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Balm of Gilead: Origins, Magickal & Healing Uses

Updated on:


Written by: Dawn Black (Witchipedia)


Reviewed by: Tina Caro

Balm of Gilead is mentioned in the Bible and scholars are not entirely sure what product or plant is being referenced. It may be the Arabian Balsam Tree Commiphora gileadensis, The Turpentine tree or Terebinth Pistacia terebinthus or its close relative, also called Terebinth Pistacia palaestina – or perhaps all three.

However, modern North American settlers named the Poplar after the biblical balm when they were introduced to its soothing properties and pleasing scent.

So, for modern practitioners, Balm of Gilead is the resin that exudes from the early spring buds of various cottonwood poplar species including balsam poplarPopulus balsamifera/, narrowleaf balsam poplar Populus augustifolia, and cottonwood Populus trichocarpa, which are native to the Northern and Western part of North America.


The identity of the biblical Balm of Gilead remains uncertain, with various potential plants suggested, including Commiphora gileadensis, Pistacia terebinthus, and Pistacia palaestina.

In modern practice, Balm of Gilead refers to the resin obtained from the spring buds of cottonwood poplar species, such as balsam poplar, narrowleaf balsam poplar, and cottonwood, native to Northern and Western North America.

Balm of Gilead resin can be utilized in incense or oil for ritual purposes, suitable for consecration and spirit communication, attracting spirits with its fragrance.

Origins of Balm of Gilead

Already in the time of Jacob the district of Gilead offered aromatic substances in great demand.

It is worth remembering that after throwing Joseph into a pit, his brothers saw a caravan traveling from Gilead to Egypt, “with their camels carrying spices, balm, and myrrh” (Genesis 37:25).

And again: “Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no doctor there? Why then is there no healing for the wounds (of the daughter) of my people?” (Jeremiah 8:22).

Time PeriodCulture/RegionUseSource/Reference
Ancient EgyptEgyptUsed in embalming to preserve bodies and in various medicinal preparations to treat wounds and infections.Historical texts, such as Ebers Papyrus
Biblical TimesMiddle EastMentioned as a healing balm and valuable trade commodity, often associated with the region of Gilead.The Bible (Genesis 37:25, Jeremiah 8:22)
Medieval EuropeEuropeUtilized in perfumes and medicinal treatments, particularly for skin conditions and respiratory issues.Medieval manuscripts, such as those by Hildegard of Bingen
Table: Historical Uses and References

This famous Torah passage highlights the enormous importance that the Balm of Gilead and other aromatic healing substances have had in the art of medicine since time immemorial.  In these passages, however, the original word is צַרַי (tsori’ = ointment). Many attempts have been made by different authors to identify tsori, although not entirely conclusively.

The trees that seem to represent the tsori – assuming it is a reference to a particular tree – are the Pistacia lentiscus (mastic) and the Amyris opobalsamum L. (Commiphora gileadensis) of modern botanists (apharsemon in Hebrew). But it could also be a preparation of several plants, right?

Magickal Uses

Balm of Gilead is a sticky red resin that can be used in incense or dissolved into oil for use during ritual. The scent is suitable for all ritual purposes as a general-purpose holy incense, for fumigation for consecration.

It is said to draw spirits to its fragrance, so it is a good one to use when you are making offerings or attempting to communicate with the dead or other spirit beings.

Macerating the buds in oil infuses it with its fragrance which can be worn to draw love, rekindle the interest of a lover who is wandering and to help your lover forgive and forget. This oil can also be used as a dressing oil. It is also effective for healing and soothing skin irritations, bruising and swelling.

Balm of Gilead corresponds to the planet Jupiter.

How to use Balm of Gilead in Magick?

Let’s see how to use balm of Gilead in magick

UseCorrespondenceRitual/ApplicationDesired Outcome
ProtectionElement of Earth, grounding energy.Anointing candles, adding to protective charms.Creates a shield against negative energies and harmful influences.
LovePlanet Venus, associated with love and attraction.Adding to love spells, creating love sachets.Attracts love, enhances existing relationships, and fosters affection.
HealingSun energy, symbolizing vitality and health.Creating healing sachets, anointing the body.Facilitates physical and emotional healing, promoting overall well-being.
Table: Magickal Uses and Correspondences

To attract a love or get an ex back

Balm of Gilead is celebrated for its magickal properties, particularly in the domains of love, healing, and protection.

When the buds are crushed in oil, they release a captivating fragrance that can be worn to attract love, reignite the passion of a wandering lover, and foster forgiveness and reconciliation between partners.

This aromatic oil serves as a potent tool for those seeking to draw love into their lives or repair strained relationships.

The buds can also be utilized in rituals and spells aimed at manifesting desires, promoting emotional healing, and offering a protective shield against negative energies.

Also read:
Deluxe Bring Back an Ex Spell Casting
9 Free Spells To Get Your Ex Back [Powerful Lost Love Spells]

To ward off negative energies

In addition to its romantic and healing attributes, Balm of Gilead is a powerful aid in warding off the malicious intentions of envious coworkers and false friends. Carrying the buds can help soothe the turmoil caused by these adversaries, protect your marriage or love life, and mend a broken heart.

They are equally effective in attracting new love, making them a versatile component in love magick. For those seeking both physical and emotional protection, Balm of Gilead provides a dual-purpose charm that ensures well-being and defense.

To connect with spirits

The spiritual significance of Balm of Gilead extends beyond the physical realm. Burning the buds is believed to facilitate communication with the dead, making it an essential tool for those who wish to connect with ancestors or seek guidance from the spirit world.

This practice underscores the deep-rooted belief in the tree’s role as a conduit between the physical and spiritual planes, a concept revered in many Native American traditions.

Also read:
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Healing properties of Balm of Gilead

In general, the aromatic principles contained in balms (essential oils and oleoresins) tend to have purifying and antiseptic properties. It is possible, I have read, that primitive man, when he smelled the repugnant odor emitted by wounds and septic ulcers, thought: why not fight the bad smell of infection or putrefaction with the clean and fresh smell of these aromatic substances?

Even more so considering the fact that trees, when injured, emit sap or resin, which forms a protective crust capable of promoting the healing of the plant’s wound, why not experiment with the healing power on humans?

Someone must have, in the mists of time, experimented, and having been successful, spread and handed down this knowledge, which has become part of the medical cultural heritage of humanity. Knowledge on which consensus has never failed. We now know that such resins have antiseptic and wound healing properties, accelerate wound healing and tissue regeneration.

Commiphora gileadensis is native to the Kingdom of Sheba south of the Arabian Peninsula and was cultivated around the Black Sea. Its resin sold for double its weight in gold, the highest price ever paid for an agricultural product.  Now this ancient plant is also being studied for its anti-tumor activity against tumor cell lines.

Commiphora gileadensis stem and leaf extracts and its essential oil have a proapoptotic antiproliferative effect against tumor cells and not against normal cells.


Balm of Gildead is a wonderful ally for your craft in so many different areas. Knowing where it comes from and more about its history and symbolism is a lifechanging experience in order to work with this tool with more openness and even more respect towards its energy ad its power.

About Morningbird (Witchipedia's Founder)

I am a homesteading hearth witch who grew up along the shores of the Hudson River and has lived among the Great Lakes for the past 20 years. Together with my musical husband and youngest child, I steward a one-acre mini homestead with herb, vegetable and flower gardens, chickens, ducks, geese and rabbits, and areas reserved for native plants and wildlife. 

I have three children; two are grown, and I have been practicing magick alone and with family and friends for over 30 years.

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