Commiphora wightii

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Related Links
Commiphora wightii in a protected catchment of a water shed.
© Sharma A.K
Commiphora wightii in arid zone agroforestry.
© Sharma A.K

Local names:
English (Indian bdellium tree,false Myrrh), Hindi (guggulu,guggul)

Commiphora wightii  is a small tree indigenous to India, growing wild in the semi-arid states of Rajasthan, Gujarat, and Karnataka.

It is much-branched, dioecious, up to 6 m tall with brown coloured, spine scented knotty, crooked and spirally ascending branches ending in sharp spines. Bark shiny, ash to yellowish white coming off in rough flakes exposing the greenish underbark, which also peels off in thin papery rolls.

Leaves small, sessile, rhomboid-(ob)ovate, 1-3 leaflets, highly aromatic, leathery, shinning green on top and greyish below with irregularly toothed edges.

Flowers small, unisexual, sessile, brownish red, occurring singly or in groups of 2-3, 8-10 lobed disc and an oblong-ovoid ovary; stamen 8-10.

Fruit an ovoid green berry like drupe, reddish, 6-8 mm in diameter.

Seed generally contain an under developed embryo.

The generic name is derived from Greek ‘kommis’ and ‘phora’ meaning gum bearer.

This is a threatened and vulnerable species due to its over-exploitation.


The tree is found in rocky and open hilly areas or rough terrain and sandy tracts in warm and semiarid to arid areas. It is also found in Anogeissus pendula and ravine thorn forest types associated with Anogeissus spp, Acacia spp, Dichrostachys cinerea, Rhus mysorensis, Grewia spp, Euphorbia sp and Secirunega sp.

Native range
China, India, Nepal, Sri Lanka

Tree management

Weeding and irrigation is necessary for 2-3 years after planting. For commercial cultivation a spacing of 4 m x 4 m is recommended resulting to 250 plants per acre. It is a slow growing plant and takes 8 to 10 years to come to a height of 3 to 3.5 m. Pruning or removal of branches in early stages helps to achieve better growth, increase in girth of growing branch and thereby better gum yield.

The tree is found in rocky and open hilly areas or rough terrain and sandy tracts in warm and semiarid to arid areas. It is also found in Anogeissus pendula and ravine thorn forest types associated with Anogeissus spp, Acacia spp, Dichrostachys cinerea, Rhus mysorensis, Grewia spp, Euphorbia sp and Secirunega sp.

C. wightii is usually propagated using seeds or cuttings. Cuttings 30 cm long which is usually the main method of propagation for species in the areas where it is cultivated are put in nursery beds and protected from termite attack and transferred to the field after one year in the nursery. The germination of seeds is low and erratic where good germination can be achieved by mechanical scarification of seed coat with sand paper and keep the scarified seeds under running water for 24 hours.

Poison: Some adverse side-effects reported on taking guggul are mild diarrhea and nausea. It may possibly raise bilirubin levels, cause hemolysis of blood, hepatitis, and obstruction of the biliary tract. But these side effects need to be confirmed.

Fodder: It is frequently a component of grazing lands on the desert fringes where it contributes significantly to the fodder for camels and goats.

Medicine: Gugulipid is a natural health product used primarily to reduce elevated blood cholesterol levels. It has been used for many years as a hypocholesterolemic agent in India, where it is has received prescription drug status, due to its high level of efficacy as determined by clinical trials.  Some health care  products from this gum include Abana (Heart Care), Diabecon (Gluco Care), Diakof (Cough Care Sfree), Koflet (Cough Care), Lukol, Pilex (Vein Care), Reosto,  Rumalaya forte and Septilin (Immuno Care)

Gum and resin:  In winter, the thick branches are selected and their bark incised to extract an oleo resin gum called guggul.  The plant generally takes ten years to reach tapping maturity under the dry climatic conditions. The yields are in the order of 

Hedges of guggul are preferred by farmers.