Feature photo – Vinayaraj
Commiphora wightii and C. africana are believed to be the ingredients of a composite gum called bdellium (a.k.a Bdellium Gum). Theophrastus was the first to mention bdellium, which he learned about during the campaigns of Alexander the Great in Persia and India. Dioscorides describes bdellium in De Materia Medica as “the tear of an Arabian tree” (i. 80). According to Pliny’s Historia Naturalis (xii. 35), it is transparent, fragrant, waxy, greasy, and bitter. Pliny mentions that the tree’s incense came from Bactria in central Asia.
According to Genesis 2:8–9, bdellium gum may have been a plant in the Garden of Eden, said to lie in the ancient land of Havilah, which was served by four rivers and was probably the Euphrates River region in modern Iraq. Others say that references to bdellium in Bible dictionaries indicate that the resin came from Borassus flabellifer, another xerophyte that grows in India and Arabia and yields a gum-like exudation called manna.
Commiphora wightii is found in India, called Indian myrrh, and in eastern Africa, it is called guggul. Both C. wightii and C. africana are sources of bdellium. The thorny shrub is four to six feet tall with yellowish-green papery bark. It inhabits semi-arid to arid regions of northern India, central Asia, north Africa, Iran, and Iraq. The branches produce yellow gum that smells like myrrh. The gum yield is much less than that of C. gileadensis or C. myrrha. The plant is used locally as incense and commercially as a perfume binder and food flavoring. Overexploitation has caused rapid deterioration of the species, which is classified as “vulnerable” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
Medicinal uses of Bdellium Gum
The medicinal properties of bdellium gum are similar to those of C. myrrha and C. gileadensis. There appears to be consensus on the resin’s cholesterol-lowering and analgesic properties. Traditionally, it has been used to treat arthritis, atherosclerosis, skin diseases such as leukoderma, and obesity. Guggul (bdellium gum) has been used in Ayurvedic medicine since 600 BC, and there are references to the plant in the Sushruta Samhita.
Guggul is used to treat ulcers and sores. Its antibacterial and anthelminthic properties have been studied using the agar well diffusion assay process and validated. ( Pankaj Goel et al, 2010). According to Ayurveda, guggul enhances circulation and helps digestion by producing warmth in the body. Guggulsterone is the major steroid isolated from the plant. Other steroids include diterpenoids, aliphatic esters, carbohydrates, and amino acids.
Book link: Holy Herbs: Modern Connections to Ancient Plants
I like to to know if the plant are available for purchase and where can I buy, if it’s available.
Bdellium gum is sourced from multiple species (150 species) belonging to the Commiphora genus. The species is a resident of the Arabian Peninsula and many African countries like Ethiopia and countries around it. There is a species Commiphora wightii (common name guggul) that is found in India too. I have seen the plant being raised in medicinal plant nurseries in India. Guggul is extensively used in Ayurvedic medicine. It should, therefore, be available in some privately owned medicinal plant nurseries in India. A bit of google research and you should be able to find the plant.
Where can Bdellium be found apart from Indian country
The Southern and Western parts of India regions are the home of this species. It is a mid-sized tree found in relatively dry ecosystems. It does not thrive well in colder regions.
How can it be absorbed? Boiling water like a tea or like an incense?
It is a resin. It is used as an incense too. The gum will sublime into the air when exposed to heat.