Commiphora wightii, with common names Indian bdellium-tree, gugal, guggul, gugul, or Mukul myrrh tree, is a flowering plant in the family Burseraceae, which produces a fragrant resin called gugal, guggul or gugul, that is used in incense and vedic medicine (or ayurveda). The guggul plant may be found from northern Africa to central Asia, but is most common in northern India. It prefers arid and semi-arid climates and is tolerant of poor soil.
Commiphora wightii grows as a shrub or small tree, reaching a maximum height of 4 m (13 ft), with thin papery bark. The branches are thorny. The leaves are simple or trifoliate, the leaflets ovate, 1–5 cm (0.39–1.97 in) long, 0.5–2.5 cm (0.20–0.98 in) broad, and irregularly toothed. It is gynodioecious, with some plants bearing bisexual and male flowers, and others with female flowers. The individual flowers are red to pink, with four small petals. The small round fruit are red when ripe.
Cultivation and uses
Commiphora wightii is sought for its gummy resin, which is harvested from the plant’s bark through the process of tapping. In India and Pakistan, guggul is cultivated commercially. The resin of C. wightii, known as gum guggulu, has a fragrance similar to that of myrrh and is commonly used in incense and perfumes. It is the same product that was known in Hebrew, ancient Greek and Latin sources as bdellium.
The gum can be purchased in a loosely packed form called dhoop, an incense from India, which is burned over hot coals. This produces a fragrant, dense smoke. The burning coals which let out the smoke are then carried around to different rooms and held in all corners for a few seconds. This is said to drive away evil spirits as well as remove the evil eye from the home and its family members.