Galbanum is used in perfumery as a fixative but I feel she is underused in aromatherapy. She is different to the other more familiar oils in the umbelliferae family in that she is not often used for digestive disorders but is an excellent wound healer. I have used her in a blend to heal a gangrenous heel in an elderly gentleman with excellent results.
Botanical Family: Umbelliferae (Apiaceae)
Other oils in this family include khella seed (Ammi visnaga), dill seed (Anethum graveolens), angelica (Angelica archangelica), caraway (Carum carvi), coriander seed (Coriander sativum), carrot seed (Daucus carota) and sweet fennel (Foeniculum vulgare dulce)
Aroma profile: Galbanum has a strong, unusual musky, herbal aroma with subtle piney notes. The oil can be overpowering, one or two drops in a blend is is often more than enough.
Essential Oil: The oil is usually colourless but I have read that it can be yellow, gold or green in color.
Plant description: A large perennial herb that grows 4 to 5 feet (1.5 meters) in height with a smooth, firm, hollow stem featuring glossy, ovate, serrated leaves. The small yellowish-white flowers are borne in flat umbels which produce glossy, thin, flat and prominently ribbed fruits. It is native to Europe, central Asia, Iran and the Mediterranean region.
Distillation: The plant produces a reddish-brown fragrant oleoresin that weeps from the stems or roots when these are bruised or cut. The hardened resin or tears are then steam distilled to extract the oil.
Chemical Constituents: Monoterpenes including carvone, pinene, limonene, cadinene, myrcene and sabinene make up the principal constituents of the essential oil. Sesquiterpenols, esters and lactones including bulnesol, fenchyl acetate and umbelliferone are among the lesser constituents.
Therapeutic properties and uses: Galbanum’s therapeutic properties are similar to those of the burseraceae family. In aromatherapy she is seldom used for digestive issues as are most of the oils of the umbelliferae / apiaceae family. This is probably due to the fact that most oils in the umbelliferae family are distilled from the seeds whereas galbanum is distilled from the resin.
Galbanum is a wonderful oil to use for skin disorders including inflamed skin, external ulcers, abscesses, wounds, skin cancer, scar tissue, rashes, acne and boils.
She can also be used in blends for dry and mature skin but should be used in very low dilutions, perhaps no more than a drop, as the scent can overpower the blend.
As mentioned above I used galbanum to heal a gangrenous heel. Once an essential oil blend had been used to soften and remove the dead gangrenous area the resulting sinus was packed with a blend of galbanum, elemi (Canarium luzorncum), patchouli (Pogostemon cablin), frankincense (Boswellia carterii) and centella (Centella asiatica) essential oils in a blend of cold pressed vegetable oils.
This case has always stayed with me, even though it was 20 years ago, as the man was 92 years old and had already had one foot removed due to gangrene and the doctor was planning on amputating his other foot. If you decide to treat a gangrenous area it must always be done under medical supervision.
Galbanum can be helpful for menstrual problems, including PMS, amenorrhea or delayed menstruation, cramping and bloating. She is also a useful aid for menopausal symptoms including hot flashes and irritability.
Galbanum may be used for muscular stiffness and pain, rheumatism and osteoarthritis.
As galbanum is an expectorant she can help with bronchitis, chronic cough and catarrh.
Emotional: Galbanum is calming, grounding and balancing when a person is feeling stressed, angry, irritated or frustrated. She can help ease nervous tension, panic attacks and depression.
Energetic: Like other resin oils galbanum is beneficial where there has been wounding by words or deeds on an emotional or spiritual level. Combined with other resins, frankincense (Boswellia carterii), palo santo (Bursera graveolens), or myrrh (Commiphora molmol) galbanum can bring about deep healing.
1st – survival, safety and feeling supported
6th – connect with and develop trust in your intuition
7th – connection to spirit and your higher self
Spiritual: Galbanum has a long tradition of use in religious ceremony. The resin was used to make a sacred incense and for embalming by the Egyptians while the Jewish temple priests used her as an ingredient in their sacred incense the Qetoret.
Valerie Ann Worwood writes that galbanum helps to shed old ideas and outmoded behaviour and attitudes as well as shedding light on your life’s purpose and inner self.
Galbanum is also thought to connect one with the qualities of Divine trust and innocence, to aid in the development of psychic abilities, and to improve one’s ability to communicate with those who have passed to the other side.
Suggested oil combinations:
Wound healing – Galbanum, myrrh (Commiphora molmol) and cistus (Cistus ladaniferus)
Respiratory – Galbanum, myrrh and pine (Pinus sylvestris)
Stress and anxiety – Galbanum and petitgrain (Citrus aurantium var. amara)
Anger – Galbanum and yarrow (Achillea millefolium)
Meditation – Galbanum and frankincense (Boswellia carterii)
Safety Issues: The Greek physician and herbalist Dioscorides used galbanum as an emmenagogue and abortifacient but it is likely that he used the herb and not the essential oil.
Some sources recommend galbanum not be used in pregnancy but Tisserand and Young suggest that the oil is not hazardous in pregnancy. Her pungent odour may be a reason to avoid her as many women are sensitive to strong aromas at this time.
She may be a skin irritant in some people if the oil has oxidized. Tisserand and Young recommend storing galbanum oil in a dark, airtight container in a refrigerator to avoid oxidation.
Berkowsky B, Berkowsky’s Synthesis Materia Medica/Spiritualis of Essential Oils (2006)
Davis P, Aromatherapy. An A-Z. The C.W. Daniel Company Ltd. (1995)
Fischer-Rizzi, S, Complete Aromatherapy Handbook. Essential Oils for Radiant Health Sterling Publishing Company (1990)
Guba R, Professional Reference Guide, Essential Therapeutics
Tisserand R and Young R, Essential Oil Safety Second Edition, Churchill Livingstone Elsevier, 2014
Worwood, V.A, The Fragrant Heavens. Doubleday Publishing UK (1999) (now published as Aromatherapy for the Soul)
This article was originally published in the June 2017 issue of AromaCulture Magazine (www.aromaculture.com) and has been adapted for use here with permission from the publisher.