Sandalwood is the name of a class of woods from trees in the genus Santalum. The woods are heavy, yellow, and fine-grained, and unlike many other aromatic woods, they retain their fragrance for decades. Sandalwood oil is extracted from the woods for use. Both the wood and the oil produce a distinctive fragrance that has been highly valued for centuries. Consequently, species of these slow-growing trees have suffered over-harvesting in the past century.
Sandalwood essential oil was popular in herbal medicine up to 1920-1930, mostly as a urogenital (internal) and skin (external) antiseptic. Its main component is santalol (about 75%). It is used in aromatherapy and to prepare soap
In sufi tradition, sandalwood paste is applied on the sufi's grave by the disciples as a mark of devotion. It is practiced particularly among the Indian Subcontinent disciples. In the Tamil culture irrespective of religious identity, sandalwood paste or powder is applied to the graves of sufis as a mark of devotion and respect.
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. However, some sects of Taoists, following the Ming Dynasty Taoist Manual, do not use sandalwood (as well as benzoin resin, frankincense, foreign produced) incense and instead either use agarwood, or better still Acronychia pedunculata, in worship.
Sandalwood paste is integral to rituals and ceremonies, to mark religious utensils, and to decorate the icons of the deities. It is also distributed to devotees, who apply it to their foreheads or the necks and chests. Preparation of the paste is a duty fit only for the pure, so is entrusted in temples and during ceremonies only to priests.
The paste is prepared by grinding wood by hand upon granite slabs shaped for the purpose. With the slow addition of water, a thick paste results (called kalabham "കളഭം" in Malayalam language and "gandha" ಗಂಧ in Kannada), which is mixed with saffron or other such pigments to make chandanam. Chandanam, further mixed with herbs, perfumes, pigments, and some other compounds, results in javadhu. Kalabham, chandanam, and javadhu are dried and used as kalabham powder, chandanam powder, and javadhu powder, respectively. Chandanam powder is very popular in India and is also used in Nepal. In Tirupati after religious tonsure, sandalwood paste is applied to protect the skin. In Hinduism and Ayurveda, sandalwood is thought to bring one closer to the divine. Thus, it is one of the most used holy elements in Hindu and Vedic societies.
Due to its low fluorescence and optimal refractive index, sandalwood oil is often employed as an immersion oil within ultraviolet and fluorescence microscopy.
Australian Aboriginals eat the seed kernels, nuts, and fruit of local sandalwoods, such as quandong (S. acuminatum). Early European used the quandong in cooking damper by infusing it with its leaves, and in making jams, pies and chutneys from the fruit.