(Thymelaeceae) and often occurs as dark coloured patches or streaks in the tree. Due to its strong, unique scent and medicinal properties, gaharu oil is greatly valued as perfumery ingredient and incense.
Gaharu may be classified into various grades; Grade A, B, C and D and they are often graded according to the physical properties, gaharu formation and its unique scent. The lower grades such as Grade C are often distilled to obtain gaharu oils. As part of an on-going research on the chemical profiling of some Malaysian gaharu oils and evaluation of their potential beneficial properties; gaharu oils obtained from different sources were analyzed and compared by GC and GC-MS.
Identification of the chemical components was based on comparison of calculated retention indices and mass spectral data with literature values. Examination of the oils showed some variations and differences in terms of GC profiles, concentration and chemical components. Majority of the essential oil profiles were complex and made up of sesquiterpenoids and their oxygenated derivatives. However, common occurrences of chemical compounds such as 3-phenyl-butanone, a-guaiene, ß-agarofuran, a-agarofuran, agarospirol and jinkoh-eremol were detected.
Gaharu (Malay word for agar wood) is the most expensive wood in the world. It is valued in many cultures for its distinctive fragrance, and used extensively in incense and perfumes. Gaharu is the occasional product of two to four genera in the family Thymelaeaceae, with Aquilaria agallocha, Aquilaria crassna and Aquilaria malaccensis being the three best known species.
The name of the species is derived from the latin word “aquila” meaning eagle. Gaharu is known throughout many Asian countries and at least 15 species of Aquilaria trees are known to produce the much sought-after agar wood. The valuable wood has been traded for thousands of years throughout Asia. It used to be commonly found in many tropical countries, from India to Indonesia (Angela Barden et. al., 2000).
An information document prepared by TRAFFIC Oceania for the Eleventh Meeting of the CITES Plants Committee, with reference to CITES Decisions 11.112 and 11.113 regarding Aquilaria spp.
By Frank Zich and James Compton
Frank Zich (Consultant to TRAFFIC Oceania)
Centre for Plant Biodiversity Research
CSIRO Plant Industry
GPO Box 1600
Canberra, ACT 2601
Senior Programme Officer
GPO Box 528
Sydney NSW 2001