“Is there no balm in Gilead?” Jeremiah famously asked, wondering rhetorically why the Jews did not seek atonement for their backsliding. Gilead is a territory located in what is now northwestern Jordan; tsori, the word rendered as “balm,” is mentioned but handful of times in the Hebrew Bible, and appears to be a product especially associated with the Land of Israel. Zohar Amar, a botanist and historian of medicine at Bar-Ilan University, believes he has identified it as the resin of the Atlantic pistachio tree. Bible History Daily reports:
After identifying the tree, [Amar] and his student Elron Zabatani engaged in some experimental archaeology and successfully harvested some of the biblical balm. They reconstructed the traditional method of resin extraction from the Atlantic pistachio tree.
Amar and Zabatani harvested resin from 80 trees in Israel. They based their method of extraction on the resin production in Chios, Greece and Iraqi Kurdistan. In both those locales, residents harvest resin during the summer season.
Amar and Zabatani calculated that 50 trees produce around 33 pounds of resin per season. The high yield makes this industry particularly desirable. Amar explains, “Although it is not possible to estimate how much resin was actually collected every year and how many people were involved in the process, the large amounts of resin we obtained confirm that this was indeed a profitable industry in the past.”
Several photographs of the process can be found at the link below.