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Galbanum is a sticky, brownish-yellow gum resin that comes from plants in the Apiaceae family. Other family members include carrots, celery, and parsley. The plant appears to have originated in Iran but grows in many locations.
It has a strong earthy, green, or woodsy scent. Terpenes like pinene in galbanum gives off this distinct smell. That’s why it’s used in incense, perfumes, and colognes. The gum resin is steam-distilled to make galbanum essential oil.
Galbanum can also be found in a variety of skin care products, cosmetics, and foods. It’s also said to have many medicinal uses. When reading an ingredients list, galbanum might be listed under a variety of names, such as:
- Ferula galbaniflua
- Ferule gommeuse
- Ferula gummosa
- Ferula gummosa Boiss
- galbanum gum
- galbanum gum resin
- galbanum oleogum resin
- galbanum oleoresin
Let’s take a look at some of the uses for galbanum, potential health benefits, and whether there are also potential health risks.
Galbanum may have an effect on arthritis pain.
In 2016, a randomized, controlled clinical trial compared the efficacy of galbanum oil with diclofenac gel. Diclofenac is an over-the-counter (OTC) nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) used to treat arthritis joint pain.
The trial was small, with only 32 participants. All had chronic knee pain. They were divided into two equal groups, but the researchers didn’t include a placebo group. Topical treatments were given three times a day for 1 month.
The groups’ results regarding pain, stiffness, and physical function over a 2-month follow-up period were comparable to the results from diclofenac gel.
The study’s authors wrote that due to the lesser side effects of galbanum, it may be a better choice than diclofenac, at least in the short term. Larger studies with placebo groups are needed to confirm this finding.
Of the three oils, galbanum was shown to have the best antimicrobial activity. The 2010 study was supported by a pharmaceutical company.
The pinene found in galbanum is a common monoterpenoid emitted from several aromatic plants, including forest trees, and is known for its growth-inhibitory activity.
Galbanum was found to be the third most potent extract. The study’s authors said there should be more research of these plants and their cancer-fighting properties.
Many combinations of essential oils are used in dermatology. Among other things, they’re used in the treatment of:
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A variety of essential oils are used to repel insects, including galbanum.
Some people use galbanum to treat digestive problems like gas, diarrhea, and poor appetite, but there’s not enough scientific evidence to prove its effectiveness.
Galbanum is generally safe when applied to the skin or used as a food ingredient.
However, there’s not enough evidence to know if it’s safe to ingest larger amounts. Safe dosing may depend on factors like age, size, and overall health. There’s not enough data to know for certain.
Potential side effects may include:
- skin reaction like rash or a burning sensation
- interaction with other essential oils
- interaction with medications
See a doctor for diagnosis before self-treating serious skin rashes or wounds. It’s also a good idea to talk to a doctor or pharmacist before consuming galbanum. This is especially important if you:
- are pregnant or nursing
- have a serious health condition
- take other medications
Galbanum is used in the manufacture of perfumes and colognes for its strong, earthy aroma. It blends well with other woody oils, citruses, and flowery scents.
Galbanum is an ingredient in a long list of other products, including:
- facial cleansers and masks
- hair care products, such as shampoo
- skin care products, such as body wash, moisturizers, and sunscreens
Galbanum essential oil can be used a number of ways, including:
- Topical application. Some products need to be diluted with a carrier oil. Perform a patch test 2 days before using it. Rub a small amount inside your elbow and wait for 24 to 48 hours. If you have a reaction, discontinue use. If not, follow package directions.
- Diffuse. Follow essential oil and diffuser directions to breathe in the “green” aroma of galbanum.
- Dilute and inhale. Dilute as instructed and enjoy aromatherapy while bathing, meditating, getting ready for bed, or anytime you want to wind down and relax.
People have been using galbanum since ancient times. It’s been used in religious ceremonies, embalming, and anointing oils. Greek physician Hippocrates (of the Hippocratic oath) talked about its curative powers.
It’s mentioned in the Bible, along with frankincense, as an ingredient in holy incense. And it was referenced in “British Pharmacopoeia 1898,” describing a mixture of galbanum, asafetida (asafoetida), myrrh, and glucose.
You can find galbanum oil in health stores, holistic pharmaceutical stores, or wherever essential oils are sold. There’s much variation in ingredients, size, and price, so it pays to fully read the descriptions and shop carefully.
Galbanum is an essential oil used in perfumes, cosmetics, and foods. It may also have medicinal properties. Research on galbanum and other essential oils is lacking, so most of the evidence for these claims is anecdotal. It appears generally safe to use.
Speak with a doctor before taking it as a dietary supplement or using it on injured skin.