Amyris oil (Amyris balsamifera) has as much to do with sandal oil as West Indies with Indian sub-continent (i.e. India).
It is a well known fact that when Christopher Columbus was sailing west from Gomera on the Canary Islands, he was sure of going to India in order to find some spices and fragrant substances. Among desired items, there were also highly valued sandal oil and sandalwood that was used to make costly furniture and trinkets. Nevertheless, the first land that he arrived at, there were the Caribbean Islands. Since the 17th century, the southern part of Florida and the Caribbean have been known as West Indies. However, two different names – West Indies and India are not distinguishable in Polish.
Among many Columbus’s discoveries, there were amyris trees, highly impregnated with resinous substances. This was the reason why the plant was commonly called torchwood as it was used to make torches. On the other hand, it also served as a raw material to distill off strongly smelling oil (amyris oil). Just from the beginning, the amyris oil was incorrectly linked with sandal oil in spite of botanical dissimilarity, which was quite quickly confirmed by scientists. Apart from disparity in chemical composition, both oils have completely different smell. Even so, amyris oil has been called “West Indian sandalwood oil”. Nowadays, torch trees are mainly grown in Haiti and Jamaica. There are more than 120 identified Amyris sub-species. One of them is the source of elemi resin, a highly valued substance in perfumery. From the botanical point of view, Amyris balsamifera belongs to the Rutaceae family, hence, it has nothing in common with sandal trees. It is a raw material to produce amyris oil (Amyris balsamifera L. ISO – 3525; INCI: Amyris Balsamifera Oil). There are also a few sandal sub-species that belong to the Santalaceae family. Two of them are well known sources of essential oils – Indian Santalum album L. ISO – 3518; INCI: Santalum Album Oil and Australian Santalum spicatum (R.Br.) A. DC syn. Eucarya spicata (R.Br.) Sprag & Summ. ISO – 22769; INCI: Santalum Spicata Wood Oil.
Amyris oil and sandal oil predominantly differ in their chemical composition, resulting in different smell, but above all, different therapeutic properties. Sandal oils contain a high amount of santalol and its derivatives (nearly 70% in Santalum album; up to 35% in Santalum spicatum). These compounds are not present in amyris oil, which mainly contains beta-caryophyllen (up to 20%), d-cadinene, amyroline, etc. On the other hand, these compounds are not found in sandal oil.
Amyris trees are now grown on large plantations in order to make furniture. At the same time, it allows to produce cheap amyris oil from twigs, tree branches and industrial production waste. It is worth pointing out that such oil may have irritating and allergenic properties. Naming it “West Indian Sandalwood Oil” facilitate only its sale to unaware clients. Contrary to amyris oil, sandal oil of Indian origin is expensive due to economic reasons. Sandal trees are rare and difficult to grow, therefore, the oil is mainly produced from industrial waste (production of furniture or trinkets). Australian sandalwood oil obtained from Santalum spicata is less expensive, but due to chemical composition, its therapeutic properties are not as valuable as Santalum Album Oil.
THEREFORE, OFFERING AMYRIS OIL FOR SANDAL OIL IS EVIDENTLY AN ABUSIVE AND MISLEADING PRACTICE, CONSIDERING NOT ONLY ITS PROPERTIES, BUT ABOVE ALL, ITS PRICE. ALTHOUGH AMYRIS OIL MIGHT BE USED IN AROMATHERAPY, IT SHOWS DIFFERENT ACTIVITY AND HAS DIFFERENT PROPERTIES.
ACCORDING TO INCI, ONLY SANTALUM ALBUM OIL IS THE TRADITIONAL, AROMATHERAPEUTIC SANDAL OIL
Additional information on sandalwood oil:
1. “Olejek Drzewa Sandałowego z Australii” ; quarterly AROMATERAPIA No. 2(36), vol.10, Spring, 2004
2. “Najcenniejsze olejki, Olejek sandałowy”; quarterly AROMATERAPIA No. 4(6), Autumn, 1996