Sandalwood or Chandan has been a part of the Indian household for ages. Many references of the fragrance and uses of sandalwood have been found in Indian mythology. It is a well known tale that Lord Ganesha was created from the Chandan ubtan which Goddess Parvati had scrubbed from her body. Another folk lore says that the sandalwood tree is always entwined with poisonous snakes, despite that it is able to retain its fragrance. It is said to impart its scent even to the axe that cuts it. The sandalwood paste is used religiously by the worshippers of Vishnu and Shiva. They smear it on their forehead to protect the Ajna chakra, also known as the third eye. Sandalwood tree continues to be used today for its wood, the powder and essential oil obtained from it. The Sandalwood tree originates from India and its botanical name is Santhum album. In the ancient times India was a major exporter of sandalwood. In recent times, however, there is a ban on the export of the wood due to the rapid cutting of the sandalwood trees. Today, it is almost extinct in the wild. Due to its popularity and many uses it is cultivated in other parts of the world like Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Malaysia, China and North Western Australia.
The extracts from sandalwood are known for its medicinal properties and can help treat fungal, bacterial and viral diseases. Ulcer formation can be controlled by using sandalwood extracts. In many Ayurveda preparations the leaves and the bark of sandal wood are used as a key ingredient especially due to its anti oxidant properties. Sandal wood extracts when mixed with other herbs are helpful in treating problems related to the eyes. The essential oils of sandalwood contain α-santalol which has the potential of preventing skin cancer. It can also be used to reduce the damage caused to skin due to chemotherapy. Sandal wood powder mixed with camphor helps treat eczema and psoriasis. Insect bites can be soothed by sandalwood too. In case of fever and headaches a thick application of sandal wood paste helps lower the temperature and reduce the head ache.
Sandal wood paste has always been used in the Indian households to treat prickly heat, acne, sunburns and body odor. Due to its excellent skincare enhancing qualities, sandal wood oil and sandalwood paste is extensively used in the cosmetic industry. Soaps, powders, facial creams, body creams, perfumes and face masks made of sandalwood extracts are used all over the world. Sandalwood oil has sedative properties and helps treat insomnia and reduce stress. Burning incense made of sandal wood or chanting with sandalwood mala helps to calm the mind. Sandalwood oil forms an important component in Aromatherapy. Massage with this oil helps to relax the mind and distress the body due to its beautiful and strong aroma.
Even though, sandalwood extracts are sometimes taken orally, it is advised to do so under medical guidance only. Those suffering from kidney diseases should refrain from taking sandalwood orally. Those allergic to sandalwood should take precautions in using it.
Indian royalties have used chandan as a part of their beauty regimen for hundreds of years. It is used by Indian brides, till date, for that special natural glow on their special day.