There are times when an inner voice is so subtle and yet so strong in its request that you cannot ignore it regardless of how far fetched it may seem. Familiar? I am confronted with such a request. The guidance is that I must create a new product to help people who suffer from debilitating anxiety. This product must specifically contain oud essential oil. As your ayurvedic consultant, this is my good fortune and dilemma.
The good fortune is that I do have some oud essential oil, but only 5 drops left. The dilemma is that the oud (also called agarwood) is endangered and now protected in Vietnam. Not only that, the tree must first be pecked by birds to make it become infected by a certain fungus before it can yield essential oil. As I found out yesterday, a honest quality bottle of 3 drams (1 dram = 1/16 oz) can be purchased between $180 US (approx. $230 CAN) and $2,500 US ($3210 CAN)! According to the producers at Ensar Oud, « The market for the remaining wild batches of oud wood has an asking price starting at $50,000 per kilogram, going up to $300,000 (for just one kg!) … The last of the remaining wild oud wood will not be used to burn as incense nor to extract oud oil. Instead, it’s all going to China, where it’s carved into beads, bracelets, and an assortment of traditional sculptures, statues and icons whose prices run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars.”
So why write this blog?
I am not sure yet. Hope, a previous experience with a rare bottle of vetiver essential oil or maybe trust in my good fortune and that writing will help me solve the dilemma…
In the late 1990s, I read a book on essential oils that mentioned oud. It had the shortest description of all those in the book, with very limited information on its properties apart from the fact that it is very rare, expensive and used to meditate on death. As I was just beginning my studies in aromatherapy, I was very curious but put that information at the back of my mind for later use.
A couple of years later my uncle Alfred, who lives in Germany, bought me a few bottles of essential oils after the passing of my aunt, my dearest role model. A sensitive and affluent man who believed in healthy living, he always sought the best quality in everything he bought, from food, to wine, to electronics. He didn’t know the first thing about essential oils but asked his trusted apothecary. Low and behold, he sent me four essential oils, the most expensive of all essential oils: rose, jasmine sambac, sandalwood, and oud! The oud was a 5% dilution in a 50 ml bottle. I kept it preciously for rare times when I meditated on death and learn more about it. But now, the bottle is almost empty. Why did I know that these essential oils were of excellent quality? Because it came from him, but also because of the experiences that they provided.
About oud and its essential oil
Oud is both aphrodisiac and diaphoretic. Beyond that, Plantations International describes it a an oil that connects us “with something of the spirit world. Oud symbolizes and calls forth that which connects us to the ancient, to the roots and soul of the earth, to the Garden of Eden and the Hand of God, to the timelessness of the spirit and the vibration of the ethereal world, to the basis of our primal selves and the completeness of existence.” This description certain reflects some of my experiences with it.
In Ayurveda, oud is used for skin and heart problems, anemia, neuro-muscular conditions, pleurisy, halitosis, impotence, blood cleansing, urinary infections, indigestion, pain and bed wetting. Tibetan doctors use it to fumigate the rooms of those with emotional, psychiatric disorders and spiritual diseases. It is said that the King of Nepal’s alchemist in Kathmandu described oud essential oil as a “wish-fulfilling gem” that can bring love, good fortune and prosperity to those who take care of it and use it wisely.
As with the sandalwood tree, agarwood is getting such high financial returns that poachers are willing to risk their lives stealing the trees from legitimate land owners who also risk their lives to protect them. Governments, businesses and environmental organizations are now growing plantations, but as you know the quality can never be quite the same as those grown in the wild. So again, why write about and even consider making a Face to Grace product with such an expensive, elusive ingredient?
The answer : just as expensive and elusive
So yes, letting myself be guided by the inspiration of this article, answers came. I did need to write about oud to connect with its energy and to convince myself of the importance of :
– respecting my subtle inner voice who was requesting a new product
– recognizing my own mastery as an aromatherapist
– challenging my personal views of prosperity
– trusting that if I receive a request to make a product with oud, someone will come to buy it because it is needed
– if someone is so crazy and passionate as to fly on more than 12 flights, to empty his wallet to pay for the best wood he can find, to find and hire traditional distillers sprinkled in small villages spread over all of Asia, to take two months straight to design a batch of essential oil, then I can be a bit crazy and buy a tiny bit of his production to make a gem of a healing product.
So even before I finished drafting the last paragraph of this blog last night, I went ahead and made a precious purchase.
Today, I cannot tell you what that product will be called BUT it will contain oud, vetiver, tulsi and lavender essential oils, a cedar maceration and brahmi oil that I brewed myself. Its puprose? To bust any trace of anxiety you may hold and bring you back to the reassurance of your own essence. Contact me if you need one of my 5 bottles (50ml) currently available. Cost: $108 CAN.