Everything You Need to Know About Agarwood – The most expensive wood in the world.

What is agarwood?

Agarwood is considered to be the most expensive wood in the world.

Agarwood, or Gaharu, is a resinous heartwood that occurs occasionally in trees belonging to the genus Aquilaria of the Thymelaeceae family. Aquilaria is a fast-growing subtropical forest tree that is native to the forests of the foothills in South Asia’s Himalayas, treading to the far east of South Asian forests, and even on the rainforests founds in Papua New Guinea. (What is Agarwood)

Aquilaria typical grows in different kinds of soil, even the extremely poor, low-quality ones. However, the places where Aquilaria grows needs to be somewhere from 500 to 1000 meters above the sea level, with 500 meters being the most ideal. The seedlings require an abundance in shade and water in order to grow. It is worth noting that Aquilaria seedlings grow rapidly, producing flowers and seeds as early as four years from planting. (What is Agarwood)

Enough talk about the tree, let’s talk about the many usages of agarwood. (What is Agarwood)

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What is agarwood used for?

Agarwood is also known as the “Wood of the Gods” or “Liquid Gold” and has been highly coveted and placed of high value since the Ancient times. It was used to trade and bartered for over the years. The wood is burned for incense and is used as a medicinal plant. Pure resin can also be harvested from it through a process of distillation. This pure resin is used as an essential oil fragrance and a component for perfumes. (What is Agarwood)

There seems to be a strong connection when it comes to agarwood and religion, as well as its curative and elaborate uses. Faith healers in the Middle East make use of agarwood in their concoctions, Japanese pilgrims donate agarwood to Shinto-Buddhist temples, and Vietnamese religious travelers are required to bring agarwood as offering to their Mekong Delta communities. (What is Agarwood)

Agarwood oil

Agarwood oil, known also as Oud Oil, is one of the rarest, most coveted and most expensive known essential oils in the market. The essential oil is taken from the heartwood of the select few species of Aquilaria that produces resin. There are a number of popular species but the most common ones are Aquilaria malacenssis, Aquilaria agallocha, and Aquilaria crassna that are used to make the oil. Oud oil or Gaharu is a scent that is frequently employed by high-end perfume brands such as Versace, Gucci, and Tom Ford. (What is Agarwood)

Is agarwood available in the Philippines?

Agarwood is available in the Philippines. However, since agarwood is an endangered species in the country, there are various regulations that govern the sell, trade and market of agarwood. (Xiang)

In fact, a news article regarding the arrest of two Chinese nationals and 2 local natives of Davao City after illegally buying agarwood wedges with an estimated street value of around 400 thousand pesos, roughly about 2 million US dollars. (Xiang)

There is a law that particularly penalizes the possession of timber or other forest products without a license required by existing forest laws, authorizing the confiscation of illegally cut, removed and possessed forest products and granting rewards to informs who would sell out the occurrence of such illegal trades. (Xiang)

There are offers on Facebook about pure Oud oil. However, it is almost safe to bet that these products are not pure Oud oil, or else they wouldn’t be sold on Facebook. The legality of this agarwood oil is also pretty questionable considering the lengthy legal process that is needed to obtain a license in handling Oud oil. (Xiang)



Where in the Philippines does agarwood grow?

Agarwood is said to be native to the Philippines. There are three species reported to have been found in the Philippines and these are Aquilaria apiculina, Aquilaria acuminate, and Aquilaria cumingiana. There are even agarwood producing species that were found in Mindanao. These are one of the eight species that produce resin as a response to fungal infections and are the most expensive and high sought-after type of agarwood. (Xiang)

In fact, there are actually lots of local names that are specifically for agarwood tree species. 

Research by a Philippine-based website has also found out that there is currently no ongoing cultivation of agarwood in the Philippines. There had also been no signs of any barcoding activity in the Philippines. Barcoding will greatly improve the trade of agarwood in the Philippines as it will classify species and identify products. (Xiang)

How much does agarwood cost?

The value of pure grade agarwood is extremely high. The price range for the agarwood is in relation to its quality. Pure grade agarwood can sell for only a few bucks per kilo, while extremely high quality agarwood can sell for about fifty thousand dollars per kilo. This is also largely due to the fact that agarwood, which easy to grow, is an endangered species in places where it is native to; such as Malaysia and Indonesia. (What is Agarwood)

In fact, resin-producing agarwood is considered to be endangered in most of its natural habitat all across South Asia and Southeast Asia. This is largely due to the fact that Aquilaria was mass-harvested from its forests in an unsustainable manner. This harvesting of Aquilaria led to the near extinction of the tree in Vietnam and everywhere else. Unfortunately, no government of any of these Aquilaria-wiped countries are taking action in forest restoration, or enforcing proper and restricted forest harvesting. It is important to note that Aquilaria needs to be preserved for current and future generations. So that Aquilaria, or agarwood, may see the light hundred years into the future. (What is Agarwood)

Another reason why agarwood is so expensive is because of the low yield that you can get from a high amount of plant material, the extensive labor costs that accompany the extraction and accumulation of it. Moreover, the highest quality of Oud came from trees that are older than a hundred years. That means the years behind a tree as well as the type of fungal attack that it has responded again are some of the factors that affect the quality of Oud. These factors are extremely expensive as they are uncontrollable ones, and are definitely difficult to simulate in such environments. (Agarwood (Oud))

Oud-based fragrances continue to grow each year. However, it is worth noting that fragrance companies now prefer a combination of synthetic and natural Oud oil. These all contribute to very expensive fragrances that are based on agarwood. As noted by the brands that usually carry them, Versace, Gucci, Tom Ford, Yves Saint Laurent and other Middle Eastern-based perfume companies. (Agarwood (Oud))

What can be used as agarwood substitute?

Due to the rarity, unavailability and expensiveness of agarwood, countless number of people and companies have asked if it is possible to chemically synthesize agarwood in the laboratories. After several failed attempts and studies regarding this dilemma, it has been concluded that no, agarwood cannot be synthetically produced from labs. (What is Agarwood)

There are already cheap and synthesized perfume scents. These cheap synthetic perfume scents do not come close to replicating the original scent and feel of the natural product. It is worth noting that the attempt to make a synthetic agarwood poses threat to the users and even to the value and worth of agarwood itself. (What is Agarwood)

Something to keep in mind is that the major compound that is responsible for carrying the signature and iconic agarwood smell, a 15-carbon chain compound named sesquiterpenes, can be synthesized. However, since the structure is very long and very complex, synthesizing it in laboratories results to a pile of expensive synthesis. This makes it difficult and unattractive to potential market buyers. (What is Agarwood)

What does agarwood smell like?

If you are curious as to what agarwood smell like, the best word to describe its scent is that it is pleasant. The physical description of it is as follows: It is sweet, vanillic, sour and bitter all at once. This makes the scent very memorable and when burned, creates a nice “incense” smell that lingers for long. It is described by a woody scent that is combined with spice (this depends on the specie and geographic from which the agarwood is derived from). There is a bit of every other scent that is incorporated into the agarwood scent: it is floral, it is woody, it is leathery, it smells of medicinal herbs and even of honey. (What does Agarwood smell like and what is it for?, 2015)

What are the benefits of agarwood?

The calming scent works as antidepressants. It can even work as anti-aging due to the astringent properties of agarwood. Moreover, the scent helps with managing sleeping disorders and calming people down who are suffering from anxiety. It also promotes a boost in energy, as well as masking bad breath or bad order due to its scent. (Agarwood facts and health benefits)

Learned more about agarwood? Share it to others!


Agarwood (Oud). (n.d.). Retrieved from Fragrantica: https://www.fragrantica.com/notes/Agarwood-Oud-114.html

Agarwood facts and health benefits. (n.d.). Retrieved from Health Benfits times: https://www.healthbenefitstimes.com/agarwood/

What does Agarwood smell like and what is it for? (2015, September 13). Retrieved from Grandawod: https://www.grandawood.com.au/blogs/news/63388483-what-does-agarwood-smell-like-and-what-is-it-for

What is Agarwood. (n.d.). Retrieved from Plantations International: https://www.plantationsinternational.com/what-is-agarwood/

Xiang, C. (n.d.). Palisan. Retrieved from StuartXChange: http://www.stuartxchange.org/Palisan.html

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