A look at the medicinal values of Bdellium


by Sudhir Ahluwalia | VigorBuddy.com |

[Bdellium (guggul) from Commiphora wightii (Indian Myrrh) and Commiphora africana]

“Commiphora wightii 06” by Vinayaraj
“Commiphora wightii 06” by Vinayaraj

C. wightii and C. africana are believed to be the ingredients of a composite gum called bdellium. 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 elsewhere that the incense from the tree came from Bactria in central Asia.

According to Genesis 2:8–9, bdellium 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, which is another xerophyte that grows in India and Arabia and yields a gum-like exudation called manna.

Wightii is found in India, where is it called Indian myrrh, and in eastern Africa, where 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, northern Africa, Iran, and Iraq. The branches produce a yellow gum that smells like myrrh. The yield of gum 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.

“Commiphora-wightii-resin” by original uploader Sjschen at en.wikipedia, incense
“Commiphora-wightii-resin” by original uploader Sjschen at en.wikipedia, incense

Medicinal uses of bdellium. The medicinal properties of bdellium 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 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 study 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.

About Sudhir

Sudhir Ahluwalia is a business consultant. He has been management consulting head of Asia’s largest IT outsourcing company Tata Consultancy Services, business advisor to multiple companies, columnist and author of upcoming book on herbs-Holy Herbs. He has been a member of the Indian Forest Service. His webpage is: www.sudhirahluwalia.com