Sandalwood entices through scent, taste, and touch. Due to its strong aroma and its ability to soothe, sandalwood is used in cosmetics, perfumes, incense, alternative medicines and food. In fact, sandalwood’s power has always been embraced by Buddhist and Hindu religious practices. However, the popularity of the heartwood of the sandal tree has brought devastation to the forests of Asia and Australia.
Asian religions use sandalwood’s scent and touch to promote clarity and susceptibility to enlightenment. When applied as a ‘third eye’ or bhindi, sandalwood paste is meant to bring the practitioner closer to the divine. The temples’ wafting smell of sandalwood incense is believed to relieve anxiety and increase receptivity to goodness.
An aroma’s surprising effects
The coveted aroma of sandalwood is a sensual, masculine scent. It has always been a popular purchase in modern, American culture. The cosmetic industry embraces the soothing powers. But it has also discovered that the scent and chemical effects of sandalwood are similar to those of androsterones–human pheromones. Androsterones are produced by male and female metabolic hormones, however women are more commonly attracted to the woody scent. The androsterone-like effect promote sensuality by relieving tension and mental blocks which can cause impotence and stiltedness.
Use as medicine
Sandalwood’s power is not limited to spirituality and sex. It is also prevalent in alternative medicine because of its ability to relieve internal and external maladies. The Sandal tree’s semi-parasitic property makes it nutrient-rich by absorbing the minerals of the vegetation in its surroundings. A healing tree, products of the sandal tree can treat skin conditions, digestive problems, metabolic afflictions and anxiety or tension. The potent nutritional value of sandalwood boosts the immune system so that it may cleanse itself.
Historically, sandalwood has been used to dye foods a scarlet red. The color flaunted prestige and made the food distinctive. Today, Vietnamese Pho cuisine is the only cuisine noted for embracing the smoky and pungent attributes the tree provides. A small amount of sandalwood is necessary for preparing the strong broth of Pho soup but steeping too much into the broth could cause digestive problems and illness. Nonetheless, used with proper proportion it will add a robust flavor and can heal deficient immune systems. These days it is rare to recipes that use sandalwood with the exception of those who can cook Pho in the ancestral methods.
Despite the fact that their culinary use is out of fashion, sandal trees are being depleted from Asia and Australia, the only continents on which they exist. Trees of more than thirty years of age are poached for their stems and roots- from where all sandalwood products come. Although the best products come from trees upwards of seventy years of age, the high demand for the soft wood and oil means trees won’t reach maturity. The loss of a plentiful supply of sandal trees has led to lessened usage of sandalwood in various applications; however its importance to the world of spirituality will never cease.
Research by Delahna Flagg.