Oud Oil – The origin of this exotic scent

Oud Oil – The origin of this exotic scent

Oud oil is distilled from the Agarwood tree.

Agarwood is reputedly the most expensive in the world. Oud oil is specifically from the resinous, fragrant heartwood produced primarily by trees in the genus Aquilaria. There are approximately 15 species of the genus Aquilaria. The resin has many names including agarwood, aloeswood, eaglewood, gaharu, agalocha or Oud (In Arabic).

Aquilaria species that produce agarwood are found throughout Asia, while occur naturally in South and Southeast Asia. The Indian sub-continent was the main source of agarwood for many centuries but as trees became scarce in the middle of the twentieth century, extraction intensified in Indochina. Later on, it was extended to Indonesia and Malaysia. Today Agarwood plantations exist in a number of countries, including Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Laos, Myanmar, Papua New Guinea, Thailand and Vietnam.

Agarwood has been used to make high quality incense for centuries. The Chinese have described its smell as “a sweet, deep but balanced fragrance” and use it in religious and festive celebrations,as do the Arabs, Indians and Japanese. Agarwood is also part of many traditional pharmacopoeias, dating back to medieval times and Chinese doctors still prescribe it for colds and disgestion problem. Oil extracted from agarwood is used in Arabian countries as a perfume.

Agarwood or Oud forms as a reaction to fungal or bacterial attack. Trees, ocassionally become infected with a parasite mould and they secrete a fragrant, protective oil into wounded areas (roots, branches or sections of the trunk), which gradually become harder and dark brown to black.


The importance of this tree and its produce cannot be understated. It has been mentioned as a tree in Paradise in a hadith of the prophet Muhammad:

Abu Hurayrah, may Allah be pleased with him, also reported that the Messenger of Allah, may Allah’s peace and blessing be upon him, said, “The first group (of people) to enter Jannah… their sweat will smell like musk; in their censers the aloes-wood will be used.” (Muslim, Bukhari)


Why is Oud perfume oil (Agarwood oil) expensive?

Low yield from plant material, typical and labour intensive process of extraction. These are all very few reasons of high costing of Oud perfume oil. For example, even when using a low grade of resinous wood for oil production, it normally requires a minimum of 20kg of agarwood to produce 12ml of oil.

Another reason of agarwood being expensive is a threat to becoming endangered. The most important resin-producing species of Aquilaria are A. agollocha, A. malaccensis and A. crassna. A. malaccensis is protected worldwide under the CITES (The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) convention as well as by the World Conservation Union, IUCN. A. crassna was listed as an endangered species few years back by the Vietnamese Government but is now listed as a protected species in Vietnam.

There are three methods through which agarwood oil is distilled namely, hydro-distillation, steam distillation and super critical CO2 extraction. However, the most common methods of distillation are hydro-distillation and steam distillation. Another thing that has its mark on the distillation of the oil is the age of the tree. Older trees have a higher resin content and just like a wine, old resin gets better with age.

As with most things, the price you pay reflects the grade of Oud.

Synthetic Oud Perfume Oil

Since, Agarwood cannot be synthesized, chemical substitutes are already available for perfume these are cheap and constitute the least profitable end of the market. In addition, these products do not come even close in mimicking the natural product. The major chemical components responsible for the characteristic scent of Agarwood products, sesquiterpenes, can in principle be synthesised. However, these are very complicated structures that will be extremely expensive to synthesise, which makes it commercially completely unattractive.

So the major difference in fragrances of Oud oil and synthetic Oud can be distinguished easily. Oud smells heavenly, woody and balsamic and surrounds a warm aura of bitter sweet and woody nuance. Whereas, synthetic Oud can smell plain woody, leathery and lacks that warm balsamic aura.


Uses of Agarwood

An important use of agarwood is the production of incense. Agarwood is an aphrodisiac, both in oil form, and as incense. These are generally topical uses but the oil is also sold in Vietnamese pharmacies for internal use with the same goal. Chinese medicine uses powdered Aquilaria as a treatment for cirrhosis of the liver and for other medicines. It has also been used as a treatment for lung and stomach tumors.


Benefits of Oud Oil

Oud oil has many benefits and has been used in various ways over the centuries. Some of the well known benefits include:

– Oud has the ability to calm the body, remove destructive and negative energies, provide enhanced awareness, reduce fear, invoke a feeling of vigour and harmony, and enhance mental functionality;

– Oud eases neurotic and obsessive behaviour as it is highly psychoactive;

– Oud is highly effective for meditation, enlightenment, bringing deep tranquility and relaxation;

– Oud can help to improve mental clarity;

– Medically, agarwood is a tonic, aphrodisiac, diuretic, relieves epilepsy, antimicrobial, carminative, anti-asthmatic.

– Oud is used in nervous disorders, digestive, bronchial complaints, smallpox, rheumatism, illness during and after childbirth, spasms in the digestive and respiratory systems, fevers, abdominal pain, asthma, cancer, colic, diarrhoea, nausea, regurgitation, weakness in the elderly, shortness of breath, chills, general pains and cirrhosis of the liver. It also acts as a director or focuser for other medicines.

Fit for a King or Queen

Oud oils have been the favoured scent of Sultans and royalty for centuries, and is considered rare and precious to this day. Stories tells us of the extreme habits of luxury of King Louis XIV of France, who had the practice of washing his clothes in Oud oil.

Oud still remains a luxury item desired by royalty across the world, including but not limited to the orient, Arabia and indeed western royal society.

Oud oil is gaining in popularity and western perfume houses are also getting in on the Oud act, recreating some of their famous fragrances with a more luxurious Oud version. There are also a range of unique fragrances from these designers, available in luxurious Oud. Fashion design houses such as Tom Ford, Versace, Gucci, Chanel, to name but a few, all have Oud oil on the market.

Buy your Oud body Oil here.


Other names for Oud around the world:

Agar – Urdu (Pakistan)

Agar or Aguru – Bengali

A-ga-ru (ཨ་ག་རུ་) – Tibetan

Aguru – Telugu and Kannada

Akil (அகில்) – Tamil

Cham Heong – Cantonese

Chénxiāng (沉香) – Chinese

Gaharu – Indonesian and Malay

Ghara or Eaglewood – Papua New Guinea

Jinkō (沈香) – Japanese (In Japan, kyara (伽羅) is the highest grade of jinkō)

Lignum aquila (eagle-wood), Agilawood, Lignum aloes or Aloeswood – Europe

Mai Ketsana – Laos

Mai Kritsana (ไมก้ฤษณา) – Thai

Oud (- عود) Arabic

Sasi or Sashi – Assamese

Trầm hương – Vietnamese


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