• A Closer Look at Oud

by Mindy Yang

Oud, Oudh, Aloeswood, Agarwood, ki-nam, kyara, gaharu, eaglewood, chen xiang or Gaharu (different names for the same meaning) is known as "Jinko" in Japan, which translates as "sinking incense" or "incense that sinks in water," due to the weight of the resin in the wood. A tar-like resinous heartwood that forms in the ancient Aquilaria and some Gyrinops species of trees that are native to the dense forests of South East Asia, the heartwood of the tree produces a dark aromatic resin as part of its natural defense mechanism when infected with fungus (Phialophora Parasitica). This resin can be produced either through natural causes of the wild or through the artificial means of inoculating it with resin-inducing substances.

The greater the infection of the tree will result in the heartwood of the Aquilaria trees bearing a hallmark high-grade oud wood - a dense, pitch-dark and resinous wood which would otherwise be light and pale-colored if uninfected. It is worth to note that not all Aquilaria trees can be found producing this resinous heartwood and it is said that for every ten trees in the wild, only one will have its heartwood considerably infected. As for artificial inoculation of cultivated Aquilaria trees, it has been established that there is no certainty or guarantee that the tree will produce resin despite the human intervention. It is this resinous heartwood that can be known as jinko, oud, oudh, ki-nam, kyara, gaharu, aloeswood, eaglewood, chen xiang or agarwood according to the different cultures, that is prized and loved by all due to its rarity and the distinct and unique aroma it produces. To put it simply, the aroma of agarwood will just permeate the nostrils and leave you intrigued by its exquisite and complex scent, making you yearn for more.

History of this Time-Honoured Fragrance  

Its interest is of no wonder, considering that Agarwood or Oud (not to be mistaken for Bakhoor) has been around for centuries since the ancient times of the Sanskrit, Torah, Gospel and the Muslim scriptures.

The Prophet Muhammad (peace & blessings be upon him) held the tradition of fumigation with agarwood which continues in the Muslim world up to this day. The Holy Prophet made known that agarwood is a distinct item of Paradise in his saying, "The first group of people who will enter Paradise, will be glittering like the full moon and those who will follow them, will glitter like the most brilliant star in the sky. They will not urinate, relieve nature, spit, or have any nasal secretions. Their combs will be of gold, and their sweat will smell like musk. The aloes-wood will be used in their centers..". The Messenger of God also revealed the numerous healing properties of agarwood, which in the particular saying, referred to Hindi Oud and its effectiveness in treating pleurisy.

The Song of Songs describes King Solomon (peace be upon him) as "coming up from the desert like a column of smoke, perfumed with myrrh and incense" and there are numerous references throughout this book of the Old Testament to "every kind of incense tree" which popular belief denotes to Oud. The bible mentioned several citations of Oud, including a text in which Jesus (peace be upon him) is said to have been perfumed with aloes (Oud).

The extremely wealthy ancient Chinese used to make their coffins out of this aloeswood while in Buddhism, the most precious Buddhist string of beads numbering to 108 is made of agarwood. One story tells of a monk's sacrificing spirit in which he grinds one of his agarwood beads into powder whenever he met the sick in order to cure them with it, which resulted with even the seriously stricken person getting well. 

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. Agarwood also has been associated with the Chinese tradition of Fengshui, a discipline of governing the flow of energy in a particular place, and the Oud wood has been associated with producing good luck and positive energy wherever it is placed. 

Numerous Benefits of Agarwood

Agarwood oil essence or the pure Oud Oil is often associated with its ability to bring about calmness in the nervous system, its ability to cultivate focus and alertness when used and, as some say, the positive effect it gives to one's libido system when applied regularly. Oud Essential Oil is indeed an aromatherapy, is not gender-specific and can be enjoyed by both sexes, though some females may prefer a blended version of the Oud Oil due to the strong potent smell of the pure Oud essence. In the Middle East, men and women burn Oud wood chips to fragrance their houses and also their clothes so that the lasting scent will permeate the whole garment.

The benefits that are involved with Oud are vast, ranging from psychoactive and spiritual, to therapeutic and medicinal. Keep in mind that the information we share below is only for your general information and is not to be relied for diagnostic and treatment purposes.

  • Agarwood calms the body, removes destructive and negative energies, provides enhanced awareness, reduces fear, invokes a feeling of vigour and harmony, and enhances mental functionality
  • Oud eases neurotic and obsessive behavior and helps create harmony and balance in your home
  • Agarwood is highly psychoactive
  • Oud is highly effective for meditation, enlightenment, bringing deep tranquility and relaxation 
  • Agarwood is suggested by proficient masters for giving inspiration and the imperative affection for meditation
  • Oud is said to bring connection with the transcendent, stimulating the psyche, human body and consciousness. It is said that prayers rise with the scented smoke of agarwood incense and carry the prayer to the Creator. The angels are attracted to the scent and Oud smoke. That is why Muslims love to burn Oud wood and fumigate their houses on Thursday nights, the holiest of the weeknights to them.
  • Buddhists deploy agarwood for transmutation of ignorance. Tibetan monks utilize it to convey energy to wind down the mind and spirit. The Sufis and Japanese shamans use agarwood oil in their esoteric rites. 
  • Oud helps to improve mental clarity, opens the third eye and all of the upper chakras while calming the whole entire spiritual system.
  • 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, diarrhea, 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. It has been used as a treatment for lung and stomach tumors.

Agarwood by any other name would smell as sweet...

Below you will find the different names of Oud used in many different cultures, evidence of the high degree of its appreciation worldwide:

  • 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 (ไม้กฤษณา) - Thai
  • Oud (عود) - Arabic
  • Sasi or Sashi - Assamese 
  • Trầm hương - Vietnamese

Mindy Yang
Mindy Yang


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