True Balm of Gilead is a
camphourus smelling resin, sometimes referred to as Balsam of Gilead,
from the tree Commiphora gileadensis. This tree is thought to be the
source of balm referred to in the Bible.
"And they sat down to eat bread; and
they lifted up their eyes and looked, and, behold, a caravan of
Ishmaelites came from Gilead, with their camels bearing spicery and balm
and ladanum, going to carry it down to Egypt." Genesis 37:25
"Go up into Gilead, and take balm, O virgin daughter of Egypt; in vain
dost thou use many medicines; there is no cure for thee." Jeremiah 46:11
"Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there? Why then is
not the health of the daughter of my people recovered? Jeremiah 8:22
Our delightfully fragrant garden
plant, Cedronella canariensis, is called Balm of Gilead because
of its clean scent that is similar to Commiphora gileadensis. The genus
Cedronella has only one species in it, canariensis. Cedronella refers to
its cedar like scent and canariensis referes to its origin, the Canary
Islands. Since it comes from a very warm climate, it is best grown in a
container so that it can be protected during the winter. Fortunately,
the deep green leaves with their interesting shape make a good companion
plant for a mixed container.
Leaves can be used fresh or dried for
tea. Dried they contribute a woodsy fragrance for potpourri.