What is Agarwood (Oud Wood)?

Overview

The scientific name of agarwood (The wood of Gods) is Aquilaria malaccensis. It belongs to the biological family of Thymelaeaceae. It is mainly found in the rainforest of Southeast Asia.

The healthy wood of the tree is pale, odorless, and worthless. Healthy wood is worthless unless the chemical cycle is completed.

The external damages such as grazing animals to these trees cause fungal infections inside the wood called Phialophora parasitic.

The wound on the surface of the wood is necessary to initiate the process through which the final product agarwood comes into its required form.

In response to the attacking fungus, the tree’s defense system starts to produce stressing juice aromatic resin called aloes.

With time, this aloe embeds with the tree’s healthy heartwood, transforming it into the very precious agarwood. This chemical and natural process takes several years to convert the worthless wood into very costly agarwood.

The finest quality of agarwood converted as a result of the natural chemical process is very costly. It ranges to even 100,000 US dollars per kg for the highest quality agarwood.

There are many precious products obtain from agarwood, such as aged oud oil, which can be cost over 80,000 US dollars per liter and traders termed it liquid gold.

The chemical products obtained from this wood are the primary element for many other products such as medicine, perfumes, agarwood chips, attars, Mellas, and agarwood oil products.

The solid agarwood can be used to produce incense and for prayer purposes by many religions around the globe.

History

The history of agarwood is as old as humanity. It was a well-known product some 3000 years among many civilizations of the world. It was well known in Europe, Middle East, India, Japan, and China.

17 species of aquaria tree are well known for producing agarwood, and 15 of them are well known for their fragrant heartwood.

There are many civilizations of the world in which such wood is necessary to perform their religious ceremonies.

The Middle East or Arabs are well known for using the smoke of such wood. They burn the wood and smoke their clothing and body to purify their soul from the evil eye.

Arabs also use this smoke to spread its fragrance in mosques and other prayer halls to make a spiritual environment to enlighten their souls.

Apart from Muslims, Hindus, Taoists, Buddhists, Catholics, and Christians also use this wood in different forms for meditation and spiritual purity.

They also use for the formation of perfumes and attar products. They also use some extractions as a medicine for different types of illnesses.

The importance of agarwood is spread among many other civilizations with time.

Its usage varies in different industries, such as medicine in the pharma industry, flavor in scent, and spirituality among different religions worldwide.

The usage of this wood is also involved in traditional medicine among Chinese, Arabs, Europeans, and many other societies.

It is commonly used as a traditional medicine to cure illtric problems, coughs, high fever, kidney diseases, and many other diseases.

Five reasons Agarwood is so expensive?

Agarwood is used in many industries of the world. It is used in medicine, the scent industry, and for religious purposes. Thus it is a costly material all the time.

High-quality agarwood, which forms due to a natural chemical reaction, is as costly as gold. Some of the reasons that why this wood is so expensive is described as under:

  1. Agarwood is used in the formation of medicine used to cure many illnesses. The extracted oil from such wood is used in the production of medicine which is used to treat many gastric problems, allergies, painkillers, hypertension, anti-asthma antitoxic, antioxidants, hepatitis, and many other critical diseases.
  2.  Agarwood is also used for investment purposes. Investors invest in such trees in order to earn profits on their investment. This needs experience because it is a very risky investment because not all equilibria trees contain agarwood.
  3. Agarwood is considered a sacred material in almost all religions of the world. Buddhists used it for meditation, scripture chanting, and other ceremonies. Taoists used it for meditation and evicting demons and other spiritual entities from the person. Catholics and Christians believe that the body of Jesus was covered by agarwood thus used agarwood oil as a holy product.  However, in Islam, it is used in celebrations and for prayers in order to purify the soul from sins.
  4. Agarwood is commonly used in the scent industry. The scents and attars that contain agarwood are very expensive because the fragrance remains in clothes for days and days.
  5. Agarwood can also be used in fragrant sticks and other products of a similar kind. There is a very huge demand for pure and natural agarwood in such industries.
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Thus the usage of this wood varies among various industries. Due to its high demand, 20 percent of agarwood is produced in nurseries, while the rest is from the rain forests.

Top five products produced from agarwood:

Many costly products are obtained from agarwood, and some of them are discussed as under:

  • Agarwood oud oil is being used in the manufacturing process of many medicines. It can also be used as an anti-inflammatory and it also acts as an antibacterial while killing the various types of bacteria affecting the skin.
  • Agarwood incense is also used in the production of incense sticks. These incense sticks and similar material is used for religious ceremonies and in the performance of prayers.
  • Agarwood is also used in fragrance industries for the production of perfumes and attars. The middle east countries or Arabs are well known for famous fragrances and attar products.
  • Agarwood is also used in making Mellas which is being used by Buddhists for wearing on wrists and necks. They believe it is a source of peace of mind and clarity.
  • A product extracted in the form of powder is being used for the treatment of diarrhea, dysentery, vomiting, and anorexia.

In short, agarwood can be used in many industries as a medicine, fragrant, and source of spiritual bliss.

Usage:

Agarwood is used to produce luxury perfumes as expensive as gold in the middle east countries. It is a key source of incense for fragrance companies.

It is also used in different forms in performing religious ceremonies and prayers. It can be used to purify and enlighten the soul by the followers of almost all the regions.

Arabs also used agarwood smoke to keep their clothes and body pure from evil elements. It is mainly used in Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, Catholics, and Christians. The religious holy books of these religions also discussed the importance and benefits of this wood.

The Arabs also use it for the manufacturing of attars. Agarwood has been used for centuries to produce different types of medicines such as aphrodisiacs, sedatives, cardiotonic, and carminatives, as well as to relieve gastric problems and coughs, rheumatism, and high fever.

It is also being used to make Chinese traditional medicine and treat illnesses such as the digestive system, relieves spasms, regulates vital organs, relieves pain, treats halitosis, and supports kidneys and many other diseases.

Value:

Many factors are involved in determining the value of agarwood. It depends upon the age, source, natural process, quality of wood as well as fragrance.

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The only minuscule amount of wood is required through a natural process: the wound on the trees by external sources followed by the fungal attack and then the formation of aloe.

Which, after many chemical processes, converts the worthless heartwood into agarwood. Such type of wood is precious and expensive and as expensive as gold.

Due to high demand, it is also cultivated in nurseries, and the wounding process is being done artificially.

This lessens the value of the wood because it differs in quality compared to natural agarwood. The natural process completes its cycle over a period of many years; however, the artificial period is less than the natural cycle. The agarwood industry is increasing over time.

Currently, it is a 32 billion US dollar company globally, and it is expected to double that of the 64 billion US dollars industry in 2029. The consumption of this wood is too high as a result cutting down trees is too high.

To keep the industry alive, there is a need to grow further trees and explore other forest sources in the world. The value of pure agarwood is as good as gold. The high quality costs more than 30,000 US dollars per kg.

Top five countries where agarwood trees grow:

There are many countries and regions of the world where agarwood trees grow. The leading countries and regions for agarwood tree production are Northeast India, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, Cambodia, and New Guinea. Each country produces a different type of agarwood in terms of quality and fragrance.

Vietnam is regarded as the best agarwood (Oud) producing country in the world. The quality and its fragrance depend upon the source of origin. Some of the qualities of each country’s agarwood is mentioned as under:

  1. The domestic Indian name of agarwood is Sanchi or Agaru commonly found in Assam valley. This species is unique in its quality and fragrance and commonly used in incense, perfumes, and traditional medicine. Like in every part of the world, the agarwood forest is about to deplete in India as well.
  2. Bangladesh is a producer of agarwood, agar oil, and agar dust. It is the main component of cosmetics products especially perfumes, in traditional medicine as well as in religious ceremonies across the world by the followers of different religions.
  3. Agarwood of Vietnam is very famous for its unique quality and fragrance in the world. It has a very high demand in middle east countries because of high demand from perfume customers around the globe. Chips are burnt to gain purity from their distinct sweet smell and agarwood is also gifted as a symbol of wealth.
  4. The unique thing about Indonesia in the industry of agarwood is that it produces a diversified species of such wood compared to other Asian countries. Agarwood products of Indonesia are most famous in all the world due to their quality and diversification. But unfortunately, this diversification lessens in figures due to a huge decline in the population of aquaria trees.
  5. The world population size of agarwood trees in Malaysia is difficult to calculate due unavailability of statistical data. However, the number of trees in this country is declining due to a huge cut down of trees in search of agarwood. Malaysian authorities have set the rules and regulations for governing the agarwood trees such as the protection of agarwood sites and cultivation of more trees.
  6.  Similar to the agarwood of other countries the Cambodian agarwood is too much costly. It produces too many products which are used in other products such as agarwood and agar oud oil. This wood is being used in order to treat various nervous disorders as well as other illnesses. It can also be used in religious ceremonies in order to get spiritual satisfaction.
  7. Some of the world’s demand for agarwood is fulfilled by Guinea. However, the demand for such wood is much higher than the supply of agarwood. Hundreds and thousands of tonnes of agarwood are being traded in the world but still, there is plenty of demand for it. The high global demand for such trees is the main factor for the cultivation of such trees in nurseries. And almost twenty percent of such supply is made from the nurseries.
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The value and quality of agarwood depend upon the source, species, and the natural way of its transformation. The transformation process can be done through the artificial method to get the desired result, and it could have occurred naturally.

Agarwood obtained from the natural process is far better in quality and fragrance than the one taken through the artificial way.

Agarwood extinction:

Agarwood trees are becoming extinct and endangered plant species—over eighty percent decrease of Aquilaria trees in last 150 years. One of the main reasons for such a drastic decline in trees is the high value of agarwood trees.

While the other important reason is that not all Aquilaria trees contain agarwood, in some cases only ten to fifteen percent possibility of obtaining agarwood; however, the rest of the cut-down trees are futile material.

The fungal infection ratio is too low on Aquilaria trees, and as a result, only 2 percent of the total supply is made from a natural process.

However, in the majority of cases, aquaria trees are artificially inoculated to get the agarwood.

Agarwood is the main component of many costly products such as medicines, cosmetics, and the performance of religious rituals. This is why the demand for such a product is always higher than the price.

Some of the finest quality of agarwood is even more valuable than the gold. This is why everyone is cutting aquaria trees in search of agarwood. The speed of decline of such trees is at a quite rapid rate. If this is left uncontrollable, then most species of aquaria trees may soon disappear.

To keep safe such a precious natural gift, the cutting down of Acquilaria trees must be balanced with the cultivation. The demand for agarwood trees is far greater than supply, and the total world market for agarwood is expected to double in 2029.

Thus more and more farmers must be attracted to the cultivation of Acquilaria trees in their nurseries. So that we can fulfill the world demand for Aquilarian trees while preserving all the species of these trees.

The statistics of every agarwood producing country show an alarming decrease in the population of every species of Acquilaria trees. If this rate remains uncontrollable, then such trees’ ecosystem is in grave danger shortly.

This could also affect billions of US dollars industry of the world. The usage of the agarwood must be limited in case of emergency purposes. Some aquaria trees produce in a six to seven years period and some only once in their lifetime.

This indicates a prolonged increase in growth rate and quite a rapid rate in declining the trees. All the agarwood producing must apply strict regulations in cutting down the trees and the cultivation of new trees.

Every country must ensure a fair proportion to keep safe all the species of aquaria trees; otherwise, these species will become endangered and disappear after a short time. Some motivational classes should be arranged to realize the importance of such trees in human lives.