This section is from the book "A Treatise On Therapeutics, And Pharmacology Or Materia Medica Vol1", by George B. Wood. Also available from Amazon: Part 1 and Part 2.
Galbanum is the concrete juice of an uncertain plant, probably a species of Ferula, growing in Persia, on the borders of the Caspian. It is said sometimes to be procured by incision, sometimes to exude spontaneously, and harden in the form of tears. In this latter state it is occasionally, though rarely, imported; the tears being about as large as a pea, round, shining, translucent, and of a yellowish or brownish-yellow colour. More frequently it is in masses composed of whitish, reddish, or yellowish tears, simply agglutinated together, or imbedded in a darker, yellowish-brown, or greenish substance. It has the consistence of wax, but softens with heat, and at the temperature of the surface becomes adhesive. At 212° Fahr. it melts so that it can be strained, and is thus freed from impurities. Its odour is peculiar and disagreeable; its taste, bitterish, warm, and acrid. Water dissolves it partially; alcohol, its oil and resin; diluted alcohol, the whole of it, excepting impurities. It consists of gum, resin, and volatile oil, of which the two latter are active.
Its medical properties are similar to those of sagapenum, though generally considered feebler. With a slightly stimulant influence over the circulation and nervous system, it has been supposed to unite expectorant and emmenagogue powers; and hence has been given in hysteria and other nervous disorders, enfeebled digestion, flatulence, chronic bronchial affections, chlorosis, amenorrhoea, chronic rheumatism, etc. It was formerly very much employed, and entered into a large number of preparations for internal and external use. But it has been almost wholly superseded by assafetida, and is little used at present. The dose is from ten to twenty grains, given in pill or emulsion.
Compound Galbanum Pills (Pilulae Galbani Compositae, U. S.; Pilula Assafoetidae Composita, Br.), composed of galbanum, myrrh, and assafetida, are officinal. They are used as a nervous stimulant and emmenagogue, in hysteria and amenorrhoea, in the dose of from ten to twenty grains.
Dr. Arnold has strongly recommended the local use of a tincture of galbanum in various diseases of the eye, such as scrofulous ophthalmia, ocular debility from prolonged reading, spasmodic motions of the eyelids, oedema of the eyelids, weakness of the lachrymal canal, etc. He moistens the surface of a compress with the tincture, and applies it immediately over the eye for an hour; then removes it for several hours, and again applies it; and thus successively till the object is accomplished. A burning heat is first felt, which gradually lessens, and ceases within an hour, when the compress becomes dry. The tincture may be made by dissolving an ounce in a pint of diluted alcohol. (Merat et De Lens, Dict, de Mat. Med., i. 685).
The Compound Galbanum Plaster (Emplastrum Galbani Compos-itum, U. S.), which consists of galbanum, Burgundy pitch, turpentine, and lead plaster, is a good discutient application in chronic scrofulous swellings, inflammatory indurations, and chronic rheumatic and gouty disease of the joints; care being taken that signs of acute inflammation should always be absent.