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Ferula gummosa, from which galbanum comes.
Galbanum is an aromatic gum resin, the product of certain Persian plant species, chiefly Ferula gummosa, syn. galbaniflua and Ferula rubricaulis. Galbanum-yielding plants grow plentifully on the slopes of the mountain ranges of northern Iranmarker. It occurs usually in hard or soft, irregular, more or less translucent and shining lumps, or occasionally in separate tears, of a light-brown, yellowish or greenish-yellow colour, and has a disagreeable, bitter taste, a peculiar, somewhat musky odour, and a specific gravity of 1.212. It contains about 8% terpenes; about 65% of a resin which contains sulfur; about 20% gum; and a very small quantity of the colorless crystalline substance umbelliferone.

Galbanum is one of the oldest of drugs. In the Book of Exodus 30:34, it is mentioned as being used in the making of a perfume for the Tabernacle. Rashi of the 1100s comments on this passage that galabanum is bitter and was included in the incense as a reminder of deliberate and unrepentant sinners.

It is occasionally used in the making of modern perfume, and is the ingredient which gives the distinctive smell to the fragrance "Must" by Cartier. Hippocrates employed it in medicine, and Pliny (Nat. Hist. xxiv. 13) ascribes to it extraordinary curative powers, concluding his account of it with the assertion that "the very touch of it mixed with oil of spondylium is sufficient to kill a serpent." The drug is occasionally given in modern medicine, in doses of from five to fifteen grains. It has the actions common to substances containing a resin and a volatile oil. Its use in medicine is, however, obsolete.

Amber Jayanti, in her book Living the Qabalistic Tarot says that Galbanum oil is linked with the Tarot card called The Fool. Also called Fiery Intelligence, the Fool represents the divine spark that animates the universe. According to Richard Alan Miller (The Magical and Ritual Use of Perfumes), galbanum oil is steam-distilled to yield a green, fruity-floral odor reminiscent of green apples. The Fool card is also linked with the herb ginseng.


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