Agarwood

Agarwood or Aquilaria malaccensis is popularly known as the wood of the gods. It is a fragrant dark resinous wood used in incense, perfume, and small carvings. It is a product of the religious and cultural aroma, and no other crop can compete with its natural fragrance. The resin of this tree is costly and thus called liquid gold. Medival scriptures of different cultures mention the significance and great uses of this precious wood, its oil and its resin. It is also an economically important and fast-growing evergreen tree species native to the North-Eastern region of India.

This article will discuss about the Agarwood in the context of the IAS Exam.

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How is an agarwood tree formed?

  • Agarwood trees grow on the trunk and roots of trees. The Ambrosia beetle (scientific name: Dinoplatypus chevrolati) is an insect that penetrates the trunk and root to feed on wood and oily resin. This leads to mould infection.
  • To cover the damage caused by the infection, the tree secretes a healthy self-defence material. However, the mass and density of the affected wood increase significantly by the resin. As a result, the colour of the wood changes from pale beige to yellow, red, orange, black or dark brown. However, the unaffected wood remains light in colour.
  • It is important to note that not all Aquilaria malaccensis trees found in natural forests produce Agarwood. Out of a hundred, only seven trees get infected and can produce Agarwood. In an artificial set-up, the trees are inoculated with the fungus so that a damaged sap is made. Such trees are known as fake Agarwood.

How to grow an agarwood tree?

  • Soil condition: Agarwood grows well in hilly regions with an elevation greater than 750 Mts above sea level. It grows in yellow, red podzolic, clay sandy soil.
  • Climatic condition: It survives in areas that receive rainfall ranging between 2000 – 4000 mm. Ideally, the temperature must be between 20°-33° C, with high humidity levels between 77-85%.
  • A tree reaches its prime in a natural environment and conditions after decades. However, through technology (artificial injection), the entire process from plantation to final output can be reduced to a fraction.

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Where can we find Agarwood in India?

  • Agarwood is mainly found in the North-East region of India, particularly in three states – Assam, Manipur and Tripura. It is said that the name Agartala, which is the capital of Tripura, derived its name from these trees. In Assam, it is known as the ‘Sanchi’ tree.
  • Not only in India, but the agarwood tree can also be found in the Himalayas foothills to Papua New Guinea.

Uses of Agarwood

While there are several uses of Agarwood, a few are mentioned below:

  • Traditional East Asian medicine uses Agarwood to promote the qi flow and relieve asthma and pain. It is also used to prevent vomiting in pregnant women with an upset stomach or morning sickness.
  • It is also used for aromatherapy in the form of oil. It is prescribed to patients suffering from anxiety, depression, stress other nervous system disorders.
  • Agarwood oil is used in cirrhosis treatment, an ailment of the liver and kidney.
  • It holds a significant role in Chinese medicine. For instance, a high-grade powder of Agarwood is prescribed for producing pharmaceutical tinctures.
  • In Malaysia, a mixture of Agarwood and coconut oil is used as an ointment. Indians and Chinese apply agarwood oil as an ointment to treat various skin diseases.
  • Agarwood oil is used in a boiled concoction to treat rheumatism and other body pain.
  • It is applied as a complex ointment to treat smallpox and abdominal pains.
  • Agarwood oil is used in the treatment of lung and stomach tumours.
  • It is used to treat diarrhoea, dysentery, paralysis, gout, and rheumatism.
  • In traditional Chinese and Japanese medicine, Agarwood is used as a conventional sedative and to cure analgesic and digestion issues.

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Frequently Asked Questions on Agarwood

Other than Agarwood, name any two major cash crops (farming) of Tripura?

Rubber and Bamboo are the other two major forestry crops in Tripura that have brought Economic Revolution.

What changes does the resin brings to the agarwood tree?

After the wood of the tree is infected by the insect, the mass and density of the wood increase significantly by the resin.

What is the scientific name of Agarwood?

The scientific name of Agarwood is Aquilaria malaccensis.

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