Friday, May 25, 2007

The Pharmacy of Flowers

by David Crow, L.Ac.
AgarwoodAquilaria agallocha; Aquilaria sinensis; Eaglewood
Agarwood is an excellent example of an endangered tree that has tremendous potential for creating economically sustainable tropical agro-forests. It produces one of the world's most valuable aromatic resins, which is highly in demand as an incense and medicine.
Agarwood trees grow in the foothills of Assam, Burma, Vietnam, and Papua New Guinea. The fragrant resin is secreted within the heartwood as an immunological response to a fungal disease which attacks the trees. Trees of 80 years old are the richest in content of agar, but trees of 50 years or older yield commercial quantities.
Agarwood is highly endangered. Its resin has been prized for centuries for perfumes and incense, but the tree has nearly vanished due to a long history of reckless harvesting. At $1,000 an ounce, pure oil of wild harvested aquillaria is one of the most expensive oils in the world; because of its rarity and cost, it is also one of the most frequently adulterated oils.
A number of successful projects are underway to develop sustainable agarwood cultivation and increased resin production. In order to have success growing a long-term tree crop, these projects require coalitions of scientists, foresters, farmers, distillers, and industry officials. These projects have found that agarwood plantations can be successfully developed as an agro-forestry enterprise, and that agar trees can be induced to produce resin nearly ten times faster than in nature. Development of agarwood plantations is an ideal way of generating income and employment for low-income families living in and around project areas, as there is a long-term market for a wide range of agarwood products with rising demand and a rapidly diminishing supply.
The oil of agarwood is deeply hypnotic, calming, and meditative. The wood is used in both Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine as a pungent, bitter, and warming stimulant. It is a strong analgesic, anti-emetic, and benefits certain kinds of asthma.

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