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Galbanum

GALBANUM

GALBANUM (Heb. חֶלְבְּנָה, ḥelbenah), a gum resin mentioned among the ingredients of the incense in the Tabernacle (Ex. 30:34) and by Ben Sira as a spice (Gr. χαλβάνη). It was included in a baraita (Ker. 6a), dating from Second Temple times, among the constituents of the incense used in the Temple. The Gemara (Ker. 6b) states that it was an ingredient of incense despite its offensive smell, thus demonstrating that a malodorous substance, when mixed with fragrant spices, also contributes to the general pleasant odor, thereby symbolizing that sinners of Israel are an integral part of its society. Greek and Roman natural and medical writers, referring to the medicinal qualities of galbanum, praise the spices imported from Syria (Pliny, Historia Naturalis, 12:25; Dioscorides, De Materia Medica, 3:87). In Israel six species of galbanum grow wild, but their resin is not used for any known purpose. A substance called umbelliferone, employed as a remedy for convulsions, is extracted from two species of galbanum, from Ferula galbaniflua which grows in Syria and Ferulaschair which grows in Turkestan. These plants are of the Umbelliferae family whose stems contain a milk-like resin congealing on contact with air. It is also used in the lacquer industry.

bibliography:

Loew, Flora, 3 (1924), 455–7; J. Feliks, Olam ha-Ẓome'aḥ ha-Mikra'i (19682), 276–7.

[Jehuda Feliks]

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