Agarwood is a resinous substance formed inside agarwood trees that arises from the infection with fungus. When the tree is wounded and infected by a certain type of fungus, the tree produces resin to aid in suppressing the fungal growth. This resin is dark, dense and aromatic.
The resin embedded wood is commonly known as aloes, aloeswood or agarwood. It is known by various names in different cultures: it is known as “chenxiang”, “chenshuixiang” and “shuichenxiang” in Chinese; “aguru” in Sanskrit; “oud” in Arabic; and “gaharu” in Indonesian.
The value of top graded Agarwood is extremely high since it takes tens to hundreds of years for Agarwood to be formed. In addition, in natural environment, only a small percentage of trees can be inoculated and produce Agarwood. Due to very strict growing constraints, only 20% of the world’s Agarwood demand can be satisfied, fuelling its meteoric price increase year after year.
An array of Agarwood of different grades and origins are available on the market. Prices range from a few dollars to over thirty thousand US dollars per kilo depends on the quality of Agarwood.
The “Wood of the Gods” has been traded and highly coveted for thousands of years.
Religious Uses: Agarwood is highly valued and used as offerings by Buddhists, Taoists, Catholics, Christians and Islams.
Medicinal Uses: Medical and therapeutic adaptation of agarwood is well recognised. It is used as medicine as an old traditions in China, Islam, India, Tibet and South East Asia .
Artistic Uses: The pleasant aroma and rarity of agarwood makes it a precious sculpting material. Large and intact agarwood pieces for creating sculptures are hard to find. Related artworks are relatively small in numbers. Furniture made from large pieces of intact agarwood is hardly seen on the market.
Resin-producing trees are endangered throughout their known habitat all across Southeast Asia. The main driving force, which initiated the formation of Only Oud, was the recognition of unsustainable agarwood harvesting in natural forests that resulted in the near extinction of this "Diamond in Tree".
Agarwood is now a protected species world-wide. Trade and harvesting restrictions will be virtually impossible to implement and enforce if no alternative is developed to forest-based harvesting.
Consolidating the experience from the past and present as well as information found in Chinese herbal articles, five factors for agarwood formation have been identified, namely “raw formation”, “ripe formation”, “removal”, “insect attack” and “fungal infection”.
When wounds are developed or branches are broken due to destruction by natural forces such as windstorms and thunder, animal scratches or logging by men, trees will produce resin to heal its wounds, during which agarwood will be produced. The longer the process, the better the quality of the scented wood.
Trees may wither and die of continual production of resin which leads to blockage of its canals. Over a long period of time, the wood fibres will blend with the resin and solidify into superior hard and dark agarwood which sinks in water. Meanwhile, the life of the agarwood tree is brought to an end.
When the wounded parts of trees come off as a result of infection in large and small pieces, they may contain remnants of resin, which will blend with the wood textures, forming agarwood.
Trees that are bitten and attacked by parasitic insects will produce resin for self-protection and healing, and agarwood will be formed as a result.
At the initial stage of fungal infection, the amount of resin formed is very small. However, prolonged infection will engender high quality agarwood.