Spiritual Uses of Balm Of Gilead

Balm of Gilead is a special type of plant that has been used for spiritual and medicinal purposes for thousands of years. It gets its name from the region of Gilead, located east of the Jordan River, where it was originally found. There are two main types of Balm of Gilead – the true variety (commiphora gileadensis) and the North American version (resinous buds of black cottonwood and poplar trees).

In ancient times, Balm of Gilead was highly valued and used in various religious rituals and offerings to the divine in cultures like Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Egypt, Greece, and Hinduism. It was believed to have special spiritual properties that could aid in connecting to the divine and aiding spiritual evolution. The Bible mentions Balm of Gilead a few times, using it as a metaphor for healing spiritual wounds.

Spiritual Uses of Balm of Gilead in Ancient Cultures

In ancient times, Balm of Gilead was highly valued and used in various religious rituals and offerings to the divine in many different cultures. It was believed to have special spiritual properties that could aid in connecting to the divine and aiding spiritual evolution.

In Judaism, the Holy Spirit, or God, is considered to be the true Balm of Gilead. Balm of Gilead resin has been used for various religious purposes since even before the time of King Solomon, and is mentioned several times throughout the Bible for its many virtues. In ancient times the burning of Balm of Gilead, accompanied by prayer, was often employed for its ability to heal on the soul level, bringing restoration, nourishment, and rejuvenation to the wounded soul, while the upward flowing smoke was thought to carry prayer to the Heavens.

Balm of Gilead was also widely used in Christian rituals as an ingredient in sacred incenses that were burned as offerings to God, to connect more deeply to the divine, and to aid in one’s spiritual evolution. In ancient Israeli culture, Balm of Gilead was counted as one of the top most important herbs used in religious ritual for its blessed, healing smoke.

In Islam, Balm of Gilead was used in similar ways, with the smoke from burning the resin believed to carry prayers up to Allah. The sweet aroma was thought to be pleasing to the divine and aid in achieving a state of spiritual connection and peace.

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Ancient Egyptian priests and priestesses used Balm of Gilead in their temple rituals, burning it as incense and using it to anoint sacred objects and images of the gods. It was seen as a substance that could bridge the gap between the mortal and divine realms, allowing for clearer communication and connection.

Balm of Gilead in the Bible

The Bible mentions Balm of Gilead a few times, using it as a metaphor for healing spiritual wounds. In Genesis 37:25, Joseph’s brothers see a caravan carrying “gum, balm and myrrh” on their way to Egypt. This shows that Balm of Gilead was a valuable trade item even back then.

Later, in Jeremiah 8:22, the prophet Jeremiah asks “Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there? Why then has the health of the daughter of my people not been restored?” He uses the lack of Balm of Gilead as a symbol for the spiritual sickness of the people of Israel. Jeremiah sees their wounds as incurable, despite the availability of the healing balm.

In Jeremiah 46:11, God tells the Israelites to “Go up to Gilead, and take balm, O virgin, the daughter of Egypt: in vain shalt thou use many medicines; for thou shalt not be cured.” Here, the balm represents the healing that can only come from God, not from human efforts or other nations. The Israelites had turned to temporary solutions instead of relying on God.

The metaphorical use of “Balm of Gilead” continues in the African-American spiritual “There Is a Balm in Gilead”. The lyrics express discouragement, but find hope in the idea that Jesus is the true “balm in Gilead” who can heal the sin-sick soul. The song assures that when we feel troubled, we should turn to Jesus for comfort and restoration, just as the Israelites should have turned to God instead of seeking other remedies.

So while the Bible mentions Balm of Gilead as a real substance, it also uses the term symbolically to represent spiritual healing that can only come from God. The balm itself had no power to heal the deeper wounds of the soul – it was a metaphor pointing to the true healer, the Lord. The Israelites made the mistake of relying on the balm itself instead of the God who provided it.

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Biblical ReferenceSymbolic Meaning
Genesis 37:25Valuable trade item
Jeremiah 8:22Lack of spiritual healing
Jeremiah 46:11Relying on God for true healing
“There Is a Balm in Gilead”Jesus as the healer of sin-sick souls
Balm of Gilead in the Bible

Magical Properties of Balm of Gilead

Balm of Gilead has long been associated with magical and spiritual properties in many ancient cultures. The resin and buds of this special plant were believed to have powerful metaphysical abilities that could be harnessed for various purposes.

In the practice of witchcraft and folk magic, Balm of Gilead was highly valued. The resinous buds were often carried as amulets or charms to help mend broken hearts, attract new love, and provide protection and healing. The sweet, balsamic scent of the plant was thought to have a calming and uplifting effect, making it useful in spells and rituals focused on emotional wellbeing.

Burning Balm of Gilead as incense was also a common magical practice. The rising smoke was believed to aid in communication with the spiritual realm and the world of the dead. Many practitioners would burn the resin while performing rituals to connect with ancestors, deities, or other non-physical entities. The smoke was seen as a conduit that could carry prayers, intentions, and messages to the higher planes of existence.

In some traditions, Balm of Gilead was associated with the goddess Venus or Aphrodite, the divine embodiment of love, beauty, and sensuality. The plant’s ability to attract love and enhance romantic relationships made it a popular ingredient in love spells and potions. Anointing the body with Balm of Gilead was believed to increase one’s allure and magnetism.

Beyond its use in love magic, Balm of Gilead was also incorporated into spells and rituals for protection, healing, and manifestation. The resin was thought to have the power to ward off negative energies, entities, and influences. Placing Balm of Gilead around the home or carrying it on one’s person was seen as an effective way to create a shield of spiritual protection.

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Balm of Gilead in Native American Traditions

In Native American plant lore, the Balm of Gilead, which is actually the resinous buds of the cottonwood tree, holds great spiritual significance. The cottonwood tree is seen as a special kind of “spirit conductor” that can carry messages and energy from the spirit realm.

Many Native American tribes believe that the cottonwood tree has a deep connection to the spirit world. The rustling of its leaves is thought to be the voices of ancestors and spirits communicating. The sticky, fragrant buds that form on the tree in early spring are considered sacred, as they are seen as a physical manifestation of this spiritual energy.

The Hopi people of the American Southwest place a lot of importance on the cottonwood tree. They carve intricate Kachina dolls, which are spiritual representations of their deities, out of cottonwood root. These Kachinas are used in important ceremonies and rituals to connect the physical world to the spiritual realm.

Similarly, other tribes like the Navajo and Lakota use cottonwood in the creation of sacred objects and tools. The wood is believed to have purifying properties and the ability to channel positive energy. Cottonwood is often used to make prayer sticks, smudge fans, and other items used in healing and spiritual practices.

The sticky resin or “balm” of the cottonwood tree is also highly revered. It is used in salves, tinctures, and other remedies for its healing properties. The balm is thought to have the power to soothe both physical and emotional wounds, providing comfort and restoration.


Balm of Gilead has held deep spiritual significance across many ancient cultures and religious traditions. Whether it was the true Balm of Gilead (commiphora gileadensis) or the North American variety (resinous buds of cottonwood and poplar trees), this aromatic plant was revered for its ability to connect the physical and spiritual realms.

In the Bible, Balm of Gilead is used as a metaphor for spiritual healing and restoration that can only come from God. While the balm itself had medicinal properties, the true “Balm of Gilead” is Jesus Christ, who can heal the sin-sick soul. The enduring legacy of Balm of Gilead in spiritual practices and folklore speaks to its timeless power to soothe, protect, and uplift the human spirit. Even today, many continue to incorporate this ancient herb into their own spiritual journeys, honoring its rich history and mystical properties.

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