I. Standards of Grading A.A.R.

There are five major criteria to grade the A.A.R--- buoyancy, fragrance and medical potency, color, reason of forming, and whether it's Kanam.

(1) Buoyancy

The most important and objective criterion to grade A.A.R. is to measure its buoyancy. Based on Materia Medica and Description of the Plants in Southern China, there are three grades for A.A.R. according to its buoyancy--- complete sinking, half sinking (floating under the surface of water), and floating kinds.

Chen-Xiang is the Chinese name of A.A.R. "Chen" means "sinking". The density of A.A.R. tree without oleoresin is a mere 0.4. However, when the percentage of containing oleoresin is over 25%, A.A.R. in any forms (chips, powders, or larger pieces) will sink into water. The Chinese name of A.A.R. is originated from this characteristic.

In Japan and Korea, only A.A.R. that contains more than 25% of the oleoresin can be used as medicine. This regulation is based on the fact that the only sinking A.A.R. can be used as medicine. In China, 15% is the minimum requirement.

(2) Medical potency and Fragrance

The characteristics of A.A.R. are acrid, bitter, and warm. These characteristics can also apply to its medical potency and fragrance. One important characteristic of A.A.R. is that it does not have noticeable fragrance before burning.

Different from most raw medicine materials, A.A.R. possesses strong "natural" antibiotic function. The higher the grade of A.A.R., the more effective and "warmer" the curing process, and the warmer and richer flavor it has. The highest grade of A.A.R.- Kanam, especially can be distinguished by this characteristics.

Generally, A.A.R. with different colors has different fragrance. However, grading A.A.R. by its fragrance is quite difficult as individual preferences of fragrance differ. Therefore, judging grade simply by its fragrance inevitably will result in subjective judgement.

(3) Color

A.A.R. oleoresin presents in several different colors. Examining the color of A.A.R should be done under natural sun light. There were various researches about the color of A.A.R. Among which, Chen-Rang in Ming Dynasty, China, left the most thorough study about the color of A.A.R.

Chen-Rang indicated that there are five colors for A.A.R. The highest grade is Green; Dark Green comes second, and then Golden (light yellow), Yellow and Black. This grading system can apply to the grading of Kanam- the highest quality A.A.R as well.

It's generally believed that the color of A.A.R. oleoresin is black. In reality, A.A.R. containing higher percentage of oleoresin usually shows green or dark green luster.

Interestingly, there are records of "purple color" A.A.R in modern Japanese and Chinese books. However, there is no evidence to support its existence in any ancient studies. From our researches, we found out that some green or dark green A.A.R.'s surface is covered by unknown purple-colored ingredient. However, this kind of ingredient is not A.A.R. oleoresin and it could be removed.

(4) Ways of A.A.R. resin's formation

Four reasons of A.A.R oleoresin's formation shows in most studies. Different formation results in differences on colors, fragrances, and containing of A.A.R. resin.

The best A.A.R. is formed naturally inside the live agarwood without any wounds. The second grade A.A.R. is formed after A.A.R. tree is died. The third grade is caused by man-made wounds by cutting on the surface of A.A.R. tree. The forth grade is formed by the wounds caused by a kind of insect.

(5) Kanam

The most precious kind of A.A.R. is called Kanam in Korean, Qie-Nan-Xiang in Chinese, and Kanankoh in Japanese. Kanam, also a kind of Aquilaria agallocha Roxb., is regarded as the highest quality. It has been highly valued for its better medical potency and elegant odor. The distinction between Kanam and common A.A.R. is that Kanam's oleoresin is "glutinous" while A.A.R.'s hard and solid. Therefore, small shreds of Kanam could be pinched and rolled into a ball.

Kanam can be also discriminated by its much warmer and richer fragrance. Kanam generally is hard to tell from the appearances. Only glutinous AAR can be identified as Kanam. As long as one is identified as Kanam, it's much valuable regardless of its content of oleoresin, color, or fragrance. Because of this precious nature, Kanam gnereally has separate grading system from common A.A.R.


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