As an evergreen tree with seventeen species, agarwood is a native plant growing in the south and east of Asia.
Also known as eagle wood, agarwood is a fragrant wood that is formed in the heartwood of this plant.
When Aquilaria tree is infected by a type of mold, to fight with the mold, it secretes a resin.
This resin changes the color and aroma of the wood and results in one of the most expensive natural materials in the globe.
It worth mentioning that before infection, the heartwood of this tree is odorless.
But, as the mold progresses and after it infects the tree, the self defense mechanism of the plant begins to produce a dark and aromatic resin.
This resin is called aloes or jinko. It has several other common names as well.
Aloes embed the heartwood and turns its color from lighter colors to the dark.
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Let’s have a look at its characteristics:
The tree from the genus Aquilaria, native to Asia, has many subspecies. Some of the better-known ones include Aquilaria malaccensis, Aquilaria crassna, Aquilaria microcarpa, and Aquilaria filaria. Agarwood trees are evergreen, broad-leaved trees that can grow up to 40 meters in height. They are a type of softwood.
The tree, in its relatively nondescript form, does not yield aromatic wood. However, when it is visited by a tiny insect that bores into its bark and carries up to 14 different types of fungi on its wings, a remarkable transformation begins: an incredible metamorphosis.
The quality of agarwood
Several factors have a great impact on the quality of agarwood. So, the price of agar wood or its essential oil is different.
For example, the quality is influenced by factors like:
- Geographical location
- The species
- The level of infection
- Root, branch, or trunk origin
- Harvesting method
It worth to note nine species of Aquilaria (as a well-known genius in Southeast Asia) produce agarwood.
Usually, only two species of this genius are harvested.
But, the interesting point is that in theory, the fragrant wood can be produced from all species.
How molt infects the tree?
The formation of resins mostly happens in roots and trunks of tree. Here, in this parts of tree, some insects begin to feed on wood.
Then, as a consequence, a mold infection happens. The tree begins to defend itself by producing a unique material.
This material increases in mass and density over the time. It changes the color of the wood.
While the unaffected part of tree has a light color, in the first stage of infection, it changes to yellow and beige.
Then, the darkness increases and the color turns into orange and red. Eventually, it becomes dark brown or black.
Do all trees get infected?
No, Naturally, only less than 10 tree out of 100 are infected and produce resins.
But, there are artificial methods to inoculate the tree by using fungus. The final sap in artificial method is called fake aloes or agarwood.
In fact, domesticating this plant in farm is the best way to supply the demands in future.
It can increase the speed of resin production and plant growth.
But, as you know, naturally produced materials are superior.
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What type of agarwood is most expensive?
First-grade eaglewood is considered as one of the most expensive woods and raw materials in the world.
A perfectly pure and superior quality agarwood worth more than 100 thousand USD per kg.
It worth mentioning that you need 3.5 kilograms of agarwood to produce 1 ml oil after distillation.
So, to have just 10 ml of essential oil, you need to distill 35 kg of wood. It makes final product very expensive.
But, due to the adulteration of the oil or wood, also due to the differences in the grade or quality of agarwood, the price of some products in market is lower.
So, you can even buy it by a price as low as nearly 1 hundred dollars per kg.
How the quality of agarwood can be affected by its compounds?
The composition of the essential oil that is produced from agarwood is very complex. It means that you have different compound in the wood.
More than 100 compounds are found in the agarwood oil. So, the resins do not have quite similar compositions.
On the other hand, botanical species produce resins with different quality. You can find a wide range of products with different qualities in different geographical locations.
Even, the section or part of the tree that agarwood stems from can have a great impact on the quality.
Also, the age of tree is a defining factor in having a fine resin.
Finally, the balance of materials in the oil or the wood depend on other factors like the processing and extraction method.
What makes agarwood so special?
The odor of this wood is pleasant and it is hard to find a natural similar compound or with the same aroma.
Keep in mind: This odor is very soft, complex, and has fruity and floral notes.
on the other hand, the health benefits of this natural product is significant. It works as a detoxifier and has benefits that we’ll mention later.
The special characteristics of agarwood and its oil have made them important products with cultural importance in different part of globe.
Another important note is that the uncommonness of agarwood as a result of wild forests depletion, has made it more valuable.
Why is agarwood good for perfumes?
The notes of bright fruits and floral as well as notes of vanilla and musk, that you can find in this wood, makes agarwood a valuable natural oil to be used in perfumes.
But, keep in mind that few perfume producers use real agarwood in the products. Many others use similar chemical scent components.
The main reason is the high price of first grade agar wood essential oil. So, if you want to buy agarwood or perfume in online platforms, care about the vendor.
Because, there is a big market for adulteration and diluting the products.
It worth mentioning that based on available data, the global market for agarwood is estimated to be more than 5 billion dollars.
Where does agarwood grows?
Several countries are known as native regions for this genius. They are all located in different regions from east to the south Asia.
Bangladesh, India, Bhutan, and Indonesia are among native states that are identified for their agarwood production.
Other countries that are among agar wood producers are as follows:
It worth mentioning that according to a study, which has been conducted by a Japanese researcher, Vietnam has one of the best species of agarwood in the world.
This plant grows well in hilly lands with more than 700 meters above sea level.
It can grow in regions with enough rainfall and in clay sandy soils.
The ideal temperature for the tree growth is between 20 to 35 degree centigrade.
In the wild, the formation of agarwood takes up to 10 years.
It is important to note that the development of new methods for domesticating this tree is crucial to make sure the stability of yields.
Fortunately, while it takes around 10 years for the tree to develop in the wild, it just needs up to five years to grow agarwood in the farms.
How much does a kilo of agarwood worth in the Asian market?
As we mentioned, it is the most expensive and rarest type of the wood in the world.
So, you should expect a high price for this product in Asian markets.
As we mentioned above, 1 kg of superior quality agarwood worth $100,000.
In India, this is equal to Rs. 73,00000. To compare the prices, you just need to think about the value of gold or diamond price in global markets.
This is the main reason that some people call agarwood a liquid gold.
Does agarwood can tolerate harsh conditions?
In perfect condition, it is possible to plant around 600 seedlings in one acre.
It can grow as a monocrop with 8′ distance between seedlings. This tree can tolerate 14 to 40 degree centigrade. But, the ideal temperature is 20 – 30 c.
It is a plant the grows well in moist tropic condition with elevation from 300 meters up to 1000 meters.
The plant finally brings white flowers that are in clusters. The fruits are egg shaped and look velvety.
Is agarwood a medicine?
It can be used as a medicine for reducing excitement. It also works as tranquilizer.
The seeds and bark are edible parts of the plant. So, it is possible to use them for flavoring curries.
Another important note to mention here is that oud oil can be used to improve learning and help memory.
So, if a person is suffering from impairment, this oil is a valuable medicine to help him or her improve quality of life.
How long agarwood has been used in Asia?
It’s been used in traditional medicine for hundreds of years in different parts of Asia.
Agar wood enjoys cultural and religious significance in India and china.
It can be used as:
- edible plant
As a drug, it can relieve coughs, gastric problems, fever, rheumatism.
You can drink its tea every day. It can help to maintain your health.
This tea is a detoxifier and eliminates toxins from your body.
It is possible to drink the tea cold or hot. In both way, you can enjoy its health benefits.
Finally, it is possible to burn the agarwood. To do this, you just need a burner.
In middle east, people use coal method to burn the woods. But, an electric burner or incense burner is the most modern way to burn chips quickly.
This produces a lot of smokes with special aroma.
What is oud?
We mentioned the name “oud”, in the above. It is a high grade agarwood oil with woody aroma.
It can be used in high end fragrances for men. As a perfume, it can last up to 12 hours on the skin.
It worth mentioning that by testing the color or the smell of agarwood, it is possible to evaluate its grade.
Even with visual inspection, it is possible to distinguish high quality products and enjoy their benefits.
But, you need to keep it in tightly sealed container. Exposure to sun light or heat can destroy its quality.
Agarwood is one of the most expensive natural products in the global market.
As a valued wood with dark color, different cultures in Asia (specially in south and east) use it as a distinctive fragrant or for incense.
Unfortunately, recently, the depletion of wild resources has made agarwood a very rare and valuable type of wood.
So, there is a need to domesticate the plant and develop new methods for producing woods with resins with higher yield and more efficiency.