Sandalwood Story: When people take care of the land, the land will take care of its people.

  • Karen Williams on March 12, 2013

This winter, Larry and I left our home in snowy Montana and traveled to balmy Hawaii to meet with Jeff, our Sandalwood distiller, at his Sandalwood plantation. We have just started to carry the Hawaiian variety of Sandalwood at Aromatics International, in place of the Indian variety, and we wanted to get to know our supplier and find out more about their growing and distilling practices.

Santalum paniculatum
Santalum paniculatum

For years, Indian Sandalwood has been loved and revered by aromatherapists. Due to sustainability and black market issues with Indian Sandalwood, we started looking for a viable alternative. As we are committed to supporting sustainable, eco-friendly growers and distillers, we found Hawaiian Sandalwood, which has all the same therapeutic qualities of the Indian variety. Hawaiian Sandalwood is also ideal for essential oil distillation since its heartwood yields a high percentage of santalols, very comparable to the Indian Sandalwood.

Sandalwood Seeds
Sandalwood Seeds

The plantation is a three thousand acre ranch high up in the mountains of the Big Island—so high that the clouds often cover the trees in the afternoon. When you stand amongst the Sandalwood trees on a sunny day, you can see the snow-capped peaks of old volcanoes towering to your left, and the deep blue expanse of the Pacific spreading out far below you to your right. It is a breath-taking place to visit, so quiet in the thin mountain air that you can almost hear the trees growing.

This plantation has been family-owned for four generations, originally owned by Jeff’s great-grandmother, a full-blooded Hawaiian islander. Her Hawaiian culture taught that one should live one’s life in harmony with others and with the earth, and that if people take care of their land, the land will take care of its people. Jeff and his family try to run their ranch in accordance with these values and strive to be role models to other famers in the area by promoting good land stewardship. For example, they make sure that for every tree that is harvested, at least one is planted to take its place, they do not use pesticides or herbicides, and they irrigate their land with collected rainwater.

I appreciated that the land in these volcanic mountains is perfectly suited for growing Sandalwood. Historically, land at this elevation was only used for pasture since the soil was too poor for traditional agriculture. However, Sandalwood trees and their supporting host tree, the Koa, flourish in the thin, rocky volcanic soil. (Sandalwood trees are semi-parasitic and require a host tree for structural support and nourishment). Both trees are thriving in this soil and self-propagating like weeds. Thousands of new trees are “born” this way.

1 year old Sandalwood
1 year old Sandalwood

Jeff’s family’s mission statement says: “We are a native Hawaiian re-forestry and education organization committed to economic prosperity and environmental responsibility, guided by cultural values, for a more sustainable Hawaii.” We are proud to offer their excellent product at Aromatics International. Click for a detailed description of Sandalwood’s therapeutic benefits.

Sandalwood heartwood
Sandalwood heartwood


Anxiety Blend

10 drops Sandalwood (Santalum paniculatum)
1 drop Neroli (Citrus aurantium var. amara)
1 drop Roman Chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile)
1 drop Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia)

Blend undiluted in a small bottle. Carry with you to inhale whenever anxiety arises. This blend also works well in an inhaler.

Nighttime Skin Nourishment
4 drops Carrot Seed (Daucus carota)
3 drops Rosewood (Aniba rosaeodora)
4 drops Sandalwood (Santalum paniculatum)
1 drop Lemon (Citrus limon)

Melt 1 oz. of Shea butter with 1/2 oz. of Jojoba in a double boiler, pour into a 2 oz. jar and add the essential oils immediately. Close and let cool. Apply to your face at night.

Sandalwood has an affinity for the throat. For an excellent sore throat remedy, combine 5 drops Sandalwood and 5 drops of Myrtle (Myrtus communis) into 1 ounce of Jojoba. Apply to the throat often.