Because of its peculiar odor sandalwood from Santalum album was highly prized during antiquity in India and China. Of the useful woods it was the most durable because it is avoided by the white ant that destroys most other kinds of wood. In India it was therefore used for carving images of the dieties, and temple decorations. Both in China and India it is used as incense in the cult of the dead and other religious worship.
Sandalwood is mentioned in the earliest Sanscrit literature and probably also in that of China. Yet it does not appear to have been an article of barter between India and China and the Occident. To the Egyptians, however, it was known as early as the 17. century B. C. They obtained it from the countries lying between the gulf of Aden and the Persian bay, then known as the Punt or Phun.4)
The first mention of sandalwood during the Christian era occurs about the middle of the first century in the Periplus of the Red Sea;5) somewhat later in the 5. century in the writings of Kosmas Indikopleustes.1) From that time on, sandalwood is mentioned by a number of writers and travelers: in the 9. century by Avicenna,2) in the 10. century of Serapion3) and by Masudi,4) in the 11. century by Constantinus Africanus of Salerno"') and in the 13. century by Marco Polo.6) Saladin of Ascoli7) in the 15. century distinguished between white, yellow and red sandalwood.8) Barbosa9) in 1511 makes a like distinction and adds that the white and yellow wood are obtained from the Malabar coast and cost ten times as much as the red. Rumpf10) in 1741 was the first to give a good illustration of the tree.
1) Fluckiger and Hanbury, Pharmacographia. 1879. p. 551.
2) Silliman's Journal of Sciences and Arts 1820, 302.
3) Journ. de Pharm. 8 (1822), 214 and 533.
3) Dumichen, Die Flotte einer agyptischen Konigin. Leipzig 1868. - Dumichen, Historische Inschriften. 1869. - Dumichen, Aegypten. 1880. p. 100. In Oncken's Allgem. Weltgeschichte. - Lieblein, Handel und Schiff-fahrt auf dew roten Meere in alten Zeiten. Christiania 1886. pp. 21 and 31. -■ Quatremere, Memoires geographiques et historiques sur I'Egypte. 1811. Vol. 2, pp. 366-375.
5) Periplus maris Erythraei. Editio Fabricius. Leipzig 1883. p. 75. - Vincent, Commerce and Navigation of the Ancients in the Indian Ocean. London 1807. Vol. 2, p. 378.
Inasmuch as the volatile oil of sandal-wood has come into use medicinally only in recent times, it is mentioned but seldom in mediaeval works and in the later treatises on distillation.
1) Christiana topographia, in Mignes Patroiogiae cursus compietus. Series graeca. Vol. 88, pp. 574 and 446. - Lassen, Indische Altertumskunde. Vol. 3, p. 40. - Meyer, Geschichte der Botanik. Vol. 2, p. 388.
2) Avicennae libri in re medica omnes; latine redditi ab I. Paulo Mongio et I. Costaso recogniti. 2 Vol. Venetis 1564. Canon medicinae. Lib. II. tractat. II. Cap. 656.
3) Liber Serapionis aggregatus in medicinis simplicibus. Mediolani 1473.
4) Ali el Masudi, Les Prairies d'Or, texte et traduite par Meynard et P. de Courteille. 9 Vol. (the original Arabian text was completed in 984). Paris 1861-1877. Vol. 1, p. 222.
5) Constantini Africani Opera omnia. Basiliae 1536. Liber de gradibus. p. 369.
6) Pauthier, Le Livre de Marco Polo. Paris 1865. Tom. 2, p. 580.
7) Compendium aromatariorum Saladini principis tarenti dignissimi medici diligenter correctum et emendatum. 1488.
8) It is not at all improbable that even during premediaeval times the wood of the Pterocarpus santalinus, L., N. O. Leguminosae, which tree is indigenous to the Southern parts of the East Indies and to the Philippines, was used on account of its red pigment. Inasmuch as it was imported from the same countries that yielded the fragrant sandalwood it was at first regarded as related to sandalwood and hence so designated. This error and with it the false designation has remained. In consequence many an author has placed them together, e. g. in the list of Frankfurt of 1450. Garcia da Orto recognised the mistake and called attention to it though in vain. (Ab Horto, Colloquios dos simples e drogas he cousas medicinais da India, e assi dalguas frutas achadas nella ande se tratam. 1563. Varnhagen's reprint 1872, p. 188. - Editio Carolus Clusius 1539, p. 68.)
9) Ramusio, Dellie navigationi et viaggi. Venetia 1554. fol. 357, 6. 10) Rumphii Herbarium Amboinense. Amstelodami 1741. Vol.2, p. 42.
Its distillation is recorded by Saladin,1) by Conrad Gesner2) and by Friedrich Hoffmann.3) The yield was first ascertained by Caspar Neumann and Dehne.4) It was first examined by P. Chapoteaut.5)
It is reported that in Ceylon distilled oil of sandal-wood was used for the embalming of the dead bodies of princes as early as the 9. century.6)
Owing to its peculiarly shaped and aromatic fruits, the star-anise tree has no doubt been known since antiquity and has received attention. However, Chinese literature appears to contain little concerning its use. Under the Sung dynasty, between 970 and 1127, several of the southern Chinese provinces had to furnish star anise as tribute.") Into European commerce it was apparently introduced by the circumnavigator Thomas Cavendish, who in 1578 brought it to London from the Philippines. It was in London that the Leyden Professor Carolus Clusius first became acquainted with the fruit and described it as An/sum philippin-arum insularum.8 ) According to a statement by Redis, star-anise is supposed to have been known to the Italian drug trade as early as the middle of the 16. century under the name Fceniculum sinenses) but apparently was not used until the middle of the 17. century.
The volatile oil of staranise was distilled some time during the 18. century but was not used to any extent until the 19. century.
1) Compendium aromatariorum Saladini. 1488. fol. 349. 2) Ein k&stlicher Schatz Euonymi Philiatri. 1555. p. 246. 3) Frederici Hoffmannii Observatorium physico-chemicarum selectiorum. Halae 1722. Lib. III. Observ. 1, p. 69.
4) Crell's Chemisches Journal 3 (1780), 18.
5) Bull. Soc. chim. II. 37 (1882), 303.
6) Fluckiger and Hanbury, Pharmacographia. II. edit., 599.
7) Bretschneider, Study and value of Chinese botanical works. Foochow 1870. p. 14.
8) Clusii Rariorum plantarum historia. Antwerp. 1601. p. 202.
9) Redi, Experienze naturali. Firenze 1671. p. 119. Tavola 2. - Latin edition: Redi, Experimenta circa res diversas naturales, speciatim illas, quae ex India adferuntur. Amstelodami 1675. p. 172.
The chemical composition of staranise and the yield of oil were studied about the time by Caspar Neumann and Friedr. Cartheuser;l) somewhat later, i. e. in 1818, by W. Meissner.2)