When considering Galbanum and its Inner Nature, I am reminded that it is one of the four named ingredients of the Sacred Incense used in the Jewish Tabernacle – the Qetoret (Ketoret).

Exodus 30.34-38, outlines the instructions given to Moses for the creation of the Qetoret (Ketoret).  Exodus only names 4 of the 11 ingredients.  However, as Galbanum is one of the 4 that is named I believe this indicates it plays an important part in this Sacred Incense.  Certainly, when I am considering what oils to add to a blend that has the intention of connecting to the Divine, Galbanum is always an oil that I will review.

From Exodus 30.34-38 New International Version


34 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Take fragrant spices—gum resin, onycha and galbanum—and pure frankincense, all in equal amounts, 35 and make a fragrant blend of incense, the work of a perfumer. It is to be salted and pure and sacred. 36 Grind some of it to powder and place it in front of the ark of the covenant law in the tent of meeting, where I will meet with you. It shall be most holy to you. 37 Do not make any incense with this formula for yourselves; consider it holy to the LORD. 38 Whoever makes incense like it to enjoy its fragrance must be cut off from their people.

As this recipe was passed down through the oral tradition, we are left with some gaps in our knowledge of the actual recipe.  There is speculation as to which fragrant spices were actually added, as well as speculation as to what some of the four named ingredients actually referred to.

Most sources agree that Galbanum refers to Ferula gumbosa and Frankincense refers to Boswellia scara, or a close relative.  But there is uncertainty about where the gum resin came from.  It is agreed that it is from a balsam tree, but which one is unclear.  It has been suggested that it could have been from a Myrrh extract, or Styrax officinalis or its close relative Styrax benzoin, Benzoin. What onycha referred to is certainly a mystery.  Some say it referred to a part of a sea snail.  But as sea snails were considered to be ‘unclean, others say that this is unlikely.  Based on scholarly translations and interpretations of the words, it has been suggested that this could, in fact, have referred to labdanum, the gum produced by Cistus (Rock Rose).

From an aromatherapy perspective, a synergistic blend of Galbanum, Benzoin (or Myrrh), Labdanum (or Cistus) and Frankincense could prove to be a very powerful gateway to connecting to the Divine.

Galbanum (Ferula gumbosa)

Family: Umbelliferae (Apiaceae)

Plant Description:  Galbanum is a large perennial herb, which can grow up to 2 meters (6 feet) high.   It has a smooth stem, shiny leaflets, and small white flowers.  It has resin ducts, which exude a milky juice, a natural oleoresin.

History/Folklore:  It was used by ancient civilizations as incense and in Egypt, it was used for cosmetics and in the embalming process.  In the East, it is generally used to treat wounds, inflammations and skin disorders as well as for respiratory, digestive and nervous complaints.

Extraction: Water or steam distillation of the oleoresin (gum).

Aroma:  Green-woody, penetrating, earthy, spicy.

Odour intensity:  Very High

Perfume Note:  Top

Blends well with:  Bergamot, cedarwood, cypress, frankincense, violet, lavender, geranium, oakmoss, opopanax, pine, fir, and oriental bases.  It is very odoriferous, so use sparingly.

Perfume Key Qualities: Uplifting, clearing, purifying and soothing.

Chemistry:  Lactones (1%); Monoterpenes (84%)

Cautions:  Generally considered non-toxic, non-irritating and non-sensitizing.

Traditionally used on a physical level for:
Skin Care: Abscesses, acne, boils, cuts, scar tissue, inflammation, mature skin, wrinkles, wounds. (tones, softens and preserves the skin.)
Circulation, muscles and joints: Poor circulation, muscular aches and pains, rheumatism.
Respiratory System:  Asthma, bronchitis, catarrh, chronic coughs.
Digestive System:  Cramp, flatulence, indigestion.
Other: Insect repellent.

Traditionally used on a psychological level to calm and balance.  Used for nervous tension and stress-related conditions.

On a subtle level, Galbanum is balancing for both the psyche and spirit.

In his Spiritual PhytoEssencing Materia Medica profile on Galbanum, Dr. Bruce Berkowsky suggests that we consider using Galbanum for individuals who have a history of undergone surgery.  It can also be considered when there is a history of being victims of a stabbing.   One of the central themes associated with the Galbanum individual is that they do not perceive themselves, or feel that others perceive them, as being as important as other members of the group.  Self-sacrifice and devotion are also integral parts of their nature.

You will find other Essential oils described in the Articles Archive as well as in the Blog Essential Oil Archive

Steffen Arctander, Perfume and Flavor Materials of Natural Origin, 1960
Berkowsky’s Synthesis Materia Medica/Spiritualis of Essential Oils ©1998-2018 Joseph Ben Hil-Meyer Research, Inc.
Tony Burfield, Natural Aromatic Materials – Odours & Origins, 2000
Ernst Guenther, The Essential Oil, Vol V, 1948 reprinted 1972
Julia Lawless, The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Essential Oils, 1995
Leung and Foster, Encyclopedia of Common Natural Ingredients, second edition, 1996
Steflitsch, Wolz, Buchbauer, Aromatherapie in Wissenschaft und Praxis, 2013Tisserand and Young, 2nd Edition Essential Oil Safety, 2014