Indian Sandalwood (Chandan) : Medicinal & Aromatic Boon

Indian Sandalwood (Chandan)

Introduction to Indian Sandalwood (Chandan)

Indian sandalwood, scientifically known as  Santalum album and commonly as Chandan, is a small evergreen tree in the family Santalaceae that usually grows 5-10 meters tall. This tree is native to southern India and Southeast Asia. Santalum album is not strictly native to Nepal but due to its numerous advantages and importance has turned it into an exotic plant here. It is now cultivated in Nepal and can be found in private lands and the KanyaKurmari Community Forest in Pyuthan district. 

The tree is variable in habit, usually upright to sprawling, and may intertwine with other species. The plant parasitises the roots of other tree species, with a haustorium adaptation on its own roots, but without causing major harm to its hosts. The reddish or brown bark can be almost black and is smooth in young trees, becoming cracked with a red reveal. The heartwood is pale green to white as the common name indicates. The leaves are thin, opposite, and ovate to lanceolate in shape.

In some religions like Hinduism, Indian sandalwood is considered sacred and greatly valued for its fragrance. Referred to as Chandana in Sanskrit, it thrives in coastal dry forests and can usually be found at elevations up to around 700 meters above sea level. This tree doesn't need much water to flourish and prefers sandy or well-drained stony red soils along with plenty of sunlight. It starts blooming after seven years, with the white flowers turning red or orange as the tree ages. 

Its most important and prized part is the heartwood. Known for its luxurious, warm, and woodsy scent, this heartwood is highly desirable due to its top-notch quality. It's from this central part of the sandalwood tree that the prized sandalwood essential oil is obtained. People love the heartwood's unique aroma, often referring to it as soothing, comforting, and spiritually uplifting. Beyond its delightful scent, Indian sandalwood's heartwood also boasts potential therapeutic benefits such as encouraging relaxation, easing anxiety, and assisting in meditation. Its enchanting aroma and healing properties have made it a beloved component in numerous fragrances, cosmetics, and Ayurvedic concoctions over the centuries.

Indian Sandalwood is recognized as a "vulnerable" species by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). It is threatened by over-exploitation and degradation of habitat through altered land use, fire (to which this species is extremely sensitive), disease, agriculture, and land clearing.

Medicinal Benefits and Uses of Indian Sandalwood (Chandan)

Cherished for ages in Ayurvedic medicine, this fragrant treasure boasts a wide range of healing properties. From soothing the skin to its potential anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial powers, Indian Sandalwood takes a wholesome approach to well-being. Here are some of its medicinal uses and benefits: 

Soothing Inflammation

Its anti-inflammatory properties help alleviate inflammation related to arthritis, psoriasis, and eczema.

Battling Bacteria

The antibacterial attributes of Indian sandalwood aid in combating infections and improving conditions like acne, athlete's foot, and ringworm.

Fighting Fungi

Indian sandalwood's antifungal abilities make it effective against athlete's foot, ringworm, and jock itch.

Virus Protection

The antiviral properties of Indian sandalwood can combat viruses and improve conditions like the common cold, flu, and herpes.

Guarding Against Free Radicals

Its antioxidant qualities protect the body from free radical damage, potentially reducing the risk of chronic illnesses such as heart disease, cancer, and Alzheimer's disease.

Stress Relief

The calming scent of Indian sandalwood helps alleviate stress and anxiety, benefiting those who suffer from insomnia, anxiety, or depression.

Toning Skin

The astringent properties of Indian sandalwood tighten skin and minimize oil production for people with oily skin, acne, or blemishes.

Non-Medicinal Benefits and Uses of Indian Sandalwood (Chandan)

Indian Sandalwood has more to offer than just its medicinal uses; it provides a variety of non-medicinal perks that make it highly treasured. Its non-medicinal benefits play a role in various sectors such as fragrances, spirituality, skincare products, arts and crafts, and aromatherapy. Its exquisite scent and versatility ensure that it remains highly cherished across various cultural and commercial endeavors. Its various non-medicinal uses can be:

Enchanting Scent

The captivating, sweet, and woodsy aroma of Indian Sandalwood makes it a favorite for perfumes, incense, and fragrant candles. Its scent is famous for creating a soothing and peaceful environment.

Spiritual and Rituals

Indian Sandalwood is often used in religious ceremonies and during meditation or yoga sessions, as it's believed to enhance concentration, clear thinking, and spiritual connections.

Natural Beauty and Skin Care

Due to its skin-soothing and moisturizing abilities, Indian Sandalwood is used in various cosmetic products like soaps, creams, lotions, and face masks. It helps to improve complexion, calm irritations, and provide a luxurious sensory experience.

Wood Art and Craft

The wood of the Indian Sandalwood is durable and stunningly patterned and thus highly valued for woodworking, carving, and decorative artwork. It's used to make intricate sculptures, furniture pieces, musical instruments, and ornamental items.

Flavoring Agent

It may also be used as a flavoring agent in cooking, especially in traditional Indian sweets and beverages. It adds a unique and delicate taste to these creations.

Incense and Aromatherapy

A popular choice for aromatherapy and relaxation is the use of sandalwood incense sticks and essential oil. Its calming fragrance is believed to encourage stress relief, mental clarity, and emotional balance.

Commercially Available Products of Indian Sandalwood

Indian Sandalwood is a highly cherished and versatile resource, with its presence found in numerous commercial products. Let's take a look at some of the most common items featuring Indian Sandalwood:

Essential Oil

Renowned for its deep, woodsy scent and possible therapeutic benefits, Indian Sandalwood essential oil can be found in perfumes, aromatherapy, and skincare items.

Incense Sticks and Cones

Favored for their soothing aroma, sandalwood incense sticks, and cones are used in spiritual ceremonies, meditation practices, and setting a tranquil atmosphere.

Soaps and Body Washes

With calming aromatic properties, sandalwood is often added to soaps, body washes, and bath products for a lavish and fragrant bathing experience.


Used in various skincare products like creams, lotions, face masks, and serums, Indian Sandalwood is appreciated for its skin-soothing abilities and enchanting scent.

Crafts and Artifacts

The attractive and lasting wood of Indian Sandalwood is employed in crafting exquisite carvings, sculptures, decorative pieces, and handicrafts.

Perfumes and Fragrances

The warm and sensuous smell of sandalwood makes it a valuable ingredient in perfumes, colognes, and other fragrances as it adds depth to their compositions.


Sought after for their comforting scent, sandalwood candles are perfect for relaxation, aromatherapy, or simply creating a peaceful environment.

Herbal Teas

Occasionally infused into herbal tea blends to provide a unique flavor and aroma for an enjoyable sensory experience.

The availability of such an extensive range of commercial products highlights the adaptability and appeal of Indian Sandalwood across various industries like beauty, wellness, home fragrance, and arts.


As we see, Indian Sandalwood is significant for both medicinal and non-medicinal uses. Its healing properties and enchanting aroma make it a very valuable asset. But sadly due to overuse, Indian Sandalwood has become vulnerable and at risk of disappearing. 

Cultivation attempts have expanded the plant's distribution range but the long maturation period (up to 15 years) and cultivation challenges have restricted more widespread planting.

So to secure its lasting presence, it's essential for everyone involved to work together and support each other. We must take action to adopt sustainable harvesting methods, reforest and enforce strict laws. By working together to value and protect Indian Sandalwood, we can ensure its survival for future generations.