Agarwood chips are one of the most popular and well-respected incense ingredients globally. But how do you heat them to create the perfect sacred space? This question has been asked for centuries, and the answer is not quite as simple as you might think. This article will discuss the different ways to heat agarwood chips and help you find the proper method for you.
1. What is Agarwood?
Agarwood is a resin in an Aquilaria tree native to Southeast Asia and parts of South Asia. When the tree is healthy, the wood is odourless. And that is not what we want. We want fragrant wood or Agarwood (also known as Oud or Oudh). Here is the exciting part: the soft odourless white wood will harden up and turn into dark brown resin when the Aquilaria tree heals itself up during and after the external attacks.
You may ask, what kind of attacks?
The attacks vary, some from insects, some from humans, or both. When the wounds (of the Aquilaria trees) are open, fungi grow inside. The tree secretes the resin to fight back and heal. This resin is called Agarwood.
Agarwood is valued for its scent in incense and perfumes. The resin that accumulates in the tree is also highly sought after for its aromatic properties. And it is exceptionally fragrant when heated.
2. Why are people heating Agarwood?
Agarwood is an aromatic wood resin often used in incense, perfume and aromatherapy. The wood is prized for its aroma, deep, complex and spiritual.
Agarwood is also said to connect human beings with the spiritual realm. People in different cultures burn Agarwood chips, apply Agarwood oil on the skin, or diffuse the oil in a diffuser. They want to create a sacred space where they can worship and connect with their spiritual side.
Heating Agarwood chips will release sweet vanillic woody aromas. This complex aromas can help people relax, feel spiritual connected. The use of Agarwood is mentioned in many religious scriptures (Lopez- Sampson and Page 2018)
3. How to choose your agarwood chips
When it comes to agarwood chips, you need to look out for a few things. The most important factor is resin content. The more resin the chip has, the darker the wood will be. Dark brown Agarwood usually indicates a good quality Agarwood.
It's also essential to look for sustainable sources. Agarwood chips can be cultivated or wild, and cultivated chips are preferable as they're ethically sourced and help preserve natural forests.
The production method is also something to consider. Some farmers use harsh chemicals to wound the trees, eventually creating Agarwood. The unknown issue is if the Agarwood made from this method is safe.
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4. How to heat agarwood chips
There are a few different ways to heat your agarwood chips. The most popular method is to use an electric incense burner or a battery-operated incense burner.
The main advantage of this method is instant gratification. Within seconds, you can feel the sweet vanillic woody aroma.
In addition, electric or battery-operated incense burners are easy to operate. There are only 3 steps
plugin or insert the battery into the incense burner
Put the agarwood chips on the heating plate
Turn on the incense burner, wait a few seconds, and a divine Agarwood scent will breathe into the air.
However, some people like to do it the traditional Japanese way: Kōdō (Koh-doh香道 the Way of Incense)
This method involves charcoal and ash.
Here is a short video from Shoyeido
First, you select a high heat resistant ceramic container.
Do not heat the Agarwood directly on the flame as it can damage the wood and produce a very bitter fragrance.
Some people said the process was too long and do not have the patience to go through them all.
If you enjoy brewing Gongfu tea, you will likely enjoy preparing a charcoal ceramic incense burner.
And if you feel it is too much hassle, you can always use a battery-operated incense burner.
5. Other uses of agarwood chips
Think of Agarwood chips as a raw ingredient. You can heat it, and you can make something out of it.
Some tribes also use ground agarwood chips as folk or traditional medicine. There are various recipes to treat different diseases with Agarwood chips in the Chinese Medical Encyclopedia Pharmaceutical.
We also pulverise Agarwood chips to make incense and distil Agarwood (Oud, Oudh oil).
Agarwood oil (Oud or Oudh oil) has a very different aroma than heating Agarwood chips. Oud oil is used in perfumery to create complex and high depth scent layers in perfumes.
Agarwood chips offer a unique and natural way to create a sacred space for relaxation, worship, or aromatherapy. You can easily enjoy the divine woody aroma by using a charcoal ceramic incense burner or electric incense burner. With a charcoal incense burner, you can enjoy the process of every step to appreciate the Agarwood aroma. With an electric incense burner, instant Agarwood fragrant will be in the air around you in seconds. It is suitable for someone who does not have time to go through the charcoal process.