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Sandalwood is the name for several fragrant woods. From the Sanskrit candanam the name is borrowed as the Greek sandanon. The local name in Indonesia and Malaysia is "Cendana" (pronounced approximately /tʃəndаna/ in IPA). In Kannada it is Sri Gandha and in Hindi it is Chandan (Chondon in Bengali or other Indian languages). In Tamil it is called "Chandhanam".
In the strict sense these are woods yielded by trees in the genus Santalum, used often for their essential oil. These are yellowish woods, heavy (just short of sinking in water) and fine-grained. Sandalwood has been valued for thousands of years for its fragrance, carving, and various purported medicinal qualities.
Occasionally other oil-yielding woods (from unrelated trees) are also indicated as "sandalwoods" such as Amyris balsamifera, also known as West Indian sandalwood. The tree is native to Central and South America and the Caribbean. Most commercially available amyris oil is distilled in Haiti.
The genuine sandalwoods are medium-sized hemiparasitic trees of the genus Santalum. The most notable members of this group are Santalum album, Indian Sandalwood and Santalum spicatum, Australian sandalwood. Several other members of the genus species also have fragrant wood and are found across India, Australia, Indonesia, and the Pacific Islands.
- Santalum album, or Indian sandalwood, is currently a threatened species and consequently very expensive. In India it grows on the western ghats. In Hindu rituals chandan paste, prepared from the wood of the chandan tree, has occupied an important position of puja materials since antiquity. On the forehead, a tilaka (mark) of Chandan paste is applied during pujas. Deities representing violent attributes are often smeared with chandan paste to cool them down.Although all sandalwood trees in India and Nepal are government-owned and their harvest is strictly controlled, many trees are illegally cut down and smuggled out of the country. Sandalwood essential oil prices have risen up to $1000-1500 per kg in the last 5 years. Some countries regard the sandal oil trade as ecologically harmful because it encourages the overharvesting of sandalwood trees. Sandalwood from Mysore region of Karnataka, Southern India is widely considered to be of the highest quality available. New plantations have been set up with international aid in Tamilnadu in order to facilitate the economic benefits of sandalwood. Today, in Kununurra in Western Australia, Indian sandalwood (Santalum album) is being grown on a very large scale. Huge plantations surround this picturesque little town.
- Santalum ellipticum, known as Hawaiian sandalwood ( ‘iliahi alo‘e ), was also used and deemed of high quality. Its overexploitation stopped barely short of its extinction
- Santalum spicatum(Australian sandalwood) is used by some aromatherapists and perfumers. The concentration of constituent chemicals in its essential oil - and hence, its aroma - differ considerably from those of other Santalum species. In the 1840’s, sandalwood was Western Australia’s biggest export earner. Oil was distilled for the first time in 1875, and by the turn of the century, there was intermittent production of Australian sandalwood oil