If you are a movie buff and watched the recent multilingual hit movie Pushpa and want to know more about the real protagonist of the story – the Red Sandalwood tree, this article is for you. The entire story plot that revolved around the Red Sandalwood trees is worth a watch, not just for the heroics of Allu Arjun and foot-tapping peppy numbers, but to understand what makes these trees so immensely popular across the world. It is no secret that the wood of the Red Sandal tree is smuggled to various countries through various means, but why? To know more, read on…

A truly blessed part of the natural environment, a variety of flora has been a segment of indigenous culture and heritage for thousands of years, including primeval and time-worn trees that have stayed on our mother earth for about 400 million years. Amongst many aromatic and non-fragrant tall and short timbers of the world, there has been a mention of one nonaromatic tree called Red Sandalwood in the Holy Bible as well as in Indian literature, speaking of its relevance and presence dating back to the Ramayana and Mahabharata era. In Hindu culture, Red Sandalwood is considered an extremely pious wood and is often described as red gold.
Red sandalwood

Commonly known as Red Sanders in English, this tree belongs to the family Fabaceae found only in dry deciduous forests of the Deccan Plateau, mostly in the Eastern Ghats of Karnataka, Seshachalam hills of Andhra Pradesh, and in the northern part of Tamil Nadu. Red Sandalwood (Pterocarpus santalinus) is often confused with white sandalwood (Santalum album). While both contain immensely popular and rugged woods, they have stark differences when it comes to their therapeutic benefits and general usage.

Red Sandalwood is extensively used for making furniture besides also used in traditional medicines, for the treatment of diabetes, skin diseases, ulcers, eye diseases, snake and scorpion stings, and many holy rituals. The slow-growing Red Sandalwood has gorgeous red and fine-grained wood. It has been cultivated for centuries to get fabulous sturdy timber. Extremely rare and precious, it is used for intricate carvings, to make sturdy furniture, medicines, cosmetics, and religious rites. Since the tree extracts are considered one of the finest ingredients for skin, they occupy a key space in the skincare and beauty realm as well. The heartwood of this tree is known to have antihyperglycemic, antipyretic, anti-inflammatory, anthelmintic, tonic, haemorrhage, and potent aphrodisiac properties.

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How To Identify Red Sandalwood?

It takes a whole long three decades before the Red Sandalwood tree develops its dense heartwood. Red sandalwood's bark does not have any smell, unlike white sandalwood. The heartwood can accumulate various earth elements like strontium cadmium, zinc, copper, and uranium. Listed as an endangered species due to its exploitation for its timber, Red Sandalwood is a young tree that prefers to grow in hilly terrain and is about 10-15 feet in height. The bark is dark brown and gets perforated when matured.  Replete with rich red or golden color, it oozes a red resin with pink streaks. The leaves have three leaflets, and the flowers grow on short stems. It bears large yellow raceme flowers in simple or sparingly branched racemes. Fruits are obliquely orbicular, 3 to 9 cm in diameter with a concavely curved stripe. The seeds are reddish-brown, smooth, leathery, and about 1 cm long. 

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Synonyms Of Red Sandalwood

Botanically named Pterocarpus santalinus, Red Sandalwood has many vernacular names such as Redsanders, Rubywood, Saunderswood, Rubywood, Sandalwood Padauk, and Santal Rouge. Its other regional names include:

  • Hindi: Lal Chandan, Ragat Chandan,Undum, Rathasanthanam
  • Sanskrit: Raktsaara,  Rakta chandana
  • Tamil: Senjantanam
  • Kannada: Rakthachandanam
  • Malayalam: Rakthachandana
  • Telugu: Kempugandha
  • Marathi: Tambada Chandan
  • Gujrati: Patanjali

Phytoconstituents Of Red Sandalwood

Herbal medicines often referred to as phytomedicines, are mainly obtained from plant sources. The heartwood of Red Sandalwood accumulates various elements like strontium cadmium, zinc, copper, and uranium. Besides, there are various important phytochemical constituents extracted from various parts of Red Sanders plant. Red Sanders wood has an important insoluble or sparingly soluble red wood dye. It also contains sixteen percent of the pigment Santalin (Santalin A and B), carbohydrates, steroids, anthocyanins, saponins, tannins, phenols, triterpenoids, flavonoids, glycosides, and glycerides. Other important heartwood components include Homopterocarpin, Liquiritigenin, Isopterocarpolone, Pterocarpol, Isoliquiritigenin, Pterocarptriol, and PterostiIbene.

Red Sandalwood Ayurvedic Properties

Red Sandalwood has Tikta (Bitter) and Madhur (sweet) rasa and its guna or pharmacological action are found to be guru (heavy to digest and rooksha (extremely dry). The potency of this tree is considered very cold. Besides, it also possesses vrushya (aphrodisiac) quality which helps increase vigor and stamina.

Ayurvedic Indications Of Red Sandalwood

Several texts and scriptures have mentioned Red Sandalwood tree for its various ayurvedic indications which include:

  • Kusthahara: Treats skin disorders
  • Thrushnahara: Relieves excessive thirst
  • Dahahara: Treats burning sensation
  • Jawarhara: Reduces persistent fever
  • Kasahara- Cures chronic cough and cold
  • Bhrantihara: Helps treat hallucination and schizophrenia
  • Vishahara: Cleanses the body from poisoning
  • Shramahara- Combats excessive fatigue

Health Benefits Of Red Sandalwood

Known for its rich hue and therapeutic properties, Red Sandalwood’s trunk also called heartwood as well as its bark extract is used to derive medicinal benefits. Red sandalwood has a cooling and a diuretic effect, and it is helpful to treat conditions such as cancer, digestive tract problems, tuberculosis, fluid retention, and many other anomalies. Some of the health benefits of these tree extracts are:

Combats Skin Pigmentation

Rakta Chandana or red sandalwood is one of the finest ingredients for your skin. Owing to its antibacterial traits, it is primarily used in a homemade skin care regimen. Red sandalwood extract eliminates and lightens tough and long-term pigmentation spots, scars, and acne on the skin. 

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Regulates Diabetes

The active components present in red sandalwood play a key role in raising and regulating blood sugar levels. It has been found useful in enhancing secretion by preventing the damage of pancreatic cells in the body. 

Cures Eczema

Eczema is a skin condition when the skin gets chronic inflammation accompanied by redness. Eczema can be painful and discomforting. To relieve irritation and inflammation caused by eczema, red sandalwood powder paste can be applied that can give immediate relief from itching and burning sensation or acute pain due to this skin anomaly. 

Fights Infections

Red Sandalwood has antiseptic and antibacterial effects and has been utilized in ancient medicine to treat many severe and chronic infections. Sprinkling red sandalwood powder on wounded skin has proven a quick remedy for many bacterial infections.

Boosts Hair Health

By maintaining scalp health and keeping hair follicles infection-free, Red Sandalwood extract supports hair growth and development. It has been a major constituent in hair care products 

Purifies Blood

Red Sandalwood helps in healthy blood purification and fluid retention.  Consisting of diuretic properties, it maintains our natural body mass and water levels to encourage frequent urination and keep the urinary tract clean of any toxins.

Improves Circulation

The extract from Red Sandalwood promotes healthy nerve function by supporting healthy blood and circulatory system. It has been actively used as masks and scrubs for deep cleansing purposes and rejuvenating the skin.

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The appropriate dose of Red Sandalwood depends on several factors such as age, health, and several other conditions. Ideally, 1 to 3 grams of red sandalwood powder can be taken with water or honey. For best results, it should be regularly taken before meals. The paste can be applied topically as per requirement. However, do consult an Ayurvedic doctor or practitioner for the required dosage.

Effect On Doshas

Red sanders pacify Pitta and Kapha doshas from the body owing to their pungent taste that goes through major conversion upon digestion. This property has prabhava (special effect) on the overall functioning of the body.

Side effects of Red Sandalwood

Red sandalwood is typically considered safe for topical use as well as for consumption. However, it should not be used on the skin during pregnancy or breastfeeding. Avoid using the extracts if any irritation starts to occur.


It is advisable to consult a doctor before using red sandalwood since it may cause allergies. Consulting a physician before consuming Red Sandalwood if you are pregnant, nursing, on medication, or having a chronic medical condition is a must.


Red Sandalwood or Pterocarpus Santalinus is a beautiful tree that provides one of the finest timbers in the world. Primarily used for carvings and various types of furniture, the rare wavy grain variant of this precious tree is used to make musical instruments. Laden with healing health benefits as well, Red Sandalwood is considered one of the finest ingredients for the skin besides being used to make different types of medicines for coughs, vomiting, and fever. It is helpful to cure burns, control bleeding, regulate insulin levels, treat headaches, skin infections, the ailment of the gastrointestinal tract, fluid retention, and coughs, and for blood purification purposes. Red sandalwood has excellent wound healing qualities and is ideal for treating minor cuts and wounds.