What is Galbanum?

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  • Written By: A. Leverkuhn
  • Edited By: Andrew Jones
  • Last Modified Date: 04 February 2020
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Galbanum is a specific kind of essential oil from certain Iranian or Persian plants. The bitter essence of these small, yellow or green herbs has been used throughout human history for medicinal purposes. The plant has specifically been used as a kind of a home herbal remedy for a variety of conditions.

Galbanum is mentioned in the Old Testament of the Judeo-Christian Bible, in the book of Exodus, as part of a formulation for temple ceremony. Later on in human history, the plant is also mentioned in scientific and medical texts, such as the work of Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine. It is also referenced in Pliny’s Natural History and other books of biology.

In the centuries after the beginning of a human written record, galbanum has been referred to by more esoteric authors as a plant with medicinal powers. Cabalistic texts, mention it as an ingredient associated with powerful ritual elements. The substance is also mentioned in alchemy, a primitive chemistry predating modern scientific method. Though galbanum is mentioned in some contemporary medical contexts, some medical experts believe it to be largely obsolete. Pharmaceutical records show that the plant’s essential oil is sometimes used in specific formulations. It may also still be used as an herbal remedy in some parts of the world.


Some medical sources show that galbanum can be effective in dealing with some kinds of bacteria. It also shows that it can be effective in treating respiratory conditions like bronchitis. The same herbal essence is also used for alleviating some kinds of digestive problems.

These medical sources also provide warnings on side effects for galbanum. Pregnant women are encouraged to limit their intake of this substance. Individual users should consult their physicians before starting a chemical regimen including any dietary supplement or herbal remedy.

The historical and current uses of these kinds of substances represent a common interaction between two paradigms: prescription drugs and home remedies. As a natural plant, galbanum can be part of a dietary supplement. However, similar elements can also be part of specifically formulated pharmaceutical drugs. The study of how plants like these are used in the context of modern science presents an intriguing challenge to scholars who want to look at how medicine in general has progressed over time. Looking at the changing uses of the galbanum and other plants reveals a lot about the history of modern civilizations.


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