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AQUILARIA MALACCENSIS, AN AYURVEDIC MEDICINAL HERB FOUND IN ASSAM – ITS THERAPEUTICAL AND PHARMACOLOGICAL ASPECT

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Abstract

Aquilaria malaccensis, agar wood also popularly known as "Wood of Gods" is one of the oldest and critically endangered species found extensively cultivated in Assam and other NorthEastern states of India, which have been in practice as traditional medicine as well as its commercial products. It is a large evergreen tree 18-20m in height, 1.5-2m in diameter. Ayurveda the Ancient Medicinal System has also given prime importance to Aquilaria malaccensis for treating various disorders where is prescribed as an appetizer, analgesic, antipyretic, antihistaminic, styptic, carminative, cytotoxic, insecticidal, general tonic, etc. Efforts have been made by researchers to verify the efficacy of the plant through scientific biological screening. The critical evaluation of the literature revealed some notable pharmacological activities of the plant. The present study evaluates the potential use of the plant either in pharmaceutics or as agricultural resource and highlight the phytochemicals, various therapeutic uses as per Ayurveda as well as pharmacological reports on Aquilaria malaccensis. Citation: Sarma DR, Sarmah J, Gupta A, Mishra RK (2015) Aquilaria malaccensis, an ayurvedic medicinal herb found in Assam-its therapeutical and pharmacological aspect. Indian J Trop Biodiv 23(2): 218-222
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© Society for Promotion of Tropical Biodiversity, Jabalpur
1* 2 3 3
DIPTI REKHA SARMA , JYOTIRMOY SARMAH , ANKITA GUPTA AND RAJESH KUMAR MISHRA
1Department of Samhita and Siddhant,
Government Ayurvedic College and Hospital, Guwahati, Assam, India
2Department of Shalakya Tantra, Government Ayurvedic College and Hospital, Guwahati, Assam
3Patanjali Herbal Research Department, Patanjali Yogpeeth, Haridwar, India
*Corresponding Author: diptirekhas10@gmail.com
ABSTRACT: Aquilaria malaccensis, agar wood also popularly known as “Wood of Gods” is one of the oldest
and critically endangered species found extensively cultivated in Assam and other North - Eastern states of
India, which have been in practice as traditional medicine as well as its commercial products. It is a large
evergreen tree 18-20m in height, 1.5-2m in diameter. Ayurveda the Ancient Medicinal System has also given
prime importance to Aquilaria malaccensis for treating various disorders where is prescribed as an
appetizer, analgesic, antipyretic, antihistaminic, styptic, carminative, cytotoxic, insecticidal, general tonic,
etc. Efforts have been made by researchers to verify the efficacy of the plant through scientific biological
screening. The critical evaluation of the literature revealed some notable pharmacological activities of the
plant. The present study evaluates the potential use of the plant either in pharmaceutics or as agricultural
resource and highlight the phytochemicals, various therapeutic uses as per Ayurveda as well as
pharmacological reports on Aquilaria malaccensis.
Keywords: Agaru, Ayurveda, Swasahara, Sirovirechanopaga, Nighantu, Samhita
Citation: Sarma DR, Sarmah J, Gupta A, Mishra RK (2015) Aquilaria malaccensis, an ayurvedic medicinal herb
found in Assam–its therapeutical and pharmacological aspect. Indian J Trop Biodiv 23(2): 218-222
AQUILARIA MALACCENSIS, AN AYURVEDIC MEDICINAL HERB FOUND IN
ASSAM – ITS THERAPEUTICAL AND PHARMACOLOGICAL ASPECT
Assam is one of the richest
biodiversity regions in
India. The rich floristic
diversity is due to its
unique geographical location and comprises of forest
range from tropical to alpine and has a vast reservoir of
plants providing food, fuel, medicine, timber, fiber, oil
and pulp etc. It is an important part of the Indian Floristic
Zone and has been identified as one of the twelve
“Genetic Epicenters” for the evolution of world flora.
Agar tree (Aquilaria malaccensis Lam.) is distributed in
all the Northeastern States of India and is widely
cultivated in Assam. It is one of the oldest available
herbs found in Assam which had been in practice both
as traditional medicine as well as commercial products.
The world health organization had estimated that about
80% population of the developing countries of the world
depends on the herbal medicine for their primary health
care needs. But due to change in agricultural practices
and other anthropogenic causes the vulnerable
medicinal plant species of Assam are on the verge of
extinction. For such reasons Agar is rarely found in wild
state and is being widely cultivated all over the region.
The ancient herbal medicinal system, the Ayurveda
had identified the plant Aquilaria malaccensis years
back in the management of various diseases. The major
Ayurvedic classics have categorized it into various
groups depending upon its pharmacological action
segment. Acharya Caraka had described Aquilaria
malaccensis under Swasahara (useful in dypsnea),
Sirovirechanopaga (useful in cephalic and
supraclavicular disorders) on the basis of its therapeutic
actions. Again it is included under Tiktaskandha (group
of medicinal plants bitter in taste) depending upon its
primary taste. Acharya Susruta had mentioned it under
Salasaradi (group of medicinal plants having resin and
oleoresin) and Eladigana (group of medicinal plants
having aroma and used for fumigation purpose). Agaru
is also known as Raksoghna (protective in nature) in
Ayurveda for its effective antimicrobial activity.
Therefore, resin and heartwood of Agaru is used by
Ayurveda as an agent of local cleaning. Its internal use is
also recommended for the treatment of enuresis,
encopresis and incompetence of the bladder.
MATERIALS AND METHODS
Extensive literary research is conducted using
different classical text books along with electronic
databases “PubMed” “Google Scholar” and “Scopus.”
The review on the subject was conducted with an
Received on : 14 May 2015
Accepted on : 05 Oct. 2015
Published on : 23 Dec. 2015
Indian Journal of Tropical Biodiversity, 23(2) 2015
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interactive strategy of combining the keywords Agaru,
Ayurveda, Swasahara, Sirovirechanopaga, Nighantu,
Samhita, etc.
Study area
Considering the availability of the plant, the study is
conducted in different districts of Assam which is
situated at Latitude of 24-28 degree north and
Longitude 90-96 degree east.
Geographical distribution
The Agar tree is mostly found in Bhutan, Malaya Island,
Myammar, Malyasia and Philippines. In India two
species of Aquilaria are found, A. khasiana and A.
malaccensis, although a third, A. macrophylla Miq.
(found in the Nicobar Islands) is also thought to produce
agar-wood. A. malaccensis occurs mostly in the
foothills of the north-eastern region (Assam,
Meghalaya, Nagaland, Mizoram, Manipur, Arunachal
Pradesh, Tripura and West Bengal) at an altitude of
500-1000m. In Assam and Meghalaya it occurs
sporadically in the district of Sibsagar, Sadiya,
Nowgong, Darrang, Goalpara, Garo Hills and Cachar.
Taxonomic position
Aquilaria malaccensis (Lam.) Tiegh., belongs to order
Malvales and Family, Thymelaeaceae
Synonyms and vernacular names
Aquilaria secundaria Rumph. ex DC.; Aquilaria ovata
Cav.; Aquilaria moluccensis Oken; Aquilaria
agallochum (Lour.) Roxb. ex Finl.; Aquilaria agallocha
Roxb.; Aquilaria agallocha Roxb. ex DC.; Aloexylum
agallochum Lour. Agallochum malaccense (Lam.)
Kuntze.
Bengali - Agaru; English - Agar wood, Agar,
Aloewood, Eaglewood, Malacca Eaglewood; Gujrati-
Agar; Hindi - Agar; Sanskrit - Krimija, Krimijagdha,
Anaryaka, Viswaroopakam, Pravara, Jongakam,
Shresthavruksa, Rajarha, Vamshika, Loha; Tamil -
Aggali chandanam; Telugu - Agru.
Classical categorization according to Ayurveda
According to Caraka Samhita (An Ayurvedic literature
written By Maharshi Agnivesh); A. malaccensis belongs
to a group of herbs that relieves feeling of cold, asthma,
bronchitis etc. According to Susruta Samhita (An
Ayurvedic literature written By Maharshi Susruta); A.
malaccensis belongs to a group of herbs having resin,
aroma and used for fumigation purpose.
Varieties
In Assam two types of A. agallocha could be identified
as 'Jatisanchi' and 'Bholasanchi' in the population.
Bholasanchi is comparatively quick growing but yield is
less than that of Jatisanchi. It is the Jatisanchi that is
preferred for medicinal use as well as commercial
cultivation. In Dhanvantari Nighantu another variety of
Agaru i.e. Kaleyaka is mentioned. Sodhala Nighantu
explained three types of Agaru i.e. Agaru, Krishnaagaru
and Kakatundaagaru. Raja Nighantu quoted four
varieties viz Krishna agaru, Kashthaagaru, Dahaagaru
and Mangalyaagaru.
Botanical Characters
Vegetative Characters
A large, evergreen, striate, trees upto 18-20m in height,
1.5-2m in diameter; stem somewhat straight and fluted,
young branches pilose; leaves opposite, linear-
lanceolate to lanceolate and obovate-oblong, glabrous,
thin chartaceous, acute or rounded at the base, 5-12cm
long and 1.8-5cm wide with faintly paralled-nerved;
petiole 2mm long.
Floral Characters
Flowers up to 5mm long, hermaphrodite, greenish, on
slender pilose pedicels, sessile or shortly peduncled
terminal or axillary umbels, arising on younger
branchlets; perianth 5mm long, slightly hairy outside,
densely villous inside, scales oblong, alternating with
the stamens; filaments red at apex; ovary tawny-
tomentose; fruit capsule, green, egg-shaped capsule,
leathery exocarp with fine hairs, 4cm long and 2.5cm
wide; seeds two per fruit, ovoid, blackish brown and
densely covered with red-brown hair. Flowering and
Fruiting November - May
Ayurvedic properties
The wood is considered pungent and bitter in taste; hot
in potency; light, mucilaginous and sharp in attribute;
stimulant, aphrodisiac, cholagogue, deobstruent,
astringent, aromatic, cooling, cardiotonic, tastant, and
complexion enhancer. Useful in ear disorders,
ophthalmic disorders, leprosy, hiccup, vomiting,
anaemia, pruritus, blisters, poisoning, diarrhoea,
dysentery, gout and rheumatism.
Phytochemical analysis
The chloroform soluble fraction of an ethanolic extract of
the plant yielded a coumarinolignam identified as
aquillochin (Bhandari et al., 1982). The trunk of the plant
yields its pathological product, a strong aromatic
resinous wood formed in the tree after infection by a
fungus. The essential oils obtained from both the
uninfected and infected wood were studied. The oil from
Indian Journal of Tropical Biodiversity, 23(2) 2015
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the uninfected plant was found to contain rhombic
sulphur, selinane, two unidentified sesquiterpene
hydrocarbons, a sesquiterpene alcohol agarol and a
hydroxyketone. In addition, the fractions containing
ketonic and conjugated hydroxyketonic functions were
isolated. The occurrence of five isomeric decenes was
also recorded (Jain et al., 1962). The oil obtained from
the fungus infected plants was reported to contain
sesquiterpenic furanoids of the selinanic group viz.,
dihydroagarofuran, α-and β-agarofuran (Maheshwari
et al., 1963a); nor-ketoagarofuran, 4-hydroxydi-
hydroagarofuran and 3,4-dihydroxy-dihydroagarofuran
(Masheshwari et al., 1963b) besides a novel
spirocyclicsesquiterpene alcohol, agarospirol whose
stereochemistry has been discussed. Agarospirol is
reported to be the second spiroterpenoid isolated from
nature (Varma et al., 1965). Sadgopal and Varma (1952)
recorded the percentage yield of oil from various grades
of wood and reported a method of distilling the essential
oil in better yield and quality from the infected wood
of the plant. Essential oil was isolated from the
hydrolysis of the non-steam volatile portion of the
acetone extract of the spent wood in a yield of
0.3 percent (Shankaranarayana et al., 1986). The
chloroform soluble fraction of anethanolic extract of the
stem wood yielded two sesquiterpenes gmelofruan and
agarol, which were characterized as 5-isopropyl-
7-methyl-5, 5a, 6,7-tetrahydro-3H, 8H,-naphthol
[1,8-bc] furan-3,8-(4I)-dione and 5-isopropyl-7-methyl-
4, 5,5a.6,7,8-hexahydro-3H-naphthol [1,8-bc] furan-8
α-hydroxy-3-one, respectively (Pant and Rastogi,
1980). The heartwood yielded two alkaloids which were
identified as Iiriodenine and 1,2,9,10-tetramethoxy-4,5-
dihydroosoaporphone (Natarajan et al., 1983).
Pharmacological Action
a. Mild laxative, appetizer, diuretic, aphrodisiac,
stimulant, antipyretic, analgesic, antihistaminic,
styptic, carminative, memory enhancer, aggravates
Pitta, cytotoxic, deodorant, insecticidal, tonic and
depressant.
b. Useful in chronic diarrhea, anorexia, hepatic
disorders, intestinal disorders, bronchitis, dyspnea,
gout, rheumatoid arthritis and vomiting; brain tonic,
promotes implantation.
c. In-vitro liriodenine alkaloid showed inhibitory effect
on 9 KB tumor cell line.
d. In-vitro extract showed effect on nasopharyngeal
tumor cells.
e. Benzene extract of the wood showed CNS
depressant activity.
f. Oily-extract-Stimulant, cardiotonic, tonic,
carminative.
g. Wood-Sedative.
h. Wood fumes-Antiseptic and insecticidal.
i. Its ethyl acetate extract showed antioxidant activity.
j. Its leaf extract showed antibacterial activity.
Aqueous extract of stem shows activity against
immediate hypersensitivity by inhibiting the
histamine secretion from mast cell.
k. It showed antipyretic activity, analgesic activity, anti-
inflammatory activity, anti-oxidative activity.
l. The alkaloid Iiriodenine was reported to have
significant in vitro inhibitory activity against the 9 KB
tumour test system (Warthen et al., 1969) and was
also reported to act in vitro upon the cells of human
nasopharyngeal carcinoma (Shamma and
Castenson, 1973; Doskotch and El-Feraly, 1969).
Ayurvedic medicinal practices
a. Topical application of Aquilaria malaccensis
(Agarwood) paste is useful in cephalgia.
b. Intake of Aquilaria malaccensis(Agarwood) powder
along with honey is useful in asthma and hiccup.
c. Intake of Aquilaria malaccensis powder mixed with
honey is useful in cough.
d. Topical application of Aquilaria malaccensis paste
on thorax is useful in bronchitis.
e. Intake of 2 drops of Aquilaria malaccensis oil is
useful in dyspnea.
f. Intake of decoction prepared from Aquilaria
malaccensis wood is useful in abdominal tumor.
g. Intake of Aquilaria malaccensis wood powder is
useful in vomiting and nausea.
h. Intake of Aquilaria malaccensis powder mixed with 3
times crystal sugar and Ghrita (Clarified butter)
alleviates hemorrhoids.
i. Intake of decoction prepared from Aquilaria
malaccensis wood is useful in diabetes.
j. Intake of decoction prepared from Aquilaria
malaccensis wood is useful in postpartum
disorders.
k. Topical application of Aquilaria malaccensis paste is
useful in gout, rheumatoid arthritis, arthritis and
paralysis.
l. Massage of oil processed with Aquilaria
malaccensis extract is useful in ringworm and
leprosy.
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Indian Journal of Tropical Biodiversity, 23(2) 2015
m. Topical application of Aquilaria malaccensis stem
paste is useful in skin disorders.
n. Topical application of Aquilaria malaccensis leaf
paste is useful in leprosy and pruritus.
o. Topical application of paste prepared from Aquilaria
malaccensis is useful in different types of
inflammation.
p. Intake of Aquilaria malaccensis wood powder
mixed in water is useful in fever.
q. Intake of Aquilaria malaccensis extract paste
alongwith water till one year enhances rejuvenation
properties.
r. Intake of Aquilaria malaccensis powder along with
milk enhances rejuvenation properties.
s. Intake of Aquilaria malaccensis oil acts as a tonic.
t. Intake of betel leaf alongwith Aquilaria malaccensis
oil acts as an aphrodisiac.
u. Topical application of Aquilaria malaccensis paste
is useful in scorpion sting and snakebite.
v. It is also used as a liniment in various skin diseases
and in snake bite.
w. The powder is mainly used in the manufacture of
fumigators, pastilles and agarbatties of joss sticks.
x. The oil is one of the highly priced essential oils used
in perfumery (Nadkarni,1954;Tandon and
Gupta,1954; Wealth of India, 1985)
Ethnobotanical studies
The leaves are found to be useful in throat itching
(Kumar et al., 1980). Parts used: Leaf, stem, oil, and
fungus infected heart wood.
DISCUSSION
Agaru the plant found in Assam and other neighboring
states is of significant importance due to its
multipurpose efficacies in the management of different
diseases and maintenance of proper health. Aquilaria
malaccensis is one of 15 tree species in the genus
Aquilaria, family Thymelaeaceae. The 2002 IUCN Red
List classifies this species as Vulnerable. It has been
harvested heavily throughout its range,The major threat
to wild populations is unregulated and often illegal
harvest and trade, although further research and
monitoring would provide data about the species' ability
to regenerate in over-harvested areas. A secondary
threat is logging for timber in forested areas that overlap
with habitat for this species
CONCLUSION
The information generated on Aquilaria malaccensis,
need a thorough phytochemical investigation including
alkaloid extraction and isolation with some clinical trials,
biological evaluation on experimental animal models,
toxicity studies, etc. People are cultivating Aquilaria
malaccensis for their economic upliftment and thereby
protecting the species from danger of extinction. The
paper highlights the information to conserve Aquilaria
malaccensis for sustainable medicinal uses for the
future generation. Since Ayurveda and ethnobotany
continue to play a major role in the medical therapy, it is
of utmost importance to conserve these resources for
the welfare of mankind.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
we express our sincere gratitude to the Principal and
staff of Government Ayurvedic College and Hospital,
Guwahati, Assam staff of Patanjali Herbal Research
Centre, Haridwar and all those who supported us for
providing with the needful resources in preparing this
paper.
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... The uninfected wood is used for the treatment of jaundice and body pain (Chakrabarty, Kumar and Menon, 1994). A. malaccensis products are an essential source in the field of Ayurveda for treating various diseases while acting as appetizer, analgesic, antipyretic, antihistaminic, styptic, carminative, cytotoxic, insecticidal, general tonic, etc. (Sarma et al., 2015). ...
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Aquilaria is an evergreen non-timber agarwood obtained from the 15 species of Aquilaria belonging to the family Thymelecea. There are two species endemic to Northeast India, A. malaccensis and A. khasiana. A. malaccensis generate a high-grade degree of resin as compared to the other Aquilaria species, and it contributes to the economy of the Northeast states of India and the country as a whole. Due to its profoundly valuable sources, it is overexploited, which impacted its availability in genetic environments. The cultivation of the tree is challenging due to some environmental factors like the sensitivity of the seeds to desiccation, high light intensity, low shelf life, slow growth rate, and the effect of insects and microorganisms. Therefore, conservation and proliferation are urgently required for environmental sustainability and prevention from the stage of extinction. The objective of this paper is to compile the major research works on the conservation, production of the secondary metabolite from callus of A. malaccensis and updated information on its developments and approaches that are rapidly taking place in recent years so that further novel research can be envisaged.
... These plants were traditionally used to overcome morning sickness during the first trimester of pregnancy. A study conducted by Sarma et al. (2015) noted that in traditional medicinal system in India, A. malaccensis is known to have effects on preventing the unpleasant condition of vomiting, increase appetite, and function as a general tonic. Meanwhile, A. compactum is known to be used for aromatherapy with its soothing effect, and having the ability to strengthen the nervous system (Hartady et al. 2020), and this is associated with its use to reduce nausea. ...
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Susandarini R, Khasanah U, Rosalia N. 2021. Ethnobotanical study of plants used as food and for maternal health care by the Malays communities in Kampar Kiri Hulu, Riau, Indonesia. Biodiversitas 22: 3111-3120. Studies to reveal the diversity of food plants on communities living in remote areas with limited access to the market are important as an effort in documenting the traditional knowledge. The same applies to the diversity of medicinal plants used in maternal health care for communities that have limited access to public health facilities. The documentation of ethnobotanical knowledge is not only for the purpose of developing the potential of these plants, but also could have an impact on their conservation in nature. This study aims to document the traditional knowledge on the diversity of food plants and medicinal plants used in maternal health care by Malays tribes living within the Bukit Rimbang Bukit Baling Wildlife Reserve, Kampar Kiri Hulu Subdistrict, Kampar District, Riau Province, Indonesia. The research was conducted in three villages by collecting data through interviews and followed by fieldwork to collect plant specimens for identification. Data on food plant diversity data were obtained from 20 informants, while data on the diversity and use of medicinal plants for maternal health care were obtained from 73 informants. The results showed that there were 76 species of food plants from 35 families. These food plants were used as secondary food ingredients, vegetables, fruit and spices with most of these plants were obtained from the yard of the house. Plants used for maternal health care identified from this study were 34 species from 26 families. These plants were used for various purposes during pregnancy, child delivery, postpartum recovery, and infant health care. The diversity of food plants and medicinal plants for maternal health care documented in this study showed the valuable role of plant resources in supporting daily needs and health care of the communities living in the fringe of forest area.
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Critically endangered Aquilaria malaccensis Lam. is known for highly expensive agarwood with unique aroma. Agarwood has been used as a phytomedicine in chronic degenerative neurological disorders, paralysis, rheumatism, asthma, and others. Its production is dependent naturally or artificially on interaction of endophytic fungi, and by nailing, drilling, and microbial inoculation respectively. The majorly produced biomarkers of terpenes, fatty acids, alkanes, chromones, and flavonoids exhibited several biological activities in congruence to their ethnomedicinal claims. During the pandemic, several in-silico, studies showed the potential of a few sesquiterpene hydrocarbons against covid-19. The review aimed to deliver a comprehensive outline of the immunomodulatory potential of agarwood oil with allied traditional medicinal use, biomarkers, pharmacological evaluation, toxicity, and mechanistic action. The review eventually showed the agarwood oil, extracts, and major biomarkers viz., aromadendrene II, valencene, phytol, octacosane, caryophyllene oxide, b-caryophyllene, hinesol, agarospirol, with immunomodulatory, anti-inflammatory, and allied neural, antidiabetic, antimicrobial activity, toxicity, along with molecular target binding potential against 3CLpro, RDRP, Mpro, PLpro, Spike protein S1 of SARS-CoV2 through in-vitro, in-vivo, in silico studies and limited human clinical trials. The expression of HMGR, ASS, ADXPS, ADXPR, FPS, and WRKY genes of sesquiterpenoid biosynthetic pathways were upregulated for signature aroma and immunomodulatory markers viz., d-guaiene, dodecane, tetracosane, agarospirol, farnesol, and geranylgeraniol acetate as a defensive response. The review would ignite future research on potential immunomodulatory markers viz., caryophyllene oxide, octacosane, heneicosane, agarospirol, n-hexadecanoic acid, a-eudesmol, a-santalol and inoculum guided invitro agarwood production restoring the prized aroma, therapeutic efficacy, and wild population.
Article
Degradative studies and physical measurements supported by an unambiguous synthesis of the derived ketone (XVa) have led to the assignment of a novel spiro-skeleton to agarospirol (Ia), a sesquiterpene alcohol isolated from the essential oil of infected agarwood (Aquilaria agallocha Roxb.). The corresponding carbon skeleton (VI) has been named agarospirane. Agarospirol is the second spiro-terpenoid to be isolated from Nature. The most probable stereochemistry of agarospirol appears to be as in XXXIX.
Article
Aquillochin, isolated from the whole plant of Aquilaria agallocha, has been shown to be a coumarinolignan, and a structure has been proposed on the basis of chemical and physical studies.
Article
In addition to the furanoid compounds reported previously, three more crystalline furanoids of the selinane group have been isolated from agarwood oil, obtained from the fungus infected plant Aquillaria agallocha Roxb. The structures and absolute configurations have been determined by their interconversions into the compounds previously reported.
Article
The isolation of two sesquiterpenes, gmelofuran and agarol, from Aquilaria agallocha is described Gmelofuran has not been previously reported from this genus and the structure of agarol has been elucidated by physical methods and chemical reactions.
Ayurvedic medicinal plant of India (Vols. 1-2)
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Bhutya RK (2011) Ayurvedic medicinal plant of India (Vols. 1-2). Jodhpur, India: Scientific Publishers.
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