What Is Agarwood?
Agarwood refers to the dark, fragrant, resin accumulated wood associated with a fungal infection in some trees of the Aquilaria and Gyrinops genus. Infected trees appear to wall out the infection by producing the dark Agarwood.
Sometimes referred to as “the wood of the gods” Agarwood has been used for thousands of years as an incense for religious ceremonies, in perfumes, cosmetics, aromatherapy, medicines, sculptures and also used for meditation.
The trees are native to the rainforests of Assam in India, through South East Asia to Papua New Guinea. Trees can grow to 30 metres tall and 60 cm in diameter. Without a response to fungal infection and the associated presence of the resinous Agarwood the unaffected wood has little value. Clear wood is light in colour and weight.
Agarwood is sold in many forms and grades.
- The sculptures have the most value and are considered valuable pieces of art and wealth.
- Chips and flakes are the most common forms of the trade. Only about 10-20% of a large piece of agarwood can be made into this form. Flakes include shavings or pieces that have broken off and are smaller than chips. Depending on the grade, chips and flakes can be very expensive, with prices from US$50-15,000/kg.
- The remainder is sold as powder or used for oil distillation. The powder is less expensive than the chips and flakes, with prices varying from around US$20-60/kg.
- The oil varies significantly in quality and is rarely pure. The major constituents of agarwood oil are sesquiterterpenes, a chemical structure of which makes them very difficult to synthesize. Depending on its quality and purity, the prices range from US$2,000-30,000/kg.
- The waste agarwood powder (after the oil has been extracted) sells for US$5-8/kg.
Wescorp Agarwood – History
The “Wood of the Gods” has at least a 3,000 year history in the Middle East, Japan and China. Only Kings and the very wealthy were able to benefit from its powers.
There are references to agarwood in the literature of India. The Indian poet Kalidasa once wrote: “Beautiful ladies, preparing themselves for the feast of pleasures, cleanse themselves with the yellow powder of sandal, clear and pure, freshen their breast with pleasant aromas, and suspended their dark hair in the smoke of burning Aloeswood.”
King Louis XIV of France had his shirts washed in rose water in which Aloeswood had been previously boiled.
There are a total of five places in the Bible where Aloeswood appears. Nicodemus brought it (pounded Aloeswood) to embalm the body of Christ (John 19:39).
It was used by the Egyptians at the time of the pyramids for embalming privileged dead bodies. In Buddhism, the most precious string of beads is made with 108 beads made from agarwood. In ancient China the wealthy chooses Aloeswood to make their coffins. There are many references on other web-sites for further information which include www.aloeswood.cn.
The tragedy of the agarwood industry is that the whole of the tree has to be felled to obtain the valuable inner layers. Not all trees contain the agarwood in the wild and there are occasions where 10 trees will be cut down to find agarwood in only one. Unsustainable Aquilaria harvesting in natural forests has resulted in near extinction in many areas of South East Asia. Many of the species are now listed as a protected tree and are recorded with CITES red data book. See www.cites.org.