Oriental and attractive, Oud is one of the rarest and most expensive natural raw materials. In many parts of the world, oud is more than a perfume or a therapeutic product; it’s part of the culture of its people.
The healing properties of Oud are extolled in ancient scriptures. Celebrations of its fragrance can be found in the folklore of Eastern civilizations that goes back thousands of years.
Oud has been widely adopted by Europeans and Americans for the past decade, both for its seductive and addictive scent, and for its medicinal and regenerative skin care properties.
To understand why oud is such a phenomenon, you need to learn about the mystical stories of the past and why oud has such a special place in Eastern medicine and spirituality.
WHAT IS OUD?
Known as “black gold” in the Middle East and the Gulf, the Oud is extracted from the subtropical Aquilaria tree. This evergreen agar is found in northeast India, Bangladesh, and Southeast Asia.
When a damaged section of the tree becomes infected with a mold called Phialophora parasitica, it produces a thick, dark substance to protect itself. This precious black and fragrant resin, later found in the heartwood of agar, is the origin of oud.
The fungus affects so few trees, around one in ten, that oud is extremely rare. It is also very difficult to successfully reproduce the process through human intervention. It has long made oud an expensive commodity and is more expensive per pound than gold.
Over time, the resin in the heartwood hardens. The softwood is soaked in water and then separated and used as wood chips for combustion or distilled into oud oil. The oil is then dried in the sun to evaporate any excess moisture.
Making high quality oud is a valued skill carried out by dedicated artisans using methods passed down from generation to generation.
The demand for oud and the scarcity of old trees that produce the precious resin have put eagles on the list of endangered species. As a result, sustainable growth and production techniques have been around for more than a decade.
HISTORY OF OUD
The oud has as rich and unique a history as its fragrance. Oud is referred to in Sanskrit, Torah, Gospel, and Islamic scriptures.
The Prophet Mohammed would have used oud as an incense stick for his clothing and pointed out the special place of the agarwood in paradise.
Agarwood is mentioned several times in the Bible. The Pharisee Nicodemus is described as wrapping the body of Jesus in flax and spices, including oud, after the crucifixion.
Not only was oud used as a perfume or a sign of opulence, it has long been valued for its medicinal properties. These range from psychoactive to spiritual and from therapeutic to medical.
The Roman physician Dioscurides described the medicinal use of agarwood in his book Materia Medica (AD 65).
Other mythologies suggest that agarwood was the only cut Adam was allowed to take from the Garden of Eden.
The ancient, very wealthy Chinese had their coffins made of agarwood.
In Buddhism, the most valuable Buddhist pearl necklace, 108, is made from this precious resinous heartwood.
As the use of the oud spread across Europe, the kings adopted it in their palaces. Louis XIV (The Sun King) loved perfume so much that he washed his clothes daily with a mixture of oud and roses. It was also good that oud smelled so strong. Louis would have been afraid of swimming, like many back then. The fear was that the water would spread disease, so the infrequent washing reduced the risk.
The true appreciation of the oud continues to this day. Prince William is said to have received a personal perfume that contained the substance on his wedding day in 2011.
HOW OUD IS USED
Agar wood chips (called “Bakhoor”) are used to perfume textiles and to perfume the house. Flavored potato chips of the highest quality are used for special occasions such as weddings and family celebrations.
Oud is widely used as incense sticks in the south and east and is often burned in mosques. The oud is gifted to colleagues, family members and valued guests and is often used in essential oils.
Oud oil is applied behind the ears and neck to show personal devotion. The smell of oud pervades many public spaces in the Gulf and the Middle East.
Oud is often the scent exiles miss most at home, and the popularity of oud in other parts of the world is due in part to travelers’ desire to maintain their familiarity abroad.
Oud oil is also unique, like a scent that lingers on the skin long after other scents wear off. The aroma of the oud changes subtly over the hours it is worn.
WHAT DOES OUD SMELL LIKE?
Merchants, perfumers, aromatherapists, travelers, romantics and writers have long struggled with the right words to describe the scent of oud.
The stories contain descriptions such as dusty, dark, dry, smoky, musky, animal, sensual, sexual and melancholy. Oud scents have subtle sweet herbaceous undertones that are barely noticeable at first before the deeper notes emerge.
In fact, oud is a matter of depth with pervasive velvety spices that feel sweet before deepening with earthy depth.
Oud scents develop like few in the world as the skin wears down. Oud is a natural compound that, when combined with oils, heat and pheromones, changes the chemistry and smell of our skin. In fact, oud rarely feels the same about one person or at any given time.
When the citizens of the Middle East and Gulf greet each other, they do so with a firm handshake and nose to nose or cheek to cheek. To meet another one needs a strong first impression, the smell of oud does it.
Today the oud has overcome the initial trend that came from the east into a mystical pillar.
Indoors, oud exudes a sense of opulence, luxury and comfort. It’s the scent of an evening by candlelight, but also relaxation, meditation and spirituality.
For those of us who have not experienced mosques in the east, perhaps the effect of burning oud is closest to that of burning incense at a Catholic mass.
THE HEALTH BENEFITS OF OUD
Agarwood and its oud have been used for medicinal and therapeutic purposes for thousands of years and are still used in many traditional medicines.
Prophet Muhammad himself described seven basic medicinal benefits of Oud.
Seven Medicinal Benefits of Oud:
Over the centuries, research and use of oud have attributed many other benefits to its oils.
- To deal with irregular periods.
- For the treatment of urinary tract diseases.
- To reduce the heat in the body;
- As an aphrodisiac to improve sexual libido
- To relieve excess intestinal bacteria.
- Used to treat gastric complications.
- For the treatment of skin and liver diseases.
Over the centuries, research and use of oud have attributed many other benefits to its oils.
Additional Benefits Include:
- Psychoactive properties that can reduce emotional, nervous, and psychological conditions such as anxiety and depression. The oud has been used since ancient times as a means to reduce the negative energies around us.
- Oud is widely used in meditation to improve peace and tranquility.
- As a natural sedative: to promote healthy sleeping habits and to reduce stress.
- To help you lose weight.
Used to relieve symptoms of asthma and other lung diseases.
- For the treatment of the digestive system and related ailments.
- As an analgesic for its analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties and for the treatment of conditions such as rheumatism and arthritis.
- Recommended for the treatment of cirrhosis of the liver and kidney problems.
- Used to treat certain tumors. Research has focused on gastric and lung cancer.
Other properties praised from the use of oud oil include relieving itching, as a stimulant, as a diuretic, as a muscle relaxant, and to fight fever. Research is also being carried out to understand the antidepressant effects of oud.
OUD AND ITS SKINCARE BENEFITS
Oud has many skin care benefits that have led to its growing popularity in the beauty industry.
Oud retains moisture and provides intensive moisture and gives lifeless skin tissue its radiance. An oud-based moisturizer used daily will improve the condition of dry skin.
The powerful antioxidant properties of Oud regenerate new, healthy skin cells and can reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles and other signs of premature aging.
The anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and antifungal properties of Oud protect the skin from pathogenic microbes, reduce the appearance of pimples, and prevent other skin conditions. Oud has also been recommended for treating skin ulcers.
Oud oil contains natural UV protection compounds, including concentrated triterpenic acid esters, cinnamic acid, phytosterols and hydrocarbons. In conjunction with a high-quality sunscreen lotion, it can help prevent sun damage.
Oud Oil increases the strength of the collagen fibers in the deepest layers of the skin. Collagen is an important protein that structures the skin and helps maintain a smooth and even complexion.
The vitamin-rich composition of oud oil includes zinc, iron and calcium as well as essential fatty acids.
OUD OIL FOR HAIR AND BEARD CARE
Oud oil is also good for your hair and scalp. In fact, the Sanskrit poet Kālidāsa (c. 353-c. 420) describes “beautiful women who hang their black hair in the smoke of burning aloes”. (Aloe was the old word for agarwood).
Oud acts as a serum to moisturize dry and frizzy hair. The antiseptic effect of oud cleanses the hair and scalp of harmful substances and irritants.
There is no oil better for beards than oud. After all, the oud has been used by sultans, pharaohs and kings for millennia.
Regardless of the shape, length or style of the beard, beard oil is an essential addition to any man’s daily routine. Oud beard oil combines the benefits of skin care resin with the stimulating scent that lasts all day.
This holy grail of perfume and skin care, oud beard oil moisturizes and nourishes the skin underneath while promoting healthy facial hair growth. The deep, masculine scent of oud appeals to bearded wearers and their admirers.
ARE THERE ANY DOWNSIDES TO OUD?
Oud oil is generally well tolerated when burned as frankincense or in an essential oil or used externally.
It is important to buy quality oud products. Some traders cheat by adding lead to the oud to add weight. Inhaling lead vapors can harm the body.
If inhaled excessively, oud oil fumes can cause temporary nausea and dizziness for a few minutes. If so, drink water, breathe some fresh air, and lie down for a few moments.
Oud has also been linked to worsening symptoms of asthma in children, although the study concludes that this is likely due to an increased susceptibility to a genetic variant.
There is little evidence of negative side effects from using Oud as part of a skin regimen. Excessive use on the skin may cause irritation, redness or a slight burning sensation. This can be alleviated by washing the area with cold water for a few minutes.
Consuming too much oud orally can cause nausea, vomiting, or heartburn. Drinking plenty of water can help. As with all medical and beauty products, a doctor should be consulted if symptoms persist.