Arthritis an informal term to describe more than 100 types of joint and bone diseases affecting anyone from children to adults. The term is derived from arthr (meaning joint) and it is (meaning inflammation) .
Most common types of arthritis are rheumatoid arthritis (an autoimmune disease) and osteoarthritis (degenerative joint disease) .
Other types of arthritis include gout, lupus, juvenile arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, etc.
Arthritis irrespective of its type is mostly characterized by inflammation and pain in joints in conjunction with stiffness, swelling, and redness.
The conventional treatments to manage these symptoms include painkillers along with lifestyle modifications (diet and exercise regimen).
Conventional medical treatments (CAM) are most effective; however, many patients are adapting complementary and alternative treatments to aid the CAM.
Research suggests that the use of sandalwood oil may prevent arthritis as well as can benefit the symptoms of arthritis. Before we discuss the benefits let us find out more about this oil.
What is Sandalwood oil?
Sandalwood essential oil (SEO) is extracted from the matured sandalwood trees which are 40-80 years old, through steam distillation of wood. The older the tree, better the oil reserve and stronger the aroma.
Sandalwood is used in medicines, skin and beauty treatments, and numerous industrial products including mouth fresheners, edibles, incense sticks, room fresheners, deodorants, perfumes, soaps, lotions, and creams.
There are three species of sandalwood, Indian, Hawaiian, and Australian of which Indian sandalwood is the of the highest quality .
The two major molecules responsible for the scent of sandalwood are alpha- and beta-santalol .
The scientist has only recently started studying the properties and benefits of SEO with respect to its many medicinal attributes like an antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, astringent, cicatrizant (promotes healing), diuretic, disinfectant, emollient, hypotensive, memory booster, and a sedative.
Benefits of Sandalwood oil for Arthritis
For centuries, SEO has been utilized in both Ayurvedic and Chinese medicines.
The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Food Chemicals Codex has listed it as a natural flavoring agent, and the Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has classified the oil as a Listed Medicine, available as an active ingredient in many non-prescription products .
Although there are very studies or experiments to establish the effects of SEO in arthritis, there is strong evidence that promotes its benefits in treating and managing many symptoms of arthritis.
1. Sandalwood Oil and its Anti-Inflammatory Properties
Rheumatoid arthritis (inflammation of joints), psoriatic arthritis (inflammation under the skin), lupus (autoimmune disease attacking healthy tissues), spondylitis (inflammation of the spine), etc. are few examples of “Inflammatory Arthritis” .
Sandalwood essential oil (SEO) is known for its anti-inflammatory properties; however, an exact mechanizing of which is not yet elucidated.
There are many cell culture and animal studies reporting the anti-inflammatory properties of SEO.
A study conducted in 2014 found that alpha-santalol an active molecule in SEO, help decrease the inflammation markers called cytokines .
Another study a Phase 2 clinical trial demonstrate the ability of SEO to alleviate psoriasis symptoms, by suppressing the intrinsic tissue inflammation reactions in afflicted lesions .
Thus, supporting the potential of the topical use of SEO in preventing and treating psoriatic arthritis .
What does it Mean? Sandalwood oil has some significant anti-inflammatory properties as demonstrated in many pre-clinical trials. It is safe to hypothesize that SEO might provide therapeutic benefit to arthritis patients due to its anti-inflammatory and anti-proliferative properties.
2. Anti-Oxidant Activity of Sandalwood oil
The excessive level of free radicals in the joint is the underlying problem of many arthritis.
Since the cartilage a cushion like material present in the joints, is constantly being renewed, that is; the old cells are replaced with new cells.
In the absence of antioxidants, an excessive level of free radicals in the joint leads to an imbalance between the old cells and new cells.
The anti-oxidant properties of SEO are well studied and documented, Banerjee. Et.al. in 1993 reported that alpha-santalol shows an indirect anti-oxidant activity by increasing the glutathione-S-transferase activity (an enzyme involved in reducing free radicals) .
In a study conducted in 2012 comprising of various medicinal plants and herbs from Australia and India to determine their antioxidant activity in diabetic plant showed that Santalum spicatum, Australian sandalwood showed a slightly higher anti-oxidant activity as compared to the control (ascorbic acid) .
In a different study, 20 Indian medicinal plants were studied for their screening and comparison of the antioxidant activities, individually and in combination with vitamins A, C or E, using the DPPH radical scavenging method.
The data presented that Santalum album (Indian sandalwood) along with few other plants exhibited highly significant anti-oxidant activity both individually as well as in combination with Vitamin A .
What does it Mean? Since most of the experiments are either on cell culture or animal models, there is no data available on oral ingestion of sandalwood oil in the human being, therefore it is only advised for topical uses. Further study is required to promote these findings for human usage.
3. Sandalwood Essential oil Aromatherapy to De-Stress:
Since ancient times SEO has been profoundly known for its spiritual and emotional relevance as well as its applications in perfume/fragrance and skin care.
SEO promotes mental clarity when used as an incense or fragrance. Therefore, it is frequently used for meditation, prayer, or other spiritual rituals.
A study conducted on humans in 2006, evaluated the effect of SEO on physiological parameters (blood oxygen saturation, respiration rate, eye-blink rate, pulse rate, skin conductance, skin temperature, surface electromyogram, and blood pressure) and self-rated arousal (alertness, attentiveness, calmness, mood, relaxation, and vigor).
Comparative analysis showed that volunteers who received the sandalwood oil felt more mentally aware and demonstrated increased attention and cognitive clarity as compared to the control subjects .
There is a strong association between the symptoms of arthritis with increasing stress levels .
There are many observational studies that indicate stress management interventions can show positive clinical effects on patients with arthritis .
SEO aromatherapy is the most favored and perceived in patients who receive palliative care a study published in the Journal of Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice.
The patients reported that they felt much more relaxed and less anxious when compared to patients who did not receive sandalwood oil therapy .
What does it Mean? Sandalwood oil is an excellent stress buster and anxiolytic agent. It can be used in whichever way feasible and most effective to the user as, a massage oil, in bath water or as an incense.
4. Anti-viral and Antiseptic activity of Sandalwood Oil
Many arthritis is caused by an infectious agent such as bacteria, viruses or fungi characterized by, joint pain, soreness, stiffness, and swelling caused by an infectious.
These infections can enter the joints in many ways; through a nearby wound, spread through the bloodstream after contracting infectious diseases like pneumonia, tuberculosis, gonorrhea, etc.
Some of the infectious diseases are Reactive or Reiter’s arthritis, Lyme disease arthritis, Psoriatic arthritis, etc.
Reactive arthritis also known as Reiter’s arthritis, develops in response to an infection in another part of the body (cross-reactivity), encountering bacteria and developing an infection can trigger the disease.
Lyme disease is caused by a bacterial infection due to the bite, when the infection goes unchecked for a longer period of time, many patients complaint about knee joint pain and inflammation this is termed as Lyme arthritis.
Psoriasis is a skin disease that causes itchy or sore patches of thick, red skin with silvery scales. Most prevalent on elbows, knees, scalp, face, palms, and feet, but can also show up on any other body parts.
Some people who suffer from psoriasis also develop a form of arthritis called psoriatic arthritis.
All the studies so far are done in vitro (in glass) on either microorganisms or viruses themselves.
One can use SEO directly on infected areas to help curb the spreading of infection to other parts. Like for psoriasis applying SEO on the infected area can help ease the inflammation and thus help prevent psoriatic arthritis.
Similarly, for preventing reactive arthritis, inhaling SEO and gargling with hot water and two drops of SEO helps alleviate cough and the underlying bacterial infection, thus preventing from further spread of infection.
What does it Mean? Although it is a proven fact that SEO is an effective anti-viral and antibacterial agent and can be used topically as an oil or as a cream, but more studies are needed for any oral administration.
Some Safety Guidelines for Using Sandalwood Essential Oil
Sandalwood essential oil should not be ingested orally without the supervision of a health professional, it may have toxic effects.
In addition, a skin patch test is always recommended before the direct application of SEO on the skin, as some people may have an allergic reaction or irritation.
It is also advised to always use it diluted with water or other oils or base carrier oils like coconut oil, olive oil, etc. Consult your primary health care provider before using SEO on pregnant women and children.
Arthritis negatively affects one’s body, mind, and soul, disrupting life-style and harmony.
Using sandalwood essential oil is an entire system of healing, a holistic approach to health and well-being by means of aroma and antiseptic properties.
Apart from above-mentioned properties, SEO is both cicatrizant and carminative in nature. Cicatrizant means, it helps the body to heal faster especially wounds and scars fade better.
It also helps the intestinal system and stomach to relax and helps to remove gases and prevent bloating.
SEO also has diuretic properties that it helps remove the excess of water from the body that contains toxins responsible for ill health.
Thus, it is imperative to include sandalwood oil in dealing with arthritis and its symptoms.