19 Uses and Benefits for Agarwood Essential Oil

(Last Updated On: August 3, 2018)

Would you believe that an essential oil obtained from infected wood commands a higher price than gold? It sounds ridiculous doesn’t it? But that’s the story with Agarwood essential oil, or Oud as it is known in the Middle East.

Agarwood is the resinous heartwood formed in infected trees of the evergreen Aquilaria and Gyrinops tree families, native to southeast Asia.

This precious wood and its oil have a deep spiritual history and significance, and they are  mentioned in the oldest spiritual texts – the Sahih Muslim, the Charaka Samhita, the Torah, the Bhagavad Gita, the Sushruta Samhita, Islamic scriptures and the Gospel.

Agarwood is said to be the favorite fragrance of Lord Krishna, God of Protection.

The Buddha taught that the fragrance of burning Agarwood is the “scent of Nirvana” (the state of attaining Divinity).

Samurai warriors perfumed their armor with Agarwood smoke for good luck before going into battle.

The extravagant King Louis XIV of France had his clothes and linens washed in a blend of water boiled with Agarwood and rose to give him energy, and for its pleasing fragrance.

Until infection, the heartwood in the tree has no medicinal properties but once a fungal infection (phialophora parasitica) takes hold of the tree, the tree responds by producing a protective resin which saturates the heartwood and the roots. This resin is informally known as liquid gold. After many years the amount of resin that the tree has produced increases the density of the wood so much that when it is floated on water it sinks. The Japanese call Agarwood, jinkoh, ‘the wood that sinks.’

In China the wood is known as ch’en hsiang, which means the ‘sinking incense wood.’ it’s also known there as ‘Wood Of The Gods.’ The International Journal of Pharmaceutical and Life Sciences reports that Agarwood, is mentioned as early as the third century AD in ancient China.

In the Far East the wood is treasured for the unique perfume that it produces, and its use as an incense in spiritual practises and religious ceremonies accounts for most of the commercial production of this wood. The essential oil is also used for anointing and in sacred oil blends.

It takes 70kg of heartwood to produce a mere 20 ml of the essential oil, and one ounce of wild crafted Agarwood essential oil (Aquilaria malaccensis) retails for over $1500 dollars. It’s estimated that only 2% of wild ‘agar’ trees produce this resin.

The wild crafted Agarwood undergoes several rounds of steam distillation which produces different grades of oil of varying strength. The first round of distillation produces Grade 1 essential oil, the second round of distillation produces grade 2 oil and so on. Anyone selling this essential oil should offer a certificate of authenticity which details the source and distillation grade.

A second type of Agarwood exists which is considered somewhat inferior to the wild crafted oil. The trees that produce this type of Agarwood essential oil (Aquilaria crassna) are sustainably managed, and intentionally infected with the fungus. This produces a similar oil but its chemical composition is different. This essential oil costs a little less than the wild crafted version and retails for around $920 an ounce.

One of the uses for this essential oil is as an ingredient in perfume. It’s described as having an utterly unique scent that can’t be compared to any other known perfume note, having a deep exotic, rich, sweet, warm, woodsy, honeyed tobacco, earthy aroma with animalistic musky undertones. The oil is forms the basis of the legendary Arabian perfume known as Oud.

Chandler Burr, former New York Times perfume critic says, “It has a very particular scent and there is nothing like it on the market.”

Jennifer Peace Rhind writes in her book, Fragrance and Well Being – Plant Aromatics and Their Influence on the Psyche, that the fragrance of Agarwood “can transport us through time and space to an imagined antiquity, or even into a trance state.”

If you would like to get an idea of this amazing fragrance look for high end perfumes like:

  • Oud Velvet Mood by Maison Francis Kurkdjian
  • Rose Oud by Kilian
  • Oud Ispahan by Christian Dior
  • Oud for Highness 75 (created for the King of Jordan in 1975) by Krigler
  • Oud Wood by Tom Ford
  • Splendid Wood by Yves Saint Laurent

Prince William reportedly received a bespoke Oud fragrance as a gift on his wedding day.

Agarwood essential oil is a dark golden-amber, slightly viscous liquid that is considered to be safe to use undiluted on the skin.

The properties of Agarwood essential oil are (so far) known to be:

  • Stimulant – quickens physiological function
  • Tonic – strengthens the body
  • Anti-inflammatory – reduces inflammation
  • Aphrodisiac – increases sexual desire
  • Diuretic – stimulates the production of urine
  • Antimicrobial – kills or resists pathogenic microorganisms
  • Carminative – settles the digestive system and relieves gas
  • Febrifuge – combats fever
  • Digestive – aids digestion of food
  • Expectorant – loosens mucus in the respiratory tract and aids expulsion
  • Muscle relaxant – eases tension in muscles
  • Demulcent – protects mucus membranes and calms irritation
  • Emmenagogue – stimulates menstrual flow
  • Analgesic – relieves pain
  • Anti-arthritic – combats arthritis
  • Antipruritic – relieves or prevents itching
  • Stomachic – digestive aid and tonic, improves appetite.

In Tibetan medicine Agarwood is used to treat emotional, nervous and psychological issues, through its ability to induce a deep meditative state. It is also used as a tranquilizer.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, Agarwood is used to treat the digestive system, relieve spasms, regulate the vital organs, relieve pain, treat halitosis and to support the kidneys. It is used to ease tightness in the chest, reduce abdominal pain, stop vomiting, treat diarrhea and relieve asthma. The aroma of Agarwood is said to stimulate Qi, – the ‘vital force’ or ‘life energy’.

In Ayurveda, Agarwood is used primarily for its warming qualities and for its deep effects on the mind when burnt as incense. The powdered heartwood is also used as a treatment of diarrhea, dysentery, vomiting and anorexia. Agarwood essential oil is recommended for augmenting mental clarity, opening the third eye and all of the chakras in the upper part of the body.

I think that the main reason to obtain a tiny vial of this valuable essential oil would be to experience its otherworldly aromatic effects, but if you’ve got one of those huge vaults filled with gold coins, just like Scrooge Mcduck, then you might like to indulge in some of the other uses for Agarwood essential oil.

Agarwood Essential Oil

1. Attain Inner Peace With Agarwood Essential Oil

Agarwood oil is considered to be a unique oil of rescue, able to offer healing from emotional trauma. It is also claimed that this oil has a highly powerful harmonizing effect on the electrical frequencies of the brain.

Tibetan monks use Agarwood essential oil has to increase their inner energy and induce absolute tranquility to the mind and the soul. It is for this reason that Agarwood is such a revered and favored oil for use in the ceremonies of numerous spiritual traditions and esoteric gatherings.

2. Agarwood Essential Oil Alleviates Pain Including Rheumatic And Arthritic Conditions

With its analgesic, antiarthritic and anti-inflammatory properties, this essential oil helps to relieve pain and reduce the inflammation associated with rheumatism and arthritis.

Massage the painful areas with 2 drops of Agarwood oil mixed with a little coconut oil to ease symptoms. The oil’s diuretic qualities will also promote more frequent urination to flush out toxins, and uric acid from the system, which reduces pain, swelling and stiffness. You can also use 2 drops of the essential oil in hot or cold compress for soothing muscular pain.

3. Support The Digestive System With Agarwood Essential Oil

The digestive, carminative, and stomachic properties of Agarwood essential oil support smooth digestion and prevent the buildup of gas when taken used a digestive. If painful gas is already present the oil can aid in expelling the gas and reduce discomfort.

Use 2 drops of Agarwood essential oil mixed with a carrier oil and massage into the upper or lower abdomen depending on where pain is felt. The oil will stimulate the production of the digestive juices necessary to treat indigestion and bloating and work gas through the system.

4. Banish Bad Breath With Agarwood Essential Oil

Researchers have noted that Agarwood essential oil is effective against a number of bacteria. Bacteria are the cause of bad breath, and the oil has been used traditionally to freshen the breath.

Add 1 drop of Agarwood oil and 1 drop of Peppermint oil to a 4oz glass of water and use to swish around the mouth and to gargle with.

5. Agarwood Essential Oil For Breast Cancer

Agarwood essential oil has been investigated for its anticancer properties. In cell cultures it was found to inhibit the growth of MCF-7 breast cancer cells. The researchers determined that their results warranted further investigation into the viability of Agarwood essential oil as a possible anti cancer therapy.

6. Agarwood Essential Oil Can Improve Skin Health

Agarwood oil is an anti-inflammatory which makes it useful for any skin condition that features redness, swelling, irritation or puffiness.

As an antibacterial Agarwood oil will remove bacteria from the skin and help to reduce the number of spots.

In Ayurveda, Agarwood is used as a treatment for a variety of skin diseases and disorders.

Use one or 2 drops of the oil mixed with your regular skin care cream or lotion.

7. Spice Up Your Love life With Agarwood Essential Oil

Agarwood is renowned for its aphrodisiac effects, which makes it the perfect essential oil to add to a massage oil blend for those special occasions.

The oil is also reputed to aid conditions that cause performance problems, by easing worries and releasing inhibitions.

Use a drop or two of the oil in combination with other aphrodisiac oils like Rose, Jasmine and Sandalwood.

8. Use Agarwood Essential Oil To Enhance Meditation

Agarwood essential oil will add another dimension to your meditative practises. Thousands of years of spiritual use have established this oil as a pathway to the deeper self and a doorway to the ‘other.’

Use a drop of the oil to anoint chakra centers or acupuncture points. You could also diffuse the oil in an aromatherapy diffuser to surround yourself with the powerful fragrance of this otherworldly oil.

The spiritual fragrance of this oil is reputed to have psychoactive properties that aid in the progression of your spiritual journey by instilling deep inner peace, elevating consciousness, balancing emotions, generating positive energy, and increasing awareness. The oil is also said to have the ability to open the crown chakra and the pineal gland.

9. Regulate Menstruation And Ease PMS With Agarwood Essential Oil

Agarwood oil can influence the hormones that stimulate menstruation and regulate irregular periods. It can also create balance for women approaching the menopause to alleviate many of the problems that arise at that time of life.

Balancing hormones also allows the oil to reduce breast tenderness, cramps, back pain, irritability and the low moods that can mar quality of life for a few days each month.

Use a drop of oil in a blend in an aromatherapy diffuser or mix a drop or two of the oil with a carrier oil and massage into your lower abdomen and lower back.

10. Relieve itching With Agarwood Essential Oil

Many conditions like nerve disorders, allergies, dermatitis, poison oak, etc,  result in high levels of skin irritation and itching. Scratching away at itchy skin usually makes the irritation and itching much worse and if the skin is broken by excessive scratching, infection can set in.

Agarwood oil is an antipruritic which means that it can stop the itching from driving you mad.

Dilute a couple of drops of the essential oil in water or a carrier oil and apply to the affected skin to find relief. The analgesic pain relieving properties of the oil will also ease discomfort.

11. Agarwood Essential Oil Will Help With A Cough

When you have a dry, non productive cough caused by inflamed, irritated over sensitive tissue in your airway, Agarwood oil can help to reduce the inflammation and calm the cough, giving the sensitized tissue chance to return to its normal state.

The oil can be diluted and massaged into the throat and chest, diluted in water and used as a gargle, or diffused into the air with an aromatherapy diffuser.

12. Ease Congestion With Agarwood Essential Oil

Agarwood essential oil is anti-inflammatory, expectorant and demulcent. It can reduce the inflammation in your airways that causes constriction, loosen mucus to help you get it out of your system and calm irritated mucus membranes to ease the discomfort that congestion causes.

Use a couple of drops of the oil in a decongesting steam. Boil a pan of water and carefully pour the water into a ceramic bowl (not plastic because plastic absorbs the smell and taste of the oils), add the essential oil and drape a towel over your head. Lean over the bowl – don’t get too close to the water or the steam will scald your skin – close your eyes and use the towel to create a tent to trap the steam around you. Breathe as deeply as you can to draw the decongestant steam into your nasal passages and sinuses. Take breaks to blow your nose and clear out the loosened mucus. Keep inhaling the steam until the water cools and the steam is all gone.

13. Use Agarwood Essential Oil To Ease The Pain of Gout

Gout is known to be one of the worst pains a person can endure. It has been compared to the pain of giving birth and to the pain of passing a kidney stone. Unlike childbirth or passing a kidney stone, gout is a long term affliction that causes enduring misery and destroys quality of life.

Gout medications often cause side effects and they often don’t work

Agarwood oil has been used to treat gout in traditional healing systems. It is said to be able to break down the uric acid crystals that accumulate in the joints of people afflicted with gout.

Use a drop of the essential oil and massage it into the joint that is causing the pain. In addition to working on the uric acid, the analgesic properties of the oil will bring some welcome relief from pain, and inhaling the aroma will take your mind away from the discomfort.  

14. Calm Restless Leg Syndrome Using Agarwood Essential Oil

Restless Leg Syndrome

Muscle twitches and spasms can be eased with Agarwood oil. The oil calms the nerves that send the out of control signals to the muscles.

Restless leg syndrome is particularly troublesome at night and often disturbs sleep. Rub a drop or two of the oil into your legs at bedtime to help alleviate the problem.

15. Aid Restful Sleep with Agarwood Essential Oil

When sleep is hard to find due to an overactive mind that won’t switch off, stress, anxiety or other emotional problems, use Agarwood essential oil to free your mind from the confines of the moment. Inhaling Agarwood oil will allow to drift away from your problems and get some much needed restorative sleep populated with unforgettable dreams.

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16. Use Agarwood Essential Oil To Strengthen And Fortify The Body

Agarwood oil is a tonic and a stimulant. Anytime that you need a pick me up or a boost, using a little of the oil on your pulse points or inhaling its aroma will give the physical and emotional energy that you are lacking.

17. Stop nausea And Vomiting with Agarwood Essential Oil

Agarwood oil is used to relieve nausea and vomiting. Inhale the aroma to calm a queasy stomach or use a couple of drops of the oil in a carrier oil to massage into your stomach and abdomen. If your vomiting is accompanied by diarrhea, this oil will help to resolve that problem too.

18. Use Agarwood Essential Oil To Help With Memory And Learning

A traditional use of Agarwood oil in Hindu societies is as an aid to memory and learning. This makes the oil valuable for anyone suffering from impairment in these areas. For the elderly, or postmenopausal women suffering from brain fog, Agarwood essential oil can improve daily life. For children with attention deficit disorder the oil can help them to concentrate and retain information.

Inhale the aroma of the oil or rub a drop onto the pulse points or temples.

19. Use Agarwood Essential Oil To Smell Out Of This World

As a perfume oil the aroma of Agarwood oil is very special. The base note is very long lasting, and it changes as the fragrance dries down. One drop of Agarwood essential oil would leave you smelling wonderful all day long with a captivating, mysterious and intriguing fragrance. It’s definitely one to wow with on special occasions.

Written by Irina Radosevic MD
Irina graduated from the University of Belgrade, School of Medicine as a Doctor of Medicine (MD) and spent over 3 years working in the Clinical Hospital Center Zvezdara, in the Department of Emergency Medicine. She also undertook a postgraduate in Cardiology from the same University and had previously worked for over a year as a Physician and Nutritionist Dietitian for the Fitness club Green Zone. She eventually left her chaotic but fulfilling job in the ER to pursue her passion of writing, travelling and mountain climbing which has included writing a first aid course for the alpine club of Belgrade. Irina currently works as a VA for PintMedia focusing on medical and travel writing. Feel free to connect with Irina on LinkedIn and FaceBook. Her CV can be seen here.