Agarwood, also known as agar, is dark resinous heartwood. The scientific name for Agarwood is Aquilaria and is also known as scented wood in the old days. Aquilaria malaccensis is one of fifteen tree sort in the Indomalesian genus Aquilaria. It is a plant species in the Thymelaeaceae family. Agarwood are one of the most valuable tropic afforest products in world wide. They typically mature with average day-after-day temperatures of 20-22 ⁰C and between altitudes of 0-850 m, and up to 1000 m in locations. The fragrant wood of Aquilaria species is well-known in various languages such as aloeswood, eagle wood, agarwood, gaharu, oud, kalambac, chenxiang, jinkoh and gridsanah. These species can be found in wide distribution. Some of them are found in Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Republic of Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand.
Hydro distillation is the traditional method for essential oil extraction of agarwood. Agarwood oils are made up of volatile chemical constituents that contribute to its strong pleasant aroma and give added value in the global market. However, current studies on the chemical composition of agarwood essential oil are woefully lacking and this poses a threat to the agarwood industry. First-grade agarwood is one of the most expensive natural raw materials in the world. A whole range of qualities and products are on the market, varying in quality with geographical location and cultural deposition. The current global market for agarwood is estimated to be in the range of US$ 6 – 8 billion and is growing rapidly.
Basically, hydro distillation is a technique of extraction which has always been used for extracting the essential oil. This process of extraction is one of the most used traditional practises of extraction. It is the oldest and the most usual method of extracting essential oil since it is economically practicable and secure. The method is the best for workplace laboratory since it is straightforward, affordable and uncomplicated to handle.
The issue of discovering the best practice that can be used to satisfactorily determine the amount of essential oil as well as the essential oil was obtained is all-important part of the study. The discovery of such a method or any study that main to the finding would generate the first steps towards solving the difficulty stated above. Essential oils from Aqualaria malaccensis (agarwood) that have been identified will acquire added value in the world social class.
This project aims to develop a pre-treatment technique using microbial pre-treatment. Besides, the best size of sample and stirrer was applied for high productivity gaharu extraction in producing gaharu essential oil. The alternative approach of microbial pre-treatment which employs the use of micro-organisms especially fungi to increase digestibility of gaharu is the most reliable approach at the industrial scale.
Agar wood generates resinous heartwood also known as Wood of the Gods. Agarwood has been traded for centuries. The resin wood is used for incense, as well as medicative purposes and pure resin in its distilled kind goes into perfume and medicine. The aquilaria tree had been reduced to near extinction in South-east Asia, consisting of the countries that are geographically south of China, east of India, west of New Guinea and north of Australia, and was classified as an endangered form. So a push began to replace the trees in the natural forest with the ones on commercial lands. It is used in spiritual and religious ceremonies and freshly used in the perfumery, incense and pharmaceutical industry.
Agar heartwood is fine, black or brown in colour and fragrant. Their aroma comes from the wood itself and from sesquiterpene compounds. The Agar wood is sold in 3 forms as pieces such as heartwood, powder and oil. The Agar wood oil is famously used in perfumery and incense industries.
In traditional Malay medicine, they applied the agarwood related to the art of healing by diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of disease. The high quality agarwood or kalambak is used to treat various symptoms such as failing, pain or discomfort in the stomach or chest, swelling oedema and as tonic for men and women as well as postpartum medicine. Even though agarwood is an angiosperm, the anatomy of agarwood is very unique whereby a clump of phloem is observed in the xylem.
Agarwood is a dark-coloured oleo fragrant resin that accumulates inside stems and roots of ligneous plant as nodules of varying the length of time that an agarwood has lived or existed, physique, size, and commercial quality, embedded in the otherwise pale and soft wood. The production of this oleo-resin, which acts as a chemical obstructer to attacks by fungi, arthropods, and so forth, is ostensibly a tree response to injury if it is primary defence mechanism, the formation of phloem callus tissue, is inhibited. In essence, resins have numerous chemical compounds such as α-guaiene, α-bulnesene and γ-gurjunene.
In Malaysia, the flowing method that is traditionally used in commerce for the Agar wood oil extraction is hydro-distillation. This method consumes seven to ten days and high energy for extraction. There are a few ways that are newly brought into use and somewhat very conventional and modern to extracting essential oils. It can be extracted by hydro-distillation, cold pressing, effleurage, hydro diffusion, supercritical fluid extraction, vapour-cracking, turbo-extractor, and microwave extraction. Among these methods, hydro distillation has become the most common approach to extract the essential oils from the medicative herbaceous plant. According to the previous study, existing of active component was analysis by (GCMS) Gas Chromatograph – Mass Spectrometer.
The globe’s agarwood production is able to meet 20 % of the global demand, posing a big capacity for the highest exporters like Malaysia to exploit on the rewarding business, since every kilogramme of high-quality gaharu can fetch up to RM 30 k in the global market and monetary value are expected to surge as the desire of purchasers continues to rise to a higher one. Just by exporting some 200 k kg of feral agarwood a year to places like the Near East, Singapore, Taiwan and France, Malaysia can collect in a whopping RM 3 billion.
Economic sections that have a dramatic composition core on patterns of consumption and collection drove the gaharu trade in the first place. Comparison of cost and distinguishing tendency is disappointed by the absence of a standard classifying system. However, it is possible to make broad terms of the prices of “top grade”, the average prices from every year to year. It is clear that prices of gaharu have fluctuated rather dramatically in statement to global economic factors. The main problem which needs to be addressed displaces around the issue of creating a price trends by which to cerebrate and assess the grade of essential oil produced from agarwood. Currently no applicative standard exists and prices as well as the quality of oil are arbitrarily determined by traders and clients.
Reproduction of a successful formula is another issue which is highly correlated to the problem of quality of agarwood. Current procedure of producing scent and aromatic products from agarwood essential oil depend greatly on experience and lack knowledge domain backing and suitably stiff procedures to ensure that a successful formula can be replicated. Agarwood field is previously a small industry due to the rarified creation of agarwood producing tress. Traditional methods detection agarwood in trees include drilling an opening, chipping the side of the tree and stubbing a few part of the tree. These methods are inefficient and impair the tree. The problem that exists in reap the agarwood is that the farmers are cutting down trees with or without agarwood interior them.
This also brings to light the problems faced by law enforcement agencies and nature preservation association that are trying to stop indiscriminate felling of Aquilaria trees. Agarwood and it is essential oil has leaded to exports being sanctioned with little information on the species and not knowing whether exploitation is within sustainable levels because of the knowledge gaps on agarwood.
The author, Anisah Sajidah binti Haji Saud is a student of Industrial Chemistry at Universiti Malaysia Pahang, Malaysia. This project won an outstanding achievement award and gold medal in INTERNATIONAL INNOVATION FESTIVAL 2014, melaka, Malaysia.
Read other article by Anisah from here.