Tag Archives: India


There are a few, very popular oils that come from the heart-wood of trees; Oud (Aquilaria agollocha, A. malaccensis, A. crassna) that I have written about earlier, Rosewood (aniba rosaeodora) and Sandalwood (santalum album). I will not write again about Oud, but concentrate on Rosewood and Sandalwood. These oils come from the heartwood of trees – trees take a long time to grow and for each tree that is cut down we need to plant many, many more or the tree will become extinct.

Rosewood (aniba rosaeodora) is a tree that grows in the Amazonian rain-forest, Brazil being the main producer of essential oil. It is a large, evergreen tree reaching up to 30 m in height and 2 meters in diameter. All parts of the tree are fragrant although only the heartwood is traditionally harvested and distilled. To give an acceptable amount of essential oil the tree needs to be 40 years old and have a diameter of about 30-40cm, but because of indiscriminate felling even trees with a diameter of 15cm will be cut as it is getting progressively harder to find fully grown trees. Because of its high content of linalool, the essential oil has been widely used in perfumes and soaps. Now linalool is produced synthetically for perfumes and the use of rosewood has diminished; In the 1960s, exports of rosewood oil from Brazil alone were around 500 tonnes per year. Today, the world market for rosewood oil is about 100 tonnes per year. Rosewood essential oil is often substituted by the cheaper Chinese Ho oil (cinnamomum camphora l. linaloolifera leaf oil)

Over the years the heavy harvesting of rosewood have diminished the number of wild-growing trees to a point where they are rapidly becoming a threatened species. Development of sustainable planting is underway, but a lot of wild trees are still felled for the sake of essential oil. Recent research aims to develop new essential oil production derived from rosewood leaves and stems.

Pricing of Rosewood essential oil: 10 ml  €6,40 or 8,65 US dollars.

Sandalwood (santalum album) grows in forests of southern India, the best known being Mysore. The tree reaches a height of 20 meters. It is a hemiparasitic plant as the roots attach themselves to nearby plant roots, obtaining nourishment and causing the host plant to die. Essential oil is produced in the heart-wood and the roots. The tree is mature at 60-80 years when it is harvested and the heartwood is distilled. The trees start producing heartwood at 30-50 yrs. As with rosewood, the trees are being over-harvested and today they are felled already when they are 30 years. Sandalwood has been used as an incense ingredient for the last 4000 years and is an important plant in Asia, used in all manners for its spiritual powers. Today the forests are too young to produce any essential oil, and since the late 1990’s there is only a mere 5% of forest left.

In late 1980 – early 1990 India exported 100 tonnes of sandalwood-oil/year. In 1996 the Indian government regulated export of sandalwood-oil, bringing the yearly amount down to 5 tonnes. This created a huge raise in the price of sandalwood essential oil; on the Indian market the price went from Rs20 000/ton in 1980 to Rs200 000/ton in 1990. Much work is being done in India to create a sustainable replanting of sandalwood-trees, but since it takes such a long time before the trees produce essential oil, this is less popular. Due to the extremely high prices, large amounts of trees are still illegally cut down and smuggled out of the country. In 1993 sandalwood-oil cost 185-200 US dollars/kg, during the last 5 years, the price has increased to 1000-1500 US dollars/kg.

A new player on the scene is Western Australia where sustainable plantations of sandalwood has been going on for some time. They have become the biggest exporters of sandalwood and are now even exporting to India, who is a huge user both of oil and wood. The sandalwood-oil from Australia is half the price of the Indian.

Price of Sandalwood essential oil: 5 ml: €27 (37 US dollars) or 10 ml: €42 (58 US dollars)

So you see, the value is not in the pricing or the oil, the value is in nature; in taking care and always returning something for that what we take and protecting our environment.



Oud is an oil that has fascinated me for the last 18 years. Its scent is mystical, mythical and magical, this is why I want to present this profile to you.

Oud or Agarwood or Aloeswood (Aquilaria agollocha, A. malaccensis, A. crassna) is an evergreen tree native to the forests of Northeast India, Bhutan and Southeast Asia; Viet Nam, Kambodja, Philippines, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea. The tree reaches a height of about 40m with a diameter of about 60cm. It bears sweetly-scented snow-white flowers. For the oil to exist, the tree needs to be infected with a fungi; Phialophora parasitica. The tree produces this oleoresin to protect itself against the fungi by saturating the heartwood. The longer time a tree is infected, the deeper and darker the oleoresin gets. This can take up to a 100 years and inevitably ends with the tree dying. By this time the heartwood is almost black, deeply saturated and scented by the oleoresin. The heartwood of an uninfected tree is light and pale-colored.

Extraction methods:

  • Water extraction: The wood is immersed in water for about 3 months, after which it is put into stills (huge burners) where it is cooked for many hours until the resin dissolves and floats to the top of the water; Indian distillation method.
  • Steam distillation of the wood-chips; Mostly used by East Asian countries.
  • CO2 extraction: When a certain amount of pressure is applied to CO2 (carbon dioxide) this gas turns into liquid. This liquid CO2 can be used as a very inert, safe, “liquid solvent.” CO2 is the gas we all breathe out of our lungs. It is also the gas that plants themselves thrive on.

Because of the immense popularity of this plant-matter for oil, perfume and incense, the trees are now endangered species  protected world-wide under the CITES-convention (http://www.cites.org/) and by laws in the different countries. Even so a large number of trees are illegally cut down to obtain this hugely expensive material.

There are many grades of Oud; First-grade (the highest quality) is one of the most expensive natural products in the world. The pricing lies around 13 000 dollars/pound of oil. (0,453kg) The oils from wild trees (illegal) catch an even higher price, more than 27 000 dollars/pound. The whole-sale price for a decent quality oil is around 1000-1400 dollars/ounce. (30ml)

In Assam, India a few families have started plantations with Aquilaria agollocha, ensuring the survival of this precious tree and its hidden gifts. Most reputed Oud-traders today, trade with plantation-grown oils and wood. Due to the success of the plantations in Assam other countries are following suit; Thailand, Cambodia, Viet Nam and other areas in Southeast Asia.


Oud has a long history of use in the eastern parts of the world; Buddhist monks use ut for meditation, saying it aids in the transmutation of ignorance. Tibetan monks use it to calm the mind and spirit. Sufis use it for esoteric ceremonies and in China it is considered to have psychoactive properties. Oud has been used as incense, aromatic oil and medicine for thousands of years. It is mentioned in the Bible (under the name of Aloewood): “Nicodemus used pounded aloewood to embalm the body of Christ”. The Prophet Muhammed of Islam mentions in the Koran 1400 years ago; “Treat with Indian Oud, for it has healing for seven diseases”. In Egypt Oud was used by the Pharaos for embalming. Buddha called it the “Scent of Nirvana“.

The Scent

Complex, balsamic, deep woody fragrance. Tenacious basenote, it lingers longer than any other known scent. The scent is rare and powerful. Blended with other precious oils such as Rose (r.centifolia, r. damascena), Jasmin (jasminus officinalis), Sandalwood (santalum album), it enhances them and creates a blend which is deeply soulful.


A well-known aphrodisiac; use it as a perfume neat on the skin (I recommend a patch-test for sensitive skin) or diluted in Jojoba-oil or alcohol. The skin will release its scent over the course of 12-15 hours. (It is tested safe to use undiluted on skin.) The oil is viscous and in room-temperature it stays thick. To make it thinner, put the bottle in a bowl of warm water for a few minutes.

It has been used by Chinese, Tibetan, Ayurvedic and Unani physicians in practice to treat various disease and mental illness.The list of ailments that can be helped by Oud oil is vast. I will not document it here, since considering the price and rarity of this oil, it is better used for higher purposes such as meditation and personal growth. During my research I have found that every eastern culture names Oud in treatment of the respiratory and digestive systems. This is interesting because these two systems are both deeply connected to life-force, and the most outstanding feature of Oud is its magical and mystical properties when used in meditation; It connects Heaven and Earth within us, creating balance, inner peace and enlightment.



Essential oil and scent history is really the history of plants and herbal medicine, since they are a part of it.

All ancient cultures used aromatic substances and herbs for cooking, healing, scenting and praying. The earliest written herbal text is the “Pen Tsao” (Great Herbal – still in print) which was compiled by Shen Nung, an emperor, during the time of 1 000 to 700 B.C. In this work is listed more than 350 medicinal plants and remedies. Another great and ancient work of plants and medicine is the “Yellow Emperors Classic of Internal Medicine” also still in print. Acupuncture was already used at this time and has since then spread all over the world, growing in popularity.

Aromatic substances also played an important role in the lives of the Sumerians who lived along the rivers of Eufrat and Tigris ca 4 000 B.C. They left inscriptions showing the use of herbs for healing. The Babylonians and Assyrians left inscriptions of their laws among which there are instructions for the use of plants and spices in medicine. In Persia a clay-vessel was found that is believed to be a crude form of distillation-apparatus. It is dated to 2 500 B.C. Similar vessels are still used in the area for distillation purposes.

In India the medicine of Ayur Veda has existed in written form since 1 000 B.C. Ayur Veda has become an increasingly popular form of alternative medicine and can today be found all over the world.


In ancient Rome and Greece medicine developed into a science. Hippocrates (468-377 B.C), known as the father of medicine compiled scripts known as “Corpus Hippocraticum”. Pedanius Dioscorides wrote the classic “De Materia Medica” in year 60 A.D. This work became the standard basic for medicine during the next 1 500 years. During this time the practice of medicine slowly started to divide into 2 routes;

  • Empirical; Seeing the body and mind as a whole, interacting unit. Knowledge comes from experience and studies.
  • Scientific; Seeing the body as a machine that can be repaired.  Knowledge comes from studying parts in isolation.