Revival of the extinct balm of gilead in Israel: Studying its anti-cancer activity

S. B. Yehoshua, R. Ofir, S. Rachmilevitch, E. Amiel, N. Dudai, E. Soloway

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Among the most reputed ancient medical plants was the balm of Gilead known as the apharsemon, identified botanically as Commiphora gileadensis L. This plant originated in the Kingdom of Sheba on the south of the Arabian Peninsala. Apharsemon, known also as the Judean balsam, grew as an agricultural crop only around the Dead Sea Basin in antiquity and achieved fame by its highly reputed aroma and medical properties but has been extinct for many centuries. The resin of this crop was sold at a price twice its weight in gold, the highest price ever paid for an agricultural commodity. This ancient plant was investigated in this study for its anticancerous activity against cancer cell lines. The results obtained from ethanolbased extracts indicated that β-caryophyllene (trans-(1R,9S)-8-methylene-4,11,11- trimethylbicyclo(7.2.0)undec-4-ene) is a key component in the essential oil extracted from the balm of Gilead. β-Caryophyllene can be found in a variety of food and beverage products. In the current paper, we report that Commiphora gileadensis stem and leaf extracts as well as its essential oil have an anti-proliferative proapoptotic effect against tumor cells and not against normal cells. β- caryophyllene caused a potent induction of apoptosis accompanied by DNA ladder and caspase-3 catalytic activity in tumor cell lines. In summary, we showed that C. gileadensis plant contain an apoptosis inducer that acts, in a selective manner, against tumor cell lines and not against normal cells.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationII Southeast Asia Symposium on Quality Management in Postharvest Systems
EditorsA.L. Acedo, S. Kanlayanarat
PublisherInternational Society for Horticultural Science
Number of pages6
ISBN (Electronic)9789462610828
StatePublished - 30 Jun 2015

Publication series

NameActa Horticulturae
ISSN (Print)0567-7572


  • Commiphora gileadensis
  • Judean balsam
  • Traditional medicine

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Horticulture


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