lotion

heat it in a small kettle of water to scent your home

evaporate it using an essential oil infuser

add it to your bath water

Some people have allergic reactions to essential oils. These reactions are rare. They most often occur when people apply essential oils directly to their skin. If you’re concerned about an allergic reaction, test a small amount of sandalwood oil mixed with a carrier oil or lotion on a small patch of your skin. Wait to see if you react before using larger amounts.

The takeaway

Although concrete medical proof is lacking, sandalwood oil may have many health benefits. More research is needed to confirm the health benefits of sandalwood oil. In the meantime, the scent alone may be comforting and enjoyable. That may be reason enough to give aromatherapy with sandalwood oil a shot.