It is one of the most common ingredients in incense. It is the wood of a semi-parasitic tree that lives on another tree. It grows in poor quality soils: arid, stony and dry areas. It is native to Indonesia but grows mainly in India and Australia.
Only the central part of the tree, the heartwood, is fragrant. It takes 30 years for a tree to start producing quality sandalwood.
For Indians, sandalwood is a precious wood and is mainly destined for export.
Sandalwood has antibacterial properties. When the former USSR had a shortage of antibiotics, it exchanged Mig fighter-bombers for sandalwood. It has relaxing and calming properties. It is used in temples, for the well-being it generates, for its purifying powers and because it helps to keep the mind alert. In Ayurvedic medicine it is used to treat anxiety and insomnia because it facilitates sleep.
In perfumery it is used to give a strong base note as it is bright and fresh. It also acts as a fixative for other fragrances.