- The wood is in high demand for decorative joinery, furniture and cabinet work, and for carvings and turnery.
- It is also appreciated for use in house construction for posts, beams and roof laths, and to make scented beads for necklaces.
- They are suitable for heavy flooring, mine props, ship building, toys, novelties, agricultural implements and musical instruments.
- It is also used as fuel-wood, but should not be used for cooking because of the toxic smoke.
- The branches have been used for making scented torches.
- The roots, bark and latex are widely used in traditional medicine. Root decoctions are taken to treat malaria, constipation but also diarrhea, cough, gonorrhea and headache.
- They are dropped into the eyes to treat ophthalmia.
- Bark decoctions and infusions in small dosage are used as purgative to treat constipation , treat stomach ulcers, kidney complaints, cough and eye complaints, and to purify the blood.
- Dried bark is applied to rashes in children.
- Powdered bark is taken as anthelmintic.
- Latex diluted in water is taken as emetic and purgative, and the latex is administered against toothache and as anodyne.
- It is also applied to sores in cattle to kill maggots, whereas the wood serves as insect repellent. Extreme caution is needed when bark or latex is administered for medicinal purposes.
- Extracts are used in the treatment of opportunistic oral infections such as candidiasis in HIV-infected patients, and although they have potent anti-fungal activity, they should be used with care because they may have interactions with antiretroviral agents.
- The bark has been used as fish poison, and the latex as hunting poison for arrow heads.
- Leaf decoctions are applied to the eyes to treat ophthalmia. In Namibia the powdered oily wood, mixed with fat, has been rubbed into the hair, and it has also been used as perfume.
- The heartwood is brown to dark brown with darker markings and streaks, and distinctly demarcated from the whitish to pale yellow, 2.5–5 cm wide sapwood.
- The grain is straight to slightly wavy, texture moderately fine to fine, and even.
- The wood has a beautiful banded figure and a satin-like lustre, with an oily surface. It has a fragrant, spicy smell, resembling that of East Indian sandalwood (Santalum album L.), which can persist for many years.
- Sandalo africana wood is very heavy, with a density of 910–1090 kg/m³ at 12% moisture content, and hard. It air dries slowly. Boards of 2.5 cm thick take about 7 months to air dry and boards of 10 cm thick about one year. End checking is common, but the wood is usually not very liable to distortion. The rates of shrinkage are low, from green to oven dry 2.1–3.5% radial and 4.0–6.7% tangential. Once dry, the wood is moderately stable in service.
- At 12% moisture content, the modulus of rupture is 102–108 N/mm², modulus of elasticity 8600–9210 N/mm², compression parallel to grain 57–60 N/mm², shear 16 N/mm² and Janka side hardness 8940 N.
- The wood is difficult to saw, particularly green wood, but it is more easy to work. It rapidly blunts saw teeth. The saw dust is gummy and sticks to the teeth. The wood near the center of the log may be extremely hard to saw. It planes smoothly and molds well.
- Drilling and mortising require considerable effort, and nailing is only possible after pre-boring. Turning gives excellent results.
- Sanding is difficult because of the oily wood surface. The wood is durable and resistant to fungi, termites and wood borers. It is very resistant to preservatives.
Origin and Geographic Distribution
Spirostachys africana occurs from south-eastern Kenya south to Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, South Africa and Swaziland.