What is Galbanum and How Does it Smell?

bottles and tubes of perfume and a flower

Liz deSousa for BYRDIE

Galbanum is a popular fragrance ingredient. It is also bitter, aromatic gum resin extracted from certain umbelliferous Asiatic plant species, mainly Ferula galbaniflua and related plants. The resin is used extensively in modern perfumery as a fixative agent (an ingredient used to stabilize other perfume components). The resin is also steam-distilled to produce galbanum oil, which is used in some perfumes (usually oriental or chypre blends) to impart a fresh, natural "green" scent.

Where It's Found

Galbanum-yielding plants originally grew in the Mesopotamia area and were exported to India, China, Israel, and Egypt. Today Iran and Turkey are the primary sources of galbanum.

Uses of Galbanum in History

Galbanum has been used as a medicinal and aromatherapeutic ingredient since ancient times. References to galbanum may be found in the Old Testament, in the writings of Hippocrates (the father of modern medicine) and in Pliny’s Natural History. It was used primarily as an anti-inflammatory, expectorant and antiseptic agent, and as an anti-spasmodic treatment for women during childbirth. The ancient Egyptians imported mass quantities of galbanum from Persia to use in their religious ceremonies, in embalming, and as a therapeutic healing aid.

What It Smells Like

Galbanum has an intense green fragrance with woody and balsamic elements. Often described as earthy or forest-like, this fragrance compound is valued for its ability to impart a rich, spicy green scent. Perfumers use galbanum both as a strong top note in "green" fragrances and as a base note in combination with musk and/or chypre elements such as oakmoss and pine.

Galbanum Fragrances to Try

Fragrances for women that feature the perfume ingredient galbanum include: Chanel No. 19, Guerlain Vol De Nuit, Cartier Must, Balmain Vent Vert, Fresh Galbanum Patchouli, Prince Matchabelli Cachet, Il Profumo Chocolat, Bill Blass Nude, Les Parfums de Rosine Rose d'Amour, Molinard Les Fleurs: Fleur de Figuier, Issey Miyake A Scent, Prada Infusion d'Iris, Chloe Eau de Fleurs Capucine and Azzaro Couture.

Men's fragrances featuring galbanum in their scent composition include: Etienne Aigner Private Number, Serge Lutens Borneo 1834, Aramis Devin, Miller Harris Patchouli, Laura Biagiotti Roma Per Uomo, and Versace Blue Jeans for Men.

Related Stories