Sandalwood: A Sacred Herb

Indian sandalwood is one of the finest holy herbs of Ayurveda. It is recognized scientifically as Santanlum album, and in Sanskrit as Chandana.

Sandalwood originates from an evergreen tree that is grown in southern India. The sacred oil collects in the heartwood (center of the trunk) and is most effectively harvested after the tree is at least 60 years old.

The wood is ground into a powder and then steam-distilled into oil for use in soaps, cosmetics, candles, medicines, perfumes, and incense. The harder outer wood is used to make beads and carved statues of deities.


Soothing sandalwood is a very supportive meditation tool. Its calming property clears stress from the nervous system. Essential oil applied on the third eye awakens intelligence and dispels depression. Burning the incense and using a sandalwood mala for japa assists in quieting the mind.

With sandalwood, profound states of relaxation take place on the spiritual level. Burning sandalwood incense can support healing work by stimulating a deeper relaxed state in the healer, increasing spiritual energy. Sandalwood also brings ease to the heart and throat chakras.

Sacred sandalwood holds much spiritual meaning. The paste is used in Hindu religious rituals and ceremonies to cleanse the space. That paste is also applied on the forehead to bring the devotee closer to the Divine.

One species, Hari-chandan, was said to be cultivated only in the Divine realms, permeating the Cosmic dimension with its celestial scent. Sandalwood is said to be its representative on earth. It is regularly used in the anointing of sacred images. The sandalwood aroma is said to be one of the most pleasing to the deities, hence its use in balms, incense and fragrant oils. In the last rites of devote Hindus, the wood is respected as a significant offering to the funeral pyre. It is believed that the soul is carried back to its eternal abode with the scent of sandalwood.


This article was originally published for Salt Spring Malas.

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