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Agarwood and its stories

August 21, 2014 3 min read

Aquilaria crassna- Photo.http://vietnamagarwood.wordpress.com
As a healthy tree the Aquilaria is worthless but injured its defense mechanisms produce fragrance in form of resin known as Agarwood.
Agarwood (Oud) is a dark aromatic resinous heartwood that forms in Aquilaria trees after being wounded, the resin is triggered to grow within the heartwood of the tree to protect the tree from outside infections, in some case, resin could develop from the bark (usually cultivated or farm agarwood).

Agarwood or aloeswood  had been known as different names in different cultures such as: agar, oud, eaglewood, gaharu, calembac, etc. It is known as chénxiāng (沉香)in Chinese, "Chim Hyuang" in Korean, jinkō (沈香) in Japanese and in Vietnamese as "Trm Hương", those names all mean "sinking incense". The heartwood part soaked in resin will solidify through aging and carry heavy specific weight that will "sink" in water, "incense" simply means fragrance or aroma extracted from herbs and trees. The name "sinking incense" is born from there.

Agarwood pieces and Agarwood heartwood logs- Photo.http://vietnamagarwood.wordpress.com

In many societies and cultures, Agarwood has been highly  valued for variety uses from medicinal to sacred religious ceremonies with positive effects on human health. Even though the Agarwood 's benefits are still being researched, it has been used in treating  kidneys and replenishing qi centuries ago. Egyptians used incenses in their death ritual ceremony more than 3,000 years ago. With the aid of modern technology nowadays, Agarwood has been proved to contain many health benefit  properties  which added more values to this herbal medicine. It is not hard to find different products in different forms made of Agarwood on the market recently such as oil, incense, powder, wood chips and tea. The oil are used in production of medicine, perfume and cosmetics. A solid piece of Agarwood can be displayed as a natural art, or be carved by talented artists and their value raised up  to hundreds of thousand dollars. Smaller wood chips are heated to release the divine aroma, or ground into powder as used in incense industry. The Agarwood essential oil is highly demanded in Saudi Arabia, it is one of the main ingredients in making perfume. Another large market is Japan, they are famous for making high quality and top ranking incense.

 Those products are mainly sourced from Southeast Asia, the cradle of Agarwood tree, they carry slightly different tastes and smells due to the differences in Agarwood species existing in each country. The two main species found in Vietnam are Aquilaria banaensae (only endemic to Vietnam) and Aquilaria crassna.Vietnamese Agarwood are long renowned for its high quality, versatile uses and unique sweet, peppery and bitter taste. The famous place for Agarwood in Vietnam is Khanh Hoa province, also known as "the Agarwood land". Before cultivation methods being applied, Agarwood mainly harvested from the wild. It is an extremely difficult task because not every Aquilaria tree will contains resinous, there is a say that there is only 1 Agarwood tree in the odd out of 100 Aquilaria trees which is nearly impossible to spot one out in the forests of thousands and thousands of trees. Therefore, the price of wild Agarwood is extremely high, for its rareness and also for the dangers that the Agarwood finders have to encounter during the trips. Despite the dangers, the facts that wild Agarwood fetching high price spread out quickly and people rushed to harvest Agarwood which led to large trees being cut and Agarwood is already rare now became scarce. This was when sustainable Agarwood cultivation projects in Vietname adopted and have been very successful up to date.

Nowadays, the main source of Agarwood is from plantation with the quality comparable to natural source, besides, wild Agarwood is still being harvested under control but most of them are valuable Agarwood with high percentage of resin or even luckier, you may find Kynam, the king of Agarwood, amongst those.


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