Ferula galbaniflua

By Nicole Perez

Copyright: ©Nicole Perez 2005

Note: This article or part of it cannot be reproduced in any form or means without the consent of the author.




     The name Galbanum (Latin Gal’ba*num) is said to    

     be derived from the Greek, chalban? or possibly

     from Hebrew chelbanah (Klekb’nah). Galbanum

     belongs to the large family of umbelliferae/


  ferula galbaniflua

Plant of ferula galbaniflua

Ferula galbaniflua is native to Persia (Northern India and Afghanistan

particularly) but nowaday the gum mostly comes from Iran. The plant

grows spontaneously and produces large flowering heads that resemble

the heads of Angelica archangelica or fennel. Until recent years, plants of ferula Galbaniflua have been in abundant supply in the wild, however, concerns have been raised that it may soon become an endangered species. The good news is that this beautiful and ancient plant can be cultivated, but I wasn’t able to find anything much on its cultivation.                 Angelica archangelica

Galbanum Resin

Ferula galbaniflua also produces a reddish-brown fragrant oleresin that weeps from the stems or roots when these are bruised or cut. Ferula galbaniflua belongs to the group of aromatic plants which respond to wounding by exuding its own healing ointment to repair the damage, the same is true of frankincense, myrrh, benzoin, etc. Galbanum resin is softer than most resins and it n softens up furhter if held in the palm of the hand. The essential oil is obtained from steam distillation, although other methods of extraction are also used to obtain a different type of resinous product.

Historical references

Dioscorides in De Materia Medica says that the Egyptians of his time called it metopium (Sacred Luxuries, Lise Manniche 1999). Galbanum was used as a prime component of many perfumes in ancient Egypt and was highly respected both for its scent and for its medicinal properties. Its odour is very complex, sophisticated and very enduring. Its enduring quality is probably what made it popular as a common ingredient of the perfumes of these days. Some chemical components of essential oils have a ‘fixative’ capacity and are used in perfume making to help retain more volatile scents (usually prettier smells) which would otherwise disappear.

Holy Incense

Galbanum was also widely used as a component of incense and is listed in the Holy Bible as part of the sweet spices used to make Holy Incense. Holy Incense was only made for the worship of the Lord and Holy communication as it was believed to be free from evil. Preparation required certain rituals and it was forbidden to make such incense just for the pleasure of the senses.


Exodus 30:34 & 30:35

- ‘And the Lord said unto Moses: - take unto thee sweet spices, stacte, and onycha, and galbanum; these sweet spices with pure frankincense: of each shall there be a like weight.
- ‘And thou shalt make it a perfume, a confection after the art of the apothecary, tempered together, pure and holy’.


A unique and sophisticated scent

The odour of Galbanum essential oil is totally unique, a bit overpowering and at first not very pleasant, but in common with other intense essential oils’ scents, it grows on you. At first, a ‘greeness’ akin to the the sap of evergreen shrubs dominates all olfactory sensations, but as its full fragrance expands and mixes with the air, it reveals many, complex and convoluted trails. The air becomes sweeter and fills with the comforting scents of balsam, spice and wood and slowly discloses hidden intimations of musk. And so it goes, other scents unfold creating new scented trails until one is unable to smell anything further.

Not surprisingly, Galbanum is greatly appreciated and used in fine perfumery as it gives a natural scent of ‘green-ess’ to a fragrance and will also be a fixative for the other scents. When blended with other scents, Galbanum adds a touch of leafy outdoor to the overall fragrance. The secret of using Galabanum succesfully in an Aromatherapy blend is to use very little, as often one drop may be almost too much.


Galbanum oil is preferably used in conjunction with lighter, refreshing and less complex essential oils such as Lemon, Orange, Grapefruit and also Rose unless making a more voluptuous fragrance where it can be added to Ylang-Ylang, Frankincense, Jasmine, Palmarosa, Cardamon, Tuberose or Lotus.

Galbanum is a very important scent for certain psychosomatic problems such as panic attacks caused by stress. Some people have suggested that it can be helpful with claustrophobia and agrophobia because of its earthy nature and may be good for S.A.D. or for people who are confined indoors.
It is said to be anti-infectious, anti-spasmodic and is often used in sport remedies for muscular pain.

Marguerite Maury, specifically recommends it for mature skin in a blend of Elemi, Galbanum, Violet leaves and Lemongrass.


Care should be taken not to apply it neat or blended to young skin, open wounds or cuts as it can be a skin irritant.

Main Chemical Components:

- a and b pinene, sabinene, limonene, undecatriene  and pyrazynes. 

The oil is frequently adulterated with pine oil

Maguerite Maury – The Secret of Life and Youth ISBN 0852071639
GUENTHER, E; "The Essential Oils" Vol 4. p 645 ISBN No 0-88275074-7
LAWRENCE, B.M; "Progress in Essential Oils" 'Perfumer and Flavorist' August/September 1978 vol 3, No 4 p 54
McANDREW, B.A; MICHALKIEWICZ, D.M; "Analysis of Galbanum Oils". Dev Food Sci. Amsterdam: Elsevier Scientific Publications 1988 v 18 pp 573 – 585



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