In the world of aromatherapy, we often hear about the dangers of the overharvesting of plants for essential oil use, putting them at risk of becoming a threatened or endangered species. Sandawood is one such plant which is often discussed in this regard. However, one forward-thinking Australian company has tried to address this issue by growing ethical and sustainable sandalwood; and I was fortunate to meet up with Emilie Bell of Santanol at the 2016 NAHA Aromatherapy Conference in Utah. Here’s a quick look at how Santanol processes and extracts sandalwood essential oil.
Sandalwood’s Current Status as a Threatened Plant
The IUCN Red List of Threatened SpeciesTM currently lists sandalwood (Santalum album) as a vulnerable species.1 It is important to note that this is only with regard to Santalum album. Other sandalwood species may have a different status but I am specifically looking at Santalum album in this article as this is the species which Santanol grows and processes.
Santanol‘s Facts and Figures on Sandalwood2
Santanol was founded in Perth, Australia in 2005. Intial sandalwood plantations were planted in 1999, after the feasability of a regional development program for Santalum album was investigated by the Australian govenment back in 1982. Santanol‘s first harvest of sandalwood was carried out in 2014, the first commercilization of essential oil produced in 2015, followed by the establishment of a distillation factory in 2016.
There are now 2,300 ha. of sandalwood trees planted and new trees are planted (+200,000 trees per year) as they are harvested; in fact, 40% more trees are planted each year than are harvested. Tree oil quality, consistency, and performance are constantly monitored and improved to produce an essential oil with a high level of santalol.
Santanol also employs Aborginal people from the community; in Kununurra, where Santanol‘s sandalwood plantations are located, 30% of the workforce is drawn from the Aborginal community.
Santanol is in charge of the production of sandalwood essential oil from seedling to finished product, with research and development continually ongoing along the entire process.
Sandalwood Essential Oil for the Consumer
So what does all of this mean for the aromatherapist and/or natural perfumer? Santanol‘s sandalwood essential oil is steam distilled from the roots, trunks, and large branches of the sandalwood tree; not just the traditional heartwood. 3
The essential oil is collected in several fractions and, as a consumer, you have a choice of purchasing the various fractions at differing costs.As aromatherapists, we are taught that the first fraction is usually the “best” (therapeutic wise, before the material has had chance to “lose” anything in further processing) but a perfumer may prefer a different fraction, depending upon the aroma they are trying to create for a custom perfume. After testing various samples of sandalwood oil, I found that, from an aromatic perspective, I actually preferred the second fraction of sandalwood oil.4
At the present time, Santalol only offers its sandalwood essential oil directly with a minimum order quantity of 1 kg (approx. 2.2 lbs), so this particular oil might not be within the reach of every aromatherapist or perfumer. However, you could consider buying and splitting as a group. And, personally, I think that the quality of this sandalwood essential oil is superior to many I have sampled over the years, based on aroma (I have not used it therapeutically as yet). But, there is only one way to know – try it for yourself!!
Learn More About Essential Oils
with Sedona Aromatherapie
If you would like to learn more about essential oils, consider the Sedona Aromatherapie Linguistics of AromaticsTM program!
IUCN Red List of Threatened SpeciesTM website, Santalum album, accessed January 30, 2017.
Santanol PDF Presentation, used with permission.
Santanol website, accessed January 30, 2017.
Personal Consultation with Emilie Bell of Santanol at 2016 NAHA Aromatherapy Conference.
Author is a 20 year veteran in the health care and aromatherapy industry, a UK-certified aromatherapist and, published author in aromatherapy, an approved education provider for the National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy (NAHA), an aromatherapy business owner, a consultant, and Chief Editor for the NAHA Aromatherapy Journal.