Oil - Aromatherapy For The Mind, Body, And Spirit
is one of the world's most widely used essential oils,
prized for its scent in perfumery, for its therapeutic
effects in Chinese, Ayurvedic and Tibetan medicine
systems, and for its ability to center the mind in
meditative yogic traditions.
Sandalwood essential oil is most often extracted via
steam distillation from the wood of the Sandalwood
tree, with the heartwood of the roots producing the
highest quality oil. Sandalwood is an evergreen, growing
to a height of 9 meters, with leathery leaves and
small purple flowers. Native to southern tropical
Asia, the tree is parasitic, gaining its nutrients
from one of several other tree species. Because it
can only be grown this way, and due to its seemingly
strict set of environmental conditions, Sandalwood
is difficult to propagate. To add to the challenge
of successful cultivation, Sandalwood takes nearly
30 years to mature before yielding oil of any worth.
Sandalwood essential oil has a woody, balsamic, sweet
and slightly musky aroma; it is a pale yellow, greenish
or brownish liquid with excellent tenacity (the aroma
tends to last a long time) and superior fixative properties.
There are several varieties available, with Santalum
album is considered the most important therapeutically.
The Mysore region of eastern India is thought to produce
the highest quality of this oil type, though its harvesting
is creating a strain on the area's natural environment.
Recently, an oil of the austrocaledonia species has
been produced on the South Pacific island of Vanuatu
from successfully cultivated Sandalwood trees. This
oil has a fantastic aroma, with a woody, smoky scent
that can remind one of being at the beach - an excellent
base note in perfume and cosmetic blends.
In the West, Sandalwood oil is perhaps best known
in the west as a natural, woody, sweet body perfume
used 'as is', or as a familiar aroma in many cosmetics,
aftershaves and the like. In the east, however, Sandalwood’s
importance in cultural and spiritual traditions cannot
be overstated. The wood is carved into furniture,
religious icons, used to build temples and burned
as incense in a great variety of ceremonies. The oil
is used to anoint the dead, helping their transition
to the next life. In Burma, women sprinkle it on passersby
on the last day of the year for the release of sins.
In Hindu marriages, Sandalwood is burned in a tent
such that the smoke surrounds the bridal couple. For
the meditative yogi, the oil and incense encourage
a serene state of mind, supporting alignment of the
individual with the universal Self.
In the traditional Indian medicine system of Ayurveda,
Sandalwood is valued for it's ability to cool the
fire of pitta. It is indicated for inflammatory conditions,
such as inflamed skin, or intestinal and genitor-urinary
conditions that require cooling. Modern aromatherapy
considers the oil an effective skin care agent for
dry skin, general irritation and acne; it can help
in cases of bronchitis, catarrh, dry persistent coughs,
laryngitis and sore throat; it may relieve diarrhea
and nausea, and can be supportive in cases of cystitis.
Beyond the physical body, Sandalwood essential oil
is a great tonic for the hyper-active mind. In practical
terms, the oil is considered an anti-depressant through
it's ability to relieve hot, agitated emotional states,
and to assist in release from over-thinking and worry.
More esoterically, the aroma is considered 'divinely
sweet' and softly balsamic, characteristics which
evoke the grounding of the Earth element. It is said
to release one from the 'tyranny of the intellect'
which can cloud one's true nature, bringing about
a more serene state unifying body, mind and spirit.
From this quiet, unified state comes forth the true
creative mind, finding infinite possibility in the
here and now. It is in this peaceful, unified state
where meditation can affect profound transformation.
Recommended essential oil blends for calming the mind
are as follows - these can be used for general massage,
reflexology, or applied to pulse points and temples:
For 'obsessive' thinking, try four (4) drops of Sandalwood
and two (2) drops of Vetiver in one tablespoon of
carrier; for a detached analytical state try three
(3) drops Geranium, two (2) drops Sandalwood and one
(1) drop Patchouli in one tablespoon of carrier. These
blends can also be created for use in a diffuser by
omitting the carrier oil. For a great perfume also
with soothing qualities, combine three parts Sandalwood
and two parts Vanilla oil - the blend produces a wonderful
tropical island aroma.
Finally, Sandalwood is one of the few essential oils
which improves with age. Due to increasing demand,
the oil's price is climbing significantly every year
- it can be worthwhile to purchase a little more than
you think you'll need immediately, as storing it for
some time will only result in a richer oil in the
future. Of course, samples are also a great place
to start, as you can first find a Sandalwood that
truly suits you.
Rae Cech ND, is a naturopath and yoga teacher practicing
in Boulder, Colorado, and owner of AnandaApothecary.com.
She regularly employs essential
oils and flower
essences in her practice.