In a fast-paced, pressure-filled society, stress and anxiety are on the rise. In 2010, it was expected that 40 million people would have experienced anxiety at some stage- in the US alone.
Relaxation is the absence of arousal from sources such as anxiety or fear; it is an emotional state of low tension. Relaxation is an ideal state to be in, as it centers and calms while at the same time increasing attentiveness and alertness. For many, it can be difficult to reach this state. In some ways, modern society is the antithesis to relaxation. Because of this, it may be helpful to refer to history to discover some relaxation methods.
In Aboriginal culture Sandalwood was used to create a sense of focus and calm before embarking on Walkabout, a spiritual and physical journey that explores the relationship between dreaming, life and land.
In Ayurvedic medicine, Sandalwood essential oil or Sandalwood incense was used to calm the mind, uplift the mood and soothe stress and nervous tension. Sandalwood is renamed in Ayurvedic medicine for its abilities to enliven purpose, strength and happiness- and above all, to promote relaxation.
Aromatherapy is another practice that praises the use of sandalwood. According to Salvatore Battaglia in The Complete Guide to Aromatherapy 'Sandalwood has long been considered the best wood and oil for meditation, as it is presumed to quiet mental chatter that can distract from meditative focus. It has also been shown to have a calming effect on the nervous system and is recommended in particular for agitated emotional states that lead to conditions including headaches, insomnia and nervous tension. Susanne Fischer-Rizzi, a prominent alternative practitioner, recommends Sandalwood as an ideal remedy for nervous depression, fear, stress and a hectic daily tempo.
Contemporary research confirms the historical use of Sandalwood as an important relaxant.
Research shows that active compounds alpha santalol and beta santalol can be found in low concentrations in the blood serum after Sandalwood oil has been inhaled. In regards to aromatherapy, this suggests clinical doses can deliver target compounds into the bloodstream of users, resulting in such benefits as relaxation and focus.
Research has also confirmed that Sandalwood components alpha santalol, beta santalol and EE Farsonal have the ability to calm and center its users, promoting relaxation and concentration.
A study undertaken by the Pharmaceutical Chemistry in Vienna also supports historical anecdotal evidence of Sandalwood as a sedative and relaxant.
In the study, participants had either Australian Sandalwood oil or a placebo (peanut oil) applied onto their skin. During a 30 minute period, physiological parameters (such as skin temperature and conductance, breathing, blink and heart rate, muscle activity and blood pressure) and emotional parameters (including relaxation, vigour, calmness, attentiveness, mood and alertness) were assessed. This delivered some statistically significant finds; Sandalwood was shown to have superior effects compared to the placebo in both the physiological and emotional parameters.