Saturday, June 4, 2016


Santalum album Heartwood
The most recent Monday With Marge a question was, "What are your thoughts on the sustainability factor regarding Sandalwood, Rosewood and other essential oils that have been exploited throughout history. Kind of a vague question, I know. I'm just interested to know your thoughts on the subject. "This is a hard question, Kris. Thank you.  And in total honesty, we are torn.  I almost have to address each oil individually.

Santalum album - Indian Sandalwood, our Tamil Nadu oil.   The Indian Government DOES allow some legal harvesting.  I have seen and followed the paper chain of permits and know that ours is legal, not the product of poachers and black marketeers. We pay a premium for the "legally exported" oil.  I know in the past we have been offered some that I was less comfortable with. We turned it down. To my knowledge, the government does not allow export of any Sandalwood oil from Mysore any longer, and hasn't for several years, and yet I see "Mysore Sandalwood" offered for sale. Things that make me go hmmmmmmm.

Now, the Indian Sandalwood that is available today is not the equal of the oil that we saw 10 or 15 years ago.  I think the trees are being harvested before they reach their full growth and full potential.   But by the same token I am not certain that the oil that we had 15 years ago was legally obtained.  I thought it was at the time, but, hindsight being 20/20... I don't know. I was told it was but...

Rosewood.  I am told that our Rosewood is distilled from the 'leavings" after rosewood is cut for furniture production, from the sawdust after the boards are finished for use in furniture.  Does this make it any more sustainable? No. But as long as people are willing to use Rosewood for furniture, for musical instruments, for the many uses this beautiful wood is used for.... the sawdust is a byproduct.  If the supply were to dry up tomorrow, I wouldn't mind much.  But, as long as the sawdust is there, and being distilled.  Can you think of a strong argument NOT to offer it?

Back to the sandalwood family again. With the exception of Santalum spicatum,  W A Sandalwood,  I question whether ANY sandalwood is truly sustainable.  I keep hearing rumors that the Hawaiian Sandalwood has been decimated.  Those who are selling it say it is sustainable, others say no.  Years ago someone really knowledgeable in the industry told me that all the Sandalwood trees on Vanuatu had been cut down and sent to China for "processing"... now we see a new distillery in Vanuatu... so it is truly hard to know what to believe unless you can travel yourself.  I know that now there are plantations of both the spicatum and of santalum album in Australia so hopefully they will be able to meet the demand.  Time will tell the quality of Santalum album grown out of its own terrain.

Spikenard is another plant at risk of being over harvested in the wild.  I trust my Nepalese supplier, that HIS harvesters care about next year and the next decade and harvest responsibly, leaving enough of the plant to flourish in the future.   But we saw just the opposite in South Africa, with Cape Chamomile.  When the oil became known, the demand outstripped the supply and the wild plants were over harvested. And then we found out it doesn't flourish under cultivation.  Can you say "Oooops!"    So, the risk of over harvesting is, I think, always there.  And we depend on the - foresightedness? - of those harvesting the wild plants to put tomorrow's well being ahead of today's financial gain.

I don't have the answer.  I wish I did.


Kris Boggs said...

You most certainly did answer the question. The answer in my humble opinion, is honesty, integrity and a desire to ethically obtain legal oils. Sourced from reliable sources.
Your integrity is and always has been beyond reproach.
Much Love

Marge said...

Why bless your dear heart... thank you, Kris!