Oud essential oil (EO) is derived from Aloeswood (Aquilaria crassna or Aquilaria agallocha) oleoresin. It is also known as Agarwood or just Aloes. The wood and oleoresin are used commercially, ritualistically and medicinally. It is an ancient herbal that is mentioned in Proverbs 7:17 which reads, “I have perfumed my bed with myrrh, aloes and cinnamon”. But Sandalwood oil is sometimes referred to as Aloes as well. Miller & Miller write that in Kabbalism, Aloeswood has a central place in evoking the balance between opposites, creating a divine synthesis, a magical link between the mundane and divine—temperance. I have not had the honor of experiencing Oud oil yet- I long to sample some. Finding Chen Xiang (Lignum Aquilariae Agallochae) in the Chinese herbal materia medica brings me closer to it.
Only a drop of Oud is said to fill the air with a mystical, soul-evoking aroma. It is of the woody-Oriental fragrance class, a complex aroma with many nuances- deep, ethereal & hypnotic. The aroma is said to take about 12-hours to unfold, lasting on the skin for more than a day. If placed on any material, the scent said to last for months. It can be used as a perfume because it is non-irritating to skin. Aloes woodchips are used as incense; a sliver placed on glowing charcoal. I tried this with a sample of Chen Xiang in order to get an idea of what Oud might smell like. It is of course woody but has a hot cinnamon-like & creamy vanilla quality-- smooth, earthy-sweet, spicy, deeply comforting! It eases into the middle of the chest and calms—releasing a vague melancholy.
The Agarwood tree has a complex natural defense response to fungal attack. It begins to produce the oleoresin (Oud) after it has been infected through wounds on its trunk. The wood from the tree is then called Aloeswood. At some point the tree dies (whether of old age or from the fungal infestation, I do not know). After death, the wood continues to cure, eventually producing the best quality wood. It is then called Black Agar or Kyara. Kyara, which means precious in ancient Japanese, is so dense that it sinks in water. It can take decades, even centuries, to produce the best quality resinous wood. Bensky says, the best quality Chen Xiang consists of heavy, oily pieces of wood with an intense aroma…light brownish-black striations of oleoresin are visible on cross section within the wood grain matrix.
There is a range of products made of Agarwood from furniture, oleoresin (low grades), incense (high grades) and herbal medicine (cultivated). The quality of Agarwood wood and the products made from it varies depending on the country of origin; the part of the tree from which the wood is harvested; and the density and aromatic intensity of its oleoresin. The tree with the longest curing time produces an oleoresin with the most potent aroma. The highest quality wood (Kyara) is one of the most expensive naturally occurring products in the world. Prices range from a few dollars per kilogram for the lowest quality to over thirty thousand US dollars for top quality resinous wood. It is more expensive per ounce than precious metals.
The Agarwood tree is inherently in a process of death while producing the best oleoresin. Therefore, the tree is listed as an endangered species in Viet Nam, A. Malaccensis, and by the World Conservation Union. Agarwood trees are cultivated in northern India and parts of China. Oud is one of the most expensive & rare oils, perhaps extracted from aloeswod only upon custom order. I found an Internet source selling it for $85 per quarter-ounce (quality & purity not considered).
It is interesting to use the Doctrine-of-Signatures with Oud because the Agarwood tree in a complex symbiosis with fungus produces it. What therapeutics could this strange transmutation of nature possibly create? It might indicate that Oud is antifungal, antiparasitic or an immune-modulator. Like Ling Zhi (rieshi mushroom)perhaps? The color of Oud ranges from pale yellow to dark amber. These colors may indicate sinking into the solar plexus and lower jiao. Oud comes in solid or liquid form. If solid at room temperature, it quickly becomes liquid when warmed. Viscous oils have action of very long duration, so they are used as fixatives for other oils in perfumery. In aromatherapy, viscous oils extend the half-life of other oils in the body as well. This means they prolong the physical affects of a blend and are most likely to effect hormones, compared to more fluid oils.
Integrative Medicine Tip: Because Kyra sinks in water, this may indicate that Oud deeply benefits the water element. Peter Holmes LAc, of Snow Lotus Aromatherapy, confirms that warm & spicy, woody & rooty aromatics like Oud affect deficiency or excess of the water element. Chen Xiang, which goes to the Kidney, Spleen, and Stomach, means sinking fragrance. This name implies Kyra, the best grade Agarwood that sinks in water. Or it indicates what Aloes is used for—to descend qi and assists the Kidney in grasping qi. In aromatherapy Oud is indeed used to benefit asthma, as Chen Xiang is in Chinese herbal medicine.
* Check your sources for cautions & considerations, and route & dosing before using EOs. Especially during pregancy; on small children & infants; the elderly & weak; and those with epilepsy & neuro-muscular diseases.