The Comeback of the Sandalwood Tree in Hawaii.

Mar 30, 2021 | General Information

Sandalwood has always been one of the most enjoyable fragrances to be used in spa treatments the world over. Its likability is almost universal.

As a cruel twist of fate, the Hawaiian Islands which used to be flourishing with Sandalwood Trees on all major islands, have seen these native trees simply decimated over the past couple centuries and their numbers found throughout the islands are likely to number in only triple digits. That is of course, unless you include the single 1200 acre parcel of land found at the 5000′ level of the Big Island on the west facing slopes of Mauna Loa known as Holoa Aina. The ‘reforesting of Sandalwood tree project’ that is currently underway under the guidance of Jeff Lee and his family of multi-generational Big Islanders at this remote location is truly phenomenal. Thousands upon thousands of these rare Sandalwood trees, or ‘Ili Ahi’ as they are commonly known (Latin: Santalum Paniculatum), are making their re-emergence under the stewardship of the Lee family.

The Sandalwood Tree is actually a parasite of sorts as it requires a host root plant or tree to attach itself to and to allow it to grow. The cool fragrant forest where it flourishes today is also the home of numerous Koa trees, Mamane and Naio which assist it in its propagation. It is likely that the Sandalwood trees found at this Big Island location were spared from the extreme extermination practices that were prevalent primarily in the first half of the nineteenth century when it was commercially viewed as Hawaii’s first cash crop. The deforestation of this tree was a relentless process as thousands upon thousands of Hawaiian laborers were forced by the Hawai’ian nobility to carry Sandalwood logs weighing approximately 70 pounds each across the rugged terrain wearing only ti-leaf sandals. The forests near the ocean were the first to be decimated followed by the ones above them but it appears that the forest in this area of the Big Island now known as Holoa Aina by the Lee family, was simply too high and too far from the ocean to be an easy target for the deforestation of the Sandalwood.

As recent as 10 years ago many of the Sandalwood trees were infested with rot and other ailments but when the root balls were ripped from the center of the tree base to eliminate the infestation it was observed that as many as twenty or thirty new trees began sprouting from the root system up through the soil. Today, this process has propagated hundreds and thousands of new trees and for each tree that is now taken for its hardwoods, oils and hydrosols there are many, many new ones that are taking its place.

Essential oil distillers throughout the state now make the most amazing hydrosols in their stills using the Hawaiian Sandalwood chips from the fragrant forests of Holoa Aina. DNA testing of this particular species of Sandalwood show that after Australia, these trees are the second oldest strain to be found on the planet. A good case could be made as well that the oils and hydrosols coming from this ancient forest may be the most beneficial to be found anyplace in the world.

Typically, Sandalwood oil and hydrosols, address the spiritual nature of those who use them. This very grounding oil has been known for ages to provide a gateway to ‘inner peace’ and calm. It is a tremendous application for those in emotional distress and can assist in providing the self esteem that may be missing in certain people dealing with depression or general low moods. In massage it is often used on the chakras to release blockage. Sandalwood is considered by aroma therapists throughout the world as one of the most treasured hydrosols and oils.