oud, aloeswood, agar
A. sinensis, A. crassna, A. agallocha, etc.
Aromatic Note: Base note
Agarwood is widely known as one of the most expensive raw aromatic materials in the world. A single kilogram can cost upwards of $100,000 or more. So, why is it so costly to purchase?
Also known as aloeswood, Oud, and ood, this treasured material comes from the Aquilaria tree. This particular tree variety does not naturally produce scented agarwood but must first become infected by a fungus called phialophora parasitica.
In response, the tree creates a special resin, which seeps throughout the wood to heal itself. The more aged the resin becomes within the live tree, the more depth, character, and complexity its aroma becomes.
When the tree dies or is cut down and dried, the areas containing this precious resin get harvested by hand from the tree’s heartwood and sold on the open markets.
As you can tell, the whole process can take years or even decades to accomplish, which is why the cost of natural agarwood is so high.
What Is Agarwood Good For?
There are numerous uses for agarwood around the globe. These range from incense use to creating essential oils for perfumes, colognes, and wellness products. The resinous wood is also said to produce health and energetic benefits, such as improved digestion and increased Qi.
In Japan, there is a high demand for agarwood. It is used for incense and as part of the traditional Kodo ceremony and its incense games.
Further, a large piece of the agarwood nicknamed Ranjatai has become a significant element in Japanese culture. As a gift from China’s Emperor to Japan’s Emperor in the sixth century, this exquisite piece of agarwood now resides in safekeeping with the Japanese royal family.
But the historical use of aloeswood is said to go back even further. Historians have found passages citing it as one of the most sought-after aromatics in the world within the Bible and Koran.
Is Agarwood Illegal?
Agarwood itself is not illegal. However, the harvesting of it in some countries is. This is primarily due to over-forestation and environmental concerns. For example, selling agarwood in the Philippines is illegal and can result in hefty fines or prison time.
To help save the forests and combat poaching, many cultivated aloeswood forests and farms have started production. During this process, various species of Aquilaria trees are planted, grown, intentionally wounded, and then injected with a fungus to infect the tree and provoke its resin production.
It then takes years for that resin within the live tree to develop and age within the wood and become wonderfully aromatic. The result is a sustainable source of agarwood to supply the markets while saving the threatened natural Aquilaria forests.
Where Is Agarwood Found?
The trees that ultimately create agarwood are all native to Asia. Each country has a species of Aquilaria that is most common to their given region, thanks to unique strains of the plant and varied soil conditions.
Typically, the Aquilaria tree grows in dense forests surrounded by lush jungle landscapes. This type of ecosystem environment leads to the growth of the fungus parasite, which causes the plant to produce the aromatic resin responsible for agarwood.
The countries where you are most likely to find Aquilaria species growing are Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, the Philippines, Cambodia, Malaysia, Vietnam, Thailand, China, Laos, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and India.
Many of the countries where these trees grow have closely-watched import, export, and harvesting guidelines.
Threatened Species Alert: The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species now includes all Agarwood species.
Aquilaria crassna status: Critically endangered
Aquilaria malaccensis status: Critically endangered
Aquilaria sinensis status: Vulnerable
There are allowable international trade quotas each year by species and origins
We recommend using only cultivated plantation agarwood or highly reputable suppliers of legally exported wild harvested woods.
Pictured: Famous piece of agarwood in Japan, named Ranjatai
Image credit: KyaraZen.com
Synonyms: Agarwood, aloes, lignin aloes, jinko, jinkoh, oud, ood, chuwar, agallochum, eaglewood, kyara
Origin: Malaysia, Indonesia, India, China, Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia
Parts Used: heartwood, roots
Aroma Description: many various types: rich, woody, sweet, sour, hot, spicy, floral, balsamic, cool, elegant, etc.
Cosmetic Uses: perfumery, aromatherapy
Culinary Uses: used to flavor curries in Malaysia and India
Essential Oil: Yes, steam and C02 distilled essential oils are available, though very expensive and often adulterated. We recommend using only highly reputable suppliers of certified oils.
Medicinal Attributes: a long history of use in Ayurvedic, Traditional Chinese and Unani medicine to treat mental illness, relieve spasms, fevers, and digestive and respiratory disorders.
For more information on agarwood, see our section on agarwood for the Japanese Kodo Ceremony.
Medical Disclaimer: Information on this web site is for entertainment purposes only. This information is NOT intended as medical advice, or for use as diagnosis or treatment of a health problem, or as a substitute for consulting a licensed medical professional.
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