SYDNEY – From luxury French perfumes such as Chanel No. 5 and Yves Saint Laurent’s Opium to the humble incense stick, from traditional Chinese medicine to modern pharmaceuticals, and from Hindu and Buddhist religious carvings to fine furniture, there is a common ingredient — sandalwood.
For thousands of years, richly scented sandalwood has been traded across Asia, the Middle East and Europe. Caravans from India carried its precious heartwood and oil to ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome. Today, the sandalwood trade spans the world, but a guaranteed supply is a big issue.
The best variety is probably Indian sandalwood or Santalum album, which grows mainly in the southern Indian states of Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu. It can also be found in Indonesia & East-Timor. But illegal harvesting of wild trees, coupled with surging global demand, has endangered Indian sandalwood to the point where it is now in short supply and is the world’s most expensive tropical hardwood. TFS, an Australian company, wants to change that situation
1-Sandalwood has a very long usage history of over 4,000 years. It is mentioned in Sanskrit, old Chinese manuscripts, has long been used in Islamic religious traditions, and in ancient Egypt.
2-In 1792 it was declared a Royal Tree by the Sultan of Mysore – a status that continues today.
3-The availability of Indian Sandalwood is very limited, which reflects its expensive price as compared to other natural oils, hence demands a premium in the international markets. Its price has appreciated by an average 17.5% per annum since 1990 & now fetches well over USD 10,000/ton of dry logs. Sandalwood trees are protected by the state government making it rare and expensive.
4-Australia is where the largest Indian sandalwood plantations are now located.
Sandalwood therapeutic & cosmetic applications
5-Its use in treatment of skin problems is legendary. It’s an excellent moisturizer and nourishes all skin types. It’s astringent, anti-lamasery, antiseptic, and pain relieving properties have been put to good used in healing wounds, scars, and acne. Applied to the forehead in the form of a paste it has a cooling effect and is used to bring down fevers.
6-In cosmetic preparations it is excellent for reducing wrinkles. In the realm of mental and emotional therapeutics sandalwood is used for treating stress.
7-It is thought to naturally control anger and aggression and to act upon subtle emotional centres to promote compassion and openness.
8-Sandalwood oil is used in famous fragrances such as Samsara & Chanel No 5, which former famous American actress Marilyn Monroe once declared to be the only perfume she constantly wore, explaining why it’s been consistently used for thousands of years.
-Sandalwood trees in India, Pakistan, and Nepal are government-owned and their harvest is controlled
-In the1840s, Santalum spicatum (one of 4 high-valueSantalum species occurring in Australia) was WA’s biggest export earner =>quandong or Santalum acuminatum.
True sandalwood oil main source in India S. album is a protected species, and demand for it cannot be met. Many species of plants are traded as “sandalwood” such as Myoporum sandwicense, or bastard sandalwood However, most woods from these alternative sources lose their aroma within a few months.
Isobornyl cyclohexanol is a synthetic fragrance chemical produced as an alternative to the natural product.
In Hinduism and Ayurveda, sandalwood is thought to bring one closer to the divine. Thus, it is one of the most used holy elements in Hindu and Vedic societies.
Sandalwood scent is believed to transform one’s desires and maintain person’s alertness while in meditation
In Islamic sufi tradition, sandalwood paste is applied on the sufi’s grave by the disciples as a mark of devotion.
In Tamil culture irrespective of religious identity, sandalwood paste or powder is applied to the graves of sufis as a mark of devotion and respect.
Zoroastrians offer sandalwood twigs to the firekeeping priests to keep the fire burning.
Sandalwood essential oil was popular in herbal medicine up to 1930 as a urogenital (internal) and skin antiseptic.
Australian Aboriginals eat the seed kernels, nuts, and fruit of local sandalwoods, such as quandong (S. acuminatum)
Christianity: incense currently used: frankincense, benzoin, myrrh, styrax, copal or other aromatics
Hindu: incense offered to God by rotating sticks thrice in clockwise direction. deity forms Krishna and Rama
Swd incense has long been used throughout Islamic world to remind believers of righteous rewards in Paradise
Judaism still uses aromatic spices in the havdala ritual ceremony ending the Sabbath.
Incense holds invaluable role in East Asian Buddhist ceremonies and rites also of Chinese Taoist and Japanese Shinto shrines. It’s a method of purifying surroundings, bringing forth assembly of buddhas, bodhisattvas, gods, etc.
Chinese Taoist and Buddhist temples’ inner spaces scented with thick coiled incense, either hung from ceiling or on special stands. Temples Worshipers light and burn sticks of incense in small or large bundles,
Individual sticks of incense vertically placed into individual censers front of statues or plaques either1 or 3.
What do Muslim men think of fragrance? (From well respected KSA historical scholar)
Muslim men are taught that to wear perfume is an act of charity towards others around you. Enabling others to smell something pleasant is equal to giving them a gift.
The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said: ‘Beloved to me from your world are women and perfume, and the coolness of my eye is in prayer.’ This tradition famously states the three most beloved things to the Prophet from worldly life. Clearly distinct types of things, if you think about it.
Women are people, our partners and companions in this life. We speak to each other, feel together, serve each other, bond. The prayer is an action, involving bodily and spiritual states, motions and words. It is something one does, rather than something one possesses.
Of the three pleasures, then, perfume is the only tangible thing beloved to the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him; the only worldly possession that he cared for.
Of the men who followed the Prophet, few were as knowledgeable of the full scope of Islam as his own companions. Of these men, in turn, very few were scholars well versed in religion. But the scholars among them were virtually drowned in fragrance. Ibn Masud, for example, needed no announcement when he arrived somewhere, and people could usually tell he had visited a place well after he’d left, from the fragrance that still lingered in the air.
This love of fragrance is like a second nature in the hearts and souls of Muslims. Those versed in religion know full well that to wear perfume is a part of the religion itself. The only issue nowadays is that the quality of what one wears is not often taken into account, and like anywhere else, people in the Muslim world have lost touch with nature and are for the most part wearing fragrance oils that get imported directly from the laboratories of the French perfume industry – radically different scents to what the Prophet used to wear.
Why is incense burnt in the Middle East? Is this for fumigation or for spiritual reasons?
Incense burning for remembrance and invocation as well as personal scenting is woven into Arab and Muslim culture. Again, an innate love of anything that perfumes one is what drives Muslims to bukhoor and Oud wood. Fumigating the house, scenting clothing, and cleansing an area of evil spirits who abhor beautiful fragrance; spreading an unearthly scent to facilitate remembrance in circles of invocation;these are some of the uses of incense in the Middle East.
Do you scent your beard? Under your chin?
The way I apply Oud oil is by first taking a swipe on the inside of my left wrist. Then I rub the insides of both wrists. Then I apply that sheen to the left and right sides of my neck, right under the beard. I do not apply any Oud to the beard itself as the scent would be too overpowering.=> note: Aust. Swd not such a problem as much more subtle than Oud.
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