Agarwood is a resinous wood that sometimes occurs in trees belonging to the Aquilaria genus,Thymelaeceae family. Aquilaria is a fast-growing, archaic tropical forest tree, which occurs in South and Southeast Asia, from the foothills of the Himalayas to the rainforests of Papua New Guinea. The tree grows in natural forests at an altitude of a few meters above sea level to about 1000 meters, and it grows best around 500 meters. It can grow on a wide range of soils, including poor sandy soil. Seedlings need a lot of shade and water. Trees grow very fast, and start producing flowers and seeds as early as four years old. At least fifteen species of Aquilaria trees are known to produce the much sought-after Agarwood. In South Asia Aquilaria achalloga is found, particularly in India,Aquilaria malaccensis is mostly known from Malaysia and Indonesia, and Aquilaria crassna principally grows in Indochina. A number of other species are known such as Aquilaria grandfolia,Aquilaria chinesis etc.
The “Wood of the Gods” has been traded and highly appreciated for thousands of years. Resinous wood is used as incense, for medicinal purposes, and pure resin in distilled form is used as perfume and perfume component. Outside native countries it is most widely known in the Middle East, China, Taiwan and Japan. A strong connection exists between use, religion and curative properties, and elaborate traditional and religious ceremonies are known from around the world. Faith healers in the Middle East use it at curative ceremonies, Japanese pilgrims donate flowers and Agarwood oil to Shinto-Buddhist temples, and Vietnamese religious groups are obliged to bring Agarwood to ceremonies at their temples in Mekong delta communities.
The value of first-grade Agarwood is extremely high. A whole range of qualities and products is on the market varying with geographical location and cultural deposition. Prices range from a few dollars per kilo for the lowest quality to over thirty thousand US dollars for top quality oil and resinous wood.Aquilaria crassna is listed as an endangered species in Viet Nam, and A. malaccensis is listed as endangered by the World Conservation Union, IUCN.