David Atthowe from Norwich, England, and Yusep Sukmana from Ciamis, West Java, Indonesia, of the Nomadic Lion project (see related story, "Countryside amble for a cause") received a "gift" on their stop in Tanjong Malim, Perak.
IN Tanjong Malim, Perak we met a very kind man who gave us a special gift; kayu penawar hitam (literally: “black antidote wood”) or agarwood.
It is a dark resinous heartwood that forms when certain trees of the Aquilaria and Gyrinpus species produce dark aromatic resin after they become infected by a special fungus.
Also called gaharu in Malay, agarwood is very special to the orang asli and is now rare in the wild. We were given the wood as protection and medicine after we told our friend the story of us getting bitten by ants while camping in an oil palm plantation.
The orang asli say agarwood has special, perhaps magical, properties. No dangerous animals would attack a man carrying agarwood.
The orang asli use it to heal many illnesses, especially for skin diseases and any rash, bite or sting. It has also gained international attention for its effectiveness in alleviating psoriasis.
The orang asli traditionally use a careful harvesting technique that keeps the tree alive, thus they can go back and harvest a little more every two years.
Agarwood is reputed to be the world’s most expensive wood which can sell for as much as RM30,000 per kilo.
It has also traditionally been used in Japan for carvings and art, and in India for its lovely aromatic properties.