I put up an impromptu post yesterday concerning galbanum, that strident, acrid, greenest of resins that was generating some interesting comments but which, as often happens with iPhone posts written and edited on the bus, just suddenly disappeared (god knows why), much to my incandescent fury. I am not the kind of writer who can repeat words verbatim  – even if I could remember them – as it suddenly seems somehow dishonest and fake to me, so if I don’t have a draft of something that is it.


In essence though, we were discussing galbanum in scent, but also the fact that I had put some galbanum essential oil on a burst blister yesterday as I had read about its purported vulnerary  – wound healing – properties and wanted to see if this was true.


The smell of galbanum, even from just one drop of neat essence put directly on the infected area, stayed with me the entire day and all through my lessons.  With the combination of other, faintly vanillic perfumes I was wearing, I started to feel as though I were wearing Must de Cartier parfum (which posits a stringent, green galbanum note over orientalist balsams to intriguing effect ), even as my thumb vaguely throbbed and tingled and I wondered if I had done the right thing.


I have great faith in the power of aromatherapy and essential oils, however, have been using them for decades now both for physical and psychological well being, and there is no doubt that the galbanum really does heal cuts and open wounds: this morning after the band aid came off during the night and the area looked a little seepy, I applied another drop of pure Iranian essence to the area and could physically feel and watch it suturing and making skin cells from within (in an hour the affected cut has hardened and pinkened and I feel that pleasurable, corpuscled, flickering sensation you get when you can tell that your white blood cells are stemming into action). In using beautiful, natural essences in this way you get physically closer and more intimate to them because you have internalized them, physically seen them entering your bloodstream, and you can imagine how such ancient knowledge has worked over the millennia, how frankincense, myrrh and galbanum would have been anointed on suffering soldiers on battlefields, potentially saving their lives in the process.


The next time I put on my galbanum top noted perfumes, I somehow feel now that I will have been enriched by this experiment. That I will experience its strange, gummy, green, leaf-surging astrigence anew.


Filed under galbanum


  1. Renee Stout

    Reading your post yesterday made me choose Ivoire de Balmain for my SOTD today.

    • ADORE it. How apparent is the galbanum note ? I shall have to go and get my (glorious vintage ) bottle and find out. I always think it is so creamy that perfume. Just beautiful.

      • Renee Stout

        The galbanum note in my vintage Ivoire parfum is really prominent and up there with the galbanum note in Chanel 19. I love all of the scents that you mentioned, including Jacomo Silences.

      • That one is resinous and green as hell isn’t it? I think I described it yesterday as having a leafed bitchery or something.

        Actually I have found a shop in Tokyo that has a ton of vintage stock and I was thinking about getting another bottle just to have it. I think it is imperfect (don’t you find there is a lack somewhere) and yet completely compelling.

  2. It’s the first time I read about galbanum’s healing properties however it is one of my favourite ingredients and I would often describe galbanum rich scents as “revitalising”. I guess the nose knows

    • It’s in your Greek genes perhaps. I have a very ambivalent feeling towards it but experiencing it in isolation has been fascinating. Without experiencing essential oils deeply, I don’t really understand how many people think they can talk about perfume. You have to taste them, have them on your body, bathe in them to know the entirety of their souls.

      • I believe this is true but on the other hand the use of synthetics might be making this argument pointless. I was impressed by Balenciaga B. and the way it creates an illusion of every note being multifaceted the way onl

  3. I believe this is true but on the other hand the use of synthetics might be making this argument pointless. I was impressed by Balenciaga B. and the way it creates an illusion of every note being multifaceted, in a waz onlz natural ingredients can do. I do not think that Balenciaga B. is richer in essential oils than most perfumes, but it points to the right direction for the future of synthetics

  4. Oh thanks so much! Your words mean a lot since I am in a state of emotional anosmia, they sort of push me back in the game. I love Jacomo Silences and Bandit, the latter because it uses galbanum in a spicy leather context which is so unusual. The Tom Ford Vert four was also brilliant. And Sisley Eau de Campagne is also thoroughly uplifting. Aramis 900 in the old version is also a glorious use of galbanum as a lens that focuses the entire composition .

    Do try to smell Balenciaga B. They have put so much effort in making those horrid modern molecules disappear in the background, which actually is what every perfumer should try to do.

  5. “Dismissed at first sniff” is my coda when it comes to cheap modern scents for the very reason you suggest, Neil, and so affirming to read. And even with some expensive modern scents. It’s almost a homeopathic dosage effect; the tiniest amount of certain aroma chemicals creates a major sustainable effect. I have to believe, for example, that the new Bois des Iles EdP is crammed with good naturals, but it smells like a one-note high-volume blare of gritty fake sandalwood that never softens.

    To galbanum. Fascinating, what you experienced. I can sense that property, that healing kick-start. I like Christos’ word, too: revitalizing. I’ve never tried the essential oil but am drawn to the note in fragrances. And if they’ve come up with a purely synthetic galbanum note, it must not be bad, because it always strikes me as alive and therapeutic when I notice it in a composition.

    • Is there even such a thing available: synthetic galbanum? I am sat here in the dark watching a film REEKING of it; just doused my thumb again as it is empirically amazing how quickly the would has healed. Quite a weird, almost dizzying smell though, if peculiarly addictive.

      • There were several on the market prior to Givaudan’s Spirogalbanone. Pellwall, a company which provides ingredients for fragrance (I Googled Synthetic Galbanum) lists Spirogalbanone this way, and you’ll note several other synthetic galbanum-types are listed as well:

        Description and usage notes:

        Very powerful material, manufactured by Givaudan, normally used in high dilution.

        From Givaudan: “Odor: Green, Galbanum, Fruity, Pineapple, Powerful. Use: a powerful green galbanum note, accompanied by fruit facets. As such, Spirogalbanone has the same olfactive profile as classical green galbanum molecules but it differentiates itself thanks to its outstanding substantivity. In addition to its fresh green galbanum volume, its excellent stability allows for use in all applications, especially in those where performance and substantivity are sought.”

        Arcadi Boix Camps wrote extensively, and enthusiastically, about Spirogalbanone in 2009. He points out that although the odour is very similar to that of materials such as Allyl Amyl Glycolate, Dynascone, Pharaone, Galbaniff and neobutenone it has the advantage that while the latter four last two or three days on a smelling strip, Spirogalbanone lasts about two weeks. This, he says, “is a supreme characteristic, a radical difference.” he goes on to point out that it “imparts an important synergistic effect” on those other materials, acting as a fixative for them. Furthermore he says it is “very clean and extremely diffusive” when compared to galbanum absolute or resinoid.

        This exceptionally powerful material is normally used in traces to 0.1% of the fragrance compound and so we also offer it at 10% in IPM for those who normally work in smaller quantities.

        _ _ _ _

        Given that sometimes that galbanum note goes on forever, it’s probably there somewhere in more than a few fragrances, perhaps in an augmentation role together with natural galbanum. Apparently, it’s not exactly cheap, but a little goes a long way. I’m no chemist, but there’s a bit of info, for what it’s worth . . .

  6. Lilybelle

    I have never heard of galbanum’s healing propeties. I can sort of imagine it, though, as it is so astringent it must have a styptic effect, shriveling and closing cuts or wounds, allowing them to heal on the inside. Silences was too bitter for me, but I enjoy a moderate dose of green galbanum in vintage green florals. Those Balmains are great, Jolue Madame and Miss Balmain.

  7. Cit was fascinating to read how galbanum essential oil is such a miracle worker. I always loved the galbanum notes in Jean Patou Vacances, but I wear that only in the summertime. Truly, any scent I own which has the note in it is usually something I pull out in summer, with the exception of Must de Cartier, which is a cold weather scent for me. I used to enjoy Silences, until the day came that I no longer did. I can hardly wait for the warm weather to put on some Ivoire. As you’ve mentioned it is so creamy and green, with that slight hint of astringency. I do hope your blister is well on its way to healing now. I will have to purchase some galbanum essential, for the next time I have a cut or scrape, to aid in healing.

  8. Great galbanum posts. Very informative and love the way you describe its properties. R

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