Agarwood is quite possibly one of the oldest incense botanicals used in recorded history. The earliest known appearance in text is within the Sanskrit Vedas. The fragrant wood is produced when trees from the Aquilaria genus are infected by Phaeoacremonium parasitica or another pathogenic fungus. Timber that does not contain the dark aromatic resin is commonly known as Karas. These pieces appear to be wild harvested in Vietnam. Confusing enough, we are under the impression that A. malaccensis is actually not found in that country. The wood is heavier and more dense than the farm raised A. crassna pieces in our collection. Due to trade restrictions and the abundant confusion over sustainability and taxonomic information over Agarwood, we will not be selling this species until a legitimate farm raised source becomes available.
In comparison with the thin pieces of A. crassna, these thicker pieces of Agarwood take a bit longer to incinerates when placed upon a hot charcoal, releasing its fragrant smoke more casually. Too much heat may actually destroy some of the fragrant volatile oils, though the charcoal method still produces an excellent smoke. For the best experience, shave off small pieces of wood and use an indirect heating method. The aroma of Agarwood in general is quite difficult to describe, as it is very complex and unknown from any other sources, either natural and synthetic. We often describe it as quite savory with spicy, musky and somewhat floral notes. The A. malaccensis we have experienced tends to be less-sweet when compared with A. crassna.
Agarwood has been used extensively as incense for thousands of years, especially in Buddhist, Confucianist and Hindu traditions. The fragrant smoke is commonly believed to drive evil spirits away. In Asia, Agarwood has a long history of incense use in religious ceremonies and at funerals. In Thailand it is put into funeral pyres. The wood, known as Jinkō, is an important part of the tea and Kōdō ceremonies in Japan. Known as Aloeswood, it is referred to numerous times in the Old Testament, often in combination with Cassia, Cinnamon, Frankincense, Myrrh, Saffron & Spikenard. The roots are also sometimes used for fragrance. In various medical traditions, especially in China and India, the incense is thought to be useful in the treatment of cancer, especially of the thyroid gland. In a functional sense, Agarwood incense is also thought to be an insect repellant.
The essential oil obtained by steam distillation, known as Oud, is widely sought after in the perfume industry and has become increasing popular within Muslim culture where it has a reputation for being an aphrodisiac. According to various producers of Oud oil, the remaining powdered wood from post distillation is often used in the production of joss sticks and agarbattis. While it is possible to find high quality pre-distilation Agarwood powder, most forms on the market appear to be of the less fragrant post-distillate. You can usually tell by the price, as pure Agarwood will almost always have a higher price.
Agarwood has a wide range of uses outside of incense production. It is used in flavoring curries in Malaysia. In Ayurvedic medicine, Agarwood is used in the treatment of a various mental illnesses including: neurosis, obsessive behavior and exhaustion. Medicinally, it is thought to be useful in the treatment of abdominal pains, asthma, chest congestion, colic, diarrhea, fevers, kidney problems, lung tumors, nausea, rheumatism, smallpox, spasms of the digestive and respiratory systems & thyroid cancer. Functionally speaking, Agarwood is thought to be an aphrodisiac, astringent, carminative, diuretic, stimulant & tonic. It also may be especially useful in preparations during and after childbirth. Is is possible that decoctions of the wood may have anti-microbial properties against Mycobacterium tuberculosis and Shigella flexneri.
Non-fragrant Karas wood has various uses as furniture, building timber, construction, & musical instruments. Karas is sometimes incorrectly sold as Agarwood incense in the West to unsuspecting buyers. The white color of the wood and the lack of fragrance is a clear sign that the wood is not Agarwood. The bark fiber is also useful in the making of hammocks, clothing and paper.
NOTE: The research on Aquilaria malaccensis is ongoing. We do our best to provide accurate and up to date information. Please expect the above information to be revised as more information becomes available. If you have further information about this species or if you wish to submit a correction to this page, please feel free to contact us here
As of 2016, we have decided to majorly simplify the taxonomic structures of the species collection. Due to the numerous systems available, and many species being disputed and in a state of flux, we feel that most of our audience will be better served with a easier to understand condensed listing.