The use of sandalwood dates back to the dawn of our history. According to the writings of the Bible, Chinese textbooks and stories, Sandalwood has been used since at least 4000 years. The Egyptians were using it in medicine and in embalming rituals. Buddhists are also using it as incense in religious rituals.
The Santalum austrocaledonicum was discovered in 1841 in New Caledonia on the Isle of Pines. It is a tree which wood emits a sweet, woody, balsamic, warm and tough fragrance.
Australian Pioneers also understood very quickly that this precious wood would arouse men lust. This has resulted in regular trade to the opening of roads in Southeast Asia, as the spices had previously allowed. Symbol of wealth and luxury, it was one of the first good being «swop». Its trade has never been interrupted since then.
Its business is developed intensively from the 19th century. During the first year, 2000 tons of sandalwood are exported from New Caledonia. Soon, demand is such that just 10 years of intensive harvests have led to depletion in some geographical areas, thereby creating real ecological, social and economic dislocation.
Today, sandalwood is not endangered but requires vigilance, hence the setting up of a policy of cut control and reforestation. Indeed, for each plant cut, three new ones are replanted.
Sandalwood has many uses, but the largest and best known is its distillation to extract the precious essential oil that is widely used in perfumery, cosmetics and even medicine to treat skin diseases and lung inflammation.
Seedlings are raised in nurseries before being implanted in the forest. There is no industrial exploitation. The wood is purchased directly to the people of the tribes cutting it. A tree is considered adult when it reaches the age of 40-50 years. At that time, the development of its trunk and its branches is sufficient to contain the precious essential oil and can then be cut. The wood is then stripped of sapwood, because only the heart is rich in essential oil. It is then dried and crushed into chips before being used in distillery.
In India, Sandalwood has many traditional uses, but the most important is the distillation to extract the essential oil from the wood, which is widely used in cosmetics and pharmacy. The wood is also used for sculpture and construction, as well as incense in religious rituals. Wood and oil are known for their antiseptic, soothing and diuretic properties. In the Pacific, the distillation was not known until the arrival of Europeans. However, it was already used by local people primarily as an offering or currency. In powder, it was used mixed with coconut oil to be applied on the skin and hair to moisturize and to perfume. Medicinal uses were also numerous, thanks to its antiseptic, diuretic and soothing properties, making it a good remedy against inflammation.
- In cabinet work, sandalwood is particularly popular because the wood is easy to cut, leave a natural fragrance in the room where furniture is placed.
- Thanks to its moisturizing and softening virtues, it is used in milks, body care products for babies, dandruff products or for sensitive skin cares.
- In medicine, it acts on the lymphatic, nervous and cardiovascular disease. It relieves symptoms of sciatica and lumbago. It is a pulmonary antiseptic. It can also help treating depression, skin infections... In Europe, its