Aboriginal tribes in Australia have used the nuts and the nut oil of the sandalwood tree for food, medicine, and other applications for thousands of years, possibly “far beyond even the ancient use of sandalwood in the Vedic culture of South Asia.” Recently Australia’s sandalwood corporations are working on marketing these traditional applications for the modern day world. Whisper Forestry Services, partnered with Western Australia Sandalwood Plantations, has recently developed Sanoytal™, an oil extracted from Australian sandalwood ( spicatum) nuts. Researchers explain that there are multiple skincare benefits to this nut oil:
Sanoytal™ contains a high proportion of Ximenynic acid. Ximenynic acid is an unusual long-chain fatty acid. It has demonstrated efficacy across a range of applications in numerous trials and studies including skincare and beauty applications. Sanoytal is clear with a light golden color and little to no odor. It can be blended with carrier oils which is reported to improve absorbency into the skin. Sanoytal has been used as an active ingredient in face creams to support skin protection prior to the application of makeup. Ximenynic acid has been shown to assist in the protection of the skin from lines and wrinkles while stimulating blood circulation. Ximenynic acid has also been shown to reduce the degradation of hyaluronic acid and collagen which leads to an overall strengthening of the extracellular matrix, which supports skin elasticity (Whisper Forestry Services, http://www.wisperfs.com/index.php?id=122, 2012).
Much research has also been conducted on sandalwood conservation and the most efficient, sustainable methods for growing sandalwood. Australia’s TFS Corporation, which recently established and harvested Australia’s first album plantations, led a study examining variations in S. album seed diameter and its effect on nursery and field growth. The study found that “The use of the larger seed will produce more, faster-growing sandalwood seedlings in the nursery, and it could be worth sorting seed prior to sowing.” The study also concluded: “Faster growing, more robust seedlings can potentially shorten the period seedlings spend in the nursery and reduce associated costs” (Robson, http://www.sandalwoodfoundation.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/SRN-027.pdf, 2012).
Because the current high demand and rising prices of sandalwood oil have led to the illegal exploitation, adulteration, and contamination of this resource, researchers are also conducting scientific studies on different ways to detect adulteration. In 2013, researchers explored the application of near-infrared spectroscopy (NIS) “to detect sample authenticity and quantify economic adulteration of sandalwood oils.” This information is potentially significant to fragrance and essential oil companies looking for certified pure sandalwood oil (Kuriakose & Hubert, http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S138614251300680X, 2013).
Another scientific study also applied NIS technology in order to evaluate the different extraction methods for sandalwood oil. This study examines sandalwood oil “as extracted by various techniques like hydro distillation, steam distillation, solvent extraction, and subcritical carbon dioxide” for variations in its quality, and this information could have a large impact on the future technology of sandalwood oil extraction (Nautiyal, http://www.journalofnaturalproducts.com/volume4/22_res_paper-21.pdf, 2011).
There is still much more research to be done in order to aid in sandalwood conservation, health benefits, and sustainability, and several scientific institutions around the world are currently working on this research. One of the chief concerns in the sandalwood industry these days is how to better grow different species of sandalwood trees in order to boost sandalwood populations around the world. India’s Tropical Forest Institute conducted a recent scientific study on the genetic diversity of sandalwood aimed towards helping these challenges in sandalwood conservation. According to the abstract, “The aim of this study was to determine if the SSRs developed for [ austrocaledonicum and S. insulare] are readily transferred to S. album so that they can be used to determine the genetic diversity of Indian sandal accessions belonging to two diverse locations” (Mohammad, Mahesh, Kumar, & Ansari, http://www.sandalwoodfoundation.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/SRN-027.pdf, 2012).
Additionally, a study performed by engineering students at the University of Western Australia investigated “precision metering” as one of the most efficient ways to grow sandalwood seeds, eliminating as much seed and other waste as possible. Researchers in the study explain that “Precision metering of sandalwood seeds could benefit rehabilitation and commercial projects by minimizing seed wastage and allowing larger areas to be seeded with consistent seed spacing,” adding that “precision metering until now presented a significant challenge due to the large and variable size of sandalwood seed.” Researchers in this study discovered that sandalwood seeds can be accurately metered through vacuum singulation techniques, an established mechanical method of precision seeding (University of Western Australia [UWA], http://www.news.uwa.edu.au/201305165653/research/uwa-engineers-tackle-sandalwood-seeding-challenge, 2013).
There are currently countless other studies available regarding sandalwood research in addition to the individual studies examined here. For more information, take a look at the excellent article written by the University of Sri Jayewardenepura’s Department of Forestry and Environmental Science in Sri Lanka, which gives a general overview of recent research trends into the conservation and commercial growth of sandalwood (Subasinghe, http://journals.sjp.ac.lk/index.php/JTFE/article/view/1117/313, 2013).