Where does Agarwood come from?

Where does Agarwood comes from?
In our previous post, we learnt that Buddhist burn incense, as a reminder to the virtues of Buddhism. Agarwood is one of the types of incense used for Buddhist.

Agarwood comes from heartwood of the Aquilaria tree, which is native to the rainforests of Southeast Asia, including countries such as Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, and Vietnam. These trees grow in tropical regions and can reach up to 40 meters in height. While agarwood can be found in many species of the Aquilaria tree, not all of them produce the fragrant resin that is highly valued for its aroma and therapeutic properties.
The fragrance of Agarwood comes from the resin it secretes, when the tree is infected with a type of mold (Phialophora parasitica). This infectection is usually triggered when the tree suffers from physical damange (by lightning, or grazing animal/insects) . As the infection progresses, the fragrant resin accumulates in the heartwood of the tree, causing it to become dense and dark. Once the wood has been sufficiently impregnated with resin, it is harvested and processed into chips, powder, or oil, which will in turn be made into traditional medicines, incense or perfume.

Historically, agarwood is primarily sourced from the wild. They are rare and the process of harvesting is challenging and risky due to the remote locations of the trees.
With the increasing awareness of the conservation of the Aquilaria tree species and the need for sustainable agarwood production, there has been a growing trend towards cultivating agarwood through artificial inoculation of the trees at a commercial scale.

 What affects the quality of agarwood?

    • Species: There are many species of the agarwood tree and Aquilaria Malaccensis, Aquilaria Crassna, and Aquilaria Subintegra are known to produce high-quality agarwood.
    • Geographic location: The location of the agarwood tree plays a crucial role in the quality of agarwood. Agarwood trees grown in the wild, particularly in Southeast Asia (ie. Vietnam) are known to produce high-quality agarwood. Factors such as temperature, humidity, soil composition, and rainfall can all affect the resin produced.
    • Age of the tree & intensity of infection: The older the tree, the more likely it is to produce high quality agarwood. The time allows the infection to develop and mature, creating a more intense fragrance. The best quality agarwood is formed when the tree is infected with a type of fungus known as Phialophora Parasitica.
    • Harvesting & Processing: The way in which agarwood is harvested and processed can also affect its quality. Improper harvesting techniques, such as cutting down the entire tree instead of just the infected part, can damage the tree and reduce the quality of the agarwood produced. Similarly, inadequate processing techniques, such as over-heating the wood, can damage the aroma profile of the agarwood.

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      Stay tuned for more interesting facts about agarwood in our upcoming posts.


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