Agarwood (Aquilaria species): A plant pricier than Gold

Introduction

Agarwood is considered as “The wood of Gods”.
26 species of agarwood are found around the globe (across 15 countries).
Large evergreen trees-usually about 20-25 m in height but sometimes may reach up to 40 m.
Fragrant dark resinous wood.
For producing agarwood, Aquilaria species are needed to be infected with mould.
Agarwood chips are known as oud-carved by hand.
First grade agarwood could cost up to $100,000 per kilogram.
Even third grade or low-quality agarwood cost around $30,000 per kilogram.
Used for treating various disorders prescribed as appetizer. analgesic, anti-pyretic, carminative, cytotoxic, insecticidal, general toxin. etc.

 

Science behind Agarwood Formation

For the formation of agarwood; Aqularia spps. need to be damaged by ants or mould.
Ants bore into tree trunk causing wounds.
This attracts micro-organism, bacteria and fungus on wounded trunk.
Ant secrets fluids that damage tree trunk.
Trees use its own sap to cover and heal the wounds.
This will lead to formation of agarwood after long time. 

 

Some Interesting facts on Agarwood

Out of 7% resinous spps. found in nature; agarwood is most expensive one.
Agarwood are produced from heartwood.
Found mostly on mountainous area and deep forest.
Referred as “The Black Gold” and “Diamond in the forest” as its value is more than that of gold.
Trees grown on poor soil yield high-grade agarwood (Pratiwi et al., 2011).
This species is mentioned as medicinal species in Bible, Kuran and Buddhist scriptures.
A rare fungus is the one behind high value of agarwood.
It’s by-product Agar oil is used in therapeutic purposes, Perfumes and increasing libido (sexual drive).
This species is also used to treat mental disorder.

 

Health-related Benefits (Medicinal Uses)

  • Prescribed in traditional East-Asian and Chinese medicine.
  • Agarwood oil is used to treat rheumatism and other body pain.
  • Used as complex ointments for small pox and abdominal pain.
  • Treat Pleurisy.
  • Aromatherapy-to treat anxiety, stress, depression and other mental disorders.
  • Treat cirrhosis of the liver and kidney problems.
  • Oil is also used in the treatment of lung and stomach tumors.

 

How to identify Real Vs. Fake Agarwood

Fake agarwood are soaked with artificial scent in high pressure to produce same aroma but colors of these woods are very dark.
The wood grains in fake agar is not visible.
The fake scent is very strong and pungent but, scent retention time is not so long. They fade away quickly.
On submerging pieces of fake wood in hot water and boiling for 2 hours there will be change in color of water. If it is true agarwood then it doesn’t change color of water.

 

Why is Agarwood so expensive? (Reason behind this)

  • Low yield plant material.
  • Labor-intensive process of extraction.
  • Mostly found in mountainous area and deep forest. But, nowadays being intensively cultivated too.
  • It’s eternal and long-lasting fragnance.
  • Threat of being endangered.
  • A. malaccensis is protected worldwide under the CITES.
  • A. crassna was listed as an endangered species few years back by the Vietnamese Government.

 

Efficient Agarwood induction techniques

Naturally, agarwood is formed by the physical wounding or damage of Aquilaria trees due to multiple factors such as animal grazing, thunderstorm, pest infections, etc.
Biological inoculum has been found to be most effective induction techniques with high amount of production yield and little waste.
Many pure-culture strains of fungi are used for formation of agarwood in healthy Aquilaria trees.

Fungal inoculum is believed to be safe for handling and is eco-friendly.
Despite of high yield this techniques have 1 disadvantages if it is not used with care. Use of different fungal consortium could reduce quality of wood. So, particular fungus with less impact on quality should be used (proven after research).
Example of fungus: R. vinctus.
Agar-sit is the best method for the application of fungi in agarwood induction. 

 

 

Kiran ghimire

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