Interesting facts about Agarwood/Aloeswood/Oud/Eaglewood/Gaharu
Agarwood – Wood of the Gods
Agarwood is also called ‘Wood of the Gods, it is usually found in deep forests and mountainous areas which are not accessible to humans. It is believed that the Gods are attracted to the scent of agarwood. Wherever there is scent of agarwood, the Gods will appear. When Gods appear, they make the place or location holy with positive energy, purifying the ‘Qi’ or environmental energy. Any evil spirits or ghostly beings will flee with appearance of the Gods. Thus, many believed that one’s wishes and goals can be achieved with a clear state of mind and compassionate heart.
Agarwood application ranges from incense for religious ceremonies (China, Japan, Korea, Egypt etc), perfume for the Arabs, medicinal wine in Korea and wooden sculptures as natural art in China.
Species and Types of Agarwood
There are about 26 species of agarwood across 15 countries in the world. They are spread throughout Asia especially in South East Asia. They are either naturally occurring or deliberately planted in rainforests for conservation reasons.
The most traded and popular sources are Aquilaria Crassna a.k.a ‘Hui An’, ‘惠安’ (Vietnam), Aquilaria Filaria (Indonesia, Philippines and Papua New Guinea), Aquilaria Malaccensis (Malaysia), Aetoxylon a.k.a Gaharu Buaya (Indonesia) etc. The more precious and valuable specie among the few being Vietnam’s Aquilaria Crassna ‘惠安’.
Agarwood are also distributed across countries including Brunei, India, Cambodia, Singapore, Thailand, China, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Myanmar and Laos.
Aquilaria species that produce Agarwood
See: Ng, L.T., Chang Y.S. and Kadir, A.A. (1997) “A review on agar (gaharu) producing Aquilaria species” Journal of Tropical Forest Products 2(2): pp. 272-285.
- Aquilaria apiculina, found in Philippines
- Aquilaria baillonil, found in Thailand and Cambodia
- Aquilaria baneonsis, found in Vietnam
- Aquilaria beccarain, found in Indonesia
- Aquilaria brachyantha, found in Malaysia
- Aquilaria crassna found in Malaysia, Thailand, and Cambodia
- Aquilaria cumingiana, found in Indonesia and Malaysia
- Aquilaria filaria, found in China
- Aquilaria grandiflora, found in China
- Aquilaria hilata, found in Indonesia and Malaysia
- Aquilaria khasiana, found in India
- Aquilaria malaccensis, found in Malaysia, Thailand, and India
- Aquilaria microcapa, found in Indonesia and Malaysia
- Aquilaria rostrata, found in Malaysia
- Aquilaria sinensis, found in China
- Aquilaria subintegra, found in Thailand
Agarwood More Precious Than Gold
Agarwood are harvested from the wild and because it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to see whether a tree contains agarwood or not most of the Aquilaria trees are chopped down indiscriminately. Since thousands of years, there has been an ever motivating expedition for agarwood exploitation across Asia as traders continuously search for untouched forests containing Aquilaria trees. The trees were fetching high prices and as a result, the news about agarwood harvesting spread like ‘gold fever’. Large amounts of money were offered to the forest natives, the traditional producers of agarwood.
For some years the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) has listed all Aquilaria species in its Appendix II to control the import and export of agarwood.
Agarwood trading becomes more and more lucrative in the market due to its rare existence and value. Fake agarwood products start to flood the market. These products are in fact made from non-infected Aquilaria wood which has been impregnated with cheap oil and coloured by human interventions. It requires a trained professional to differentiate real agarwood from these fake agarwood using smell and physical observations.
Some fake sellers sell resinous wood piece of Excoecaria Agollocha tree in agarwood market and call it agarwood. Excoecaria Agollocha also known as fish poison has a milky sap which is poisonous. Although it belongs to the same botanical class as agarwood producing trees but it is under a different classification.
One of the solutions to curb increasing demand and decreasing supply is to cultivate agarwood. Many agarwood producing countries are going into agarwood cultivation. But due to the deliberate human inducing method on the Aquilaria Trees and short time to harvest. The quality of the cultivated agarwood are inferior to those of natural wild agarwood. In terms of colour, the body looks white with black/brown resin in the centre. The oil from cultivated agarwood are light brown and transparent compared to black opaque colour i.e. Aquilaria Crassna agarwood oil.