GALBANUM (Ferula galbaniflua – Umbelliferae)

Galbanum is a resinous gum obtained from some species of Ferula, a family of perennial giant fennels. The Ferula galbaniflua plant has the typical umbrella flower and seed head of it’s more familiar relatives, a thick stalk, and can grow to about 2 m (6 1/2 ft) in height. It is native to southern Europe, North Africa and western Asia and is said to have originated in Iran. Ferula foetida is a very close relative, the plant which produces the resin asafoetida, used both as a medicine and as a condiment in Eastern, particularly Indian, cooking.

Galbanum was used in religious ceremonies by the Ancient Egyptians and in embalming – traces of it have been isolated from the bandages of mummies. The Hebrews used it as well in annointing oils. Dioscorides and Pliny mentioned galbanum, noting its sedative, antispasmodic, emmenagogic and diuretic values. Lemery in the seventeenth century classified it as emmenagogic in his treatise on simple drugs.


Description: To obtain the resinous gum, incisions are made in the stalk near the roots, from which the gum runs like brown tears. This is sometimes viscous, sometimes dry, depending on the species. Approximately 14 -25 per cent of essential oil is obtained by steam distillation from the gum. Galbanum oil is thick and yellow with an agreeable aromatic smell which is a bit earthy. The principal constituents: 50 -60 per cent is carvone, sesquiterpenes (cadinene and myrcene) and sesquiterpenic alcohol (cadinol) and terpenes (limonene and pinene).


In illness
The plant grows especially well in Iran and India, and even today the resin is applied as a plaster to skin ulcers, snake and insect bites, abscesses and skin inflammation. I find galbanum useful for skin disorders such as abscesses or inflammations, and it is particularly effective for encouraging the formation of scar tissue. Mix together 5 ml (1 tsp) each of wheatgerm and almond oils, and 5 drops galbanum. Apply four to six times a day, until better, covering with a piece of gauze each time.

(See also ageing skin, dermatitis and nails.)

Other uses
Galbanum is used as a fixative in perfumery

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