By Ruqaya Al Kindi
Luban tree is one of the rare wild trees and has become one of the most important symbols that the Sultanate of Oman is famous for since thousands of years.
Dhofar Governorate, in the south of the Sultanate of Oman, is considered one of the largest major historical areas for Luban production in the world and was known as the land of Luban. the Port of Samhram in Dhofar was exporting Luban in the first century AD to Yemen, Egypt and Rome where it was an important commercial port in southern Oman.
Luban tree grows naturally on the edges affected by seasonal rains in this governorate, where it often grows on the lower slopes and at the bottom of the canyons and streams and in more intense quantities on the broad bottoms of the larger valleys.
Luban tree, in ancient time, nhad a role in trade in southern Arabia, and an important source of income; where Dhofar Governorate is famous of producing the finest Luban in the world due to the availability of an appropriate climate for the growth of its trees in terms of temperature and humidity, in addition to the presence of calcareous soil suitable for tree’s growth. It is known that the finest kind of Luban in the Dhofar Governorate is called Al-Hojri.
It is surprising that Luban tree lives about 100 years, multiplies naturally and does not need watering and human attention. It is, also, about 3 to 5 meters high and becomes able to give after 8 or 10 years of it is growth.
Specialists who collect Luban are waiting April every year eagerly, because the harvesting of Luban begins in April and continues until June every year through using the traditional method that is used since ancient time.
In early April of each year, as soon as the temperature rises, workers collect the fruits by tapping on the tree in multiple places. the Luban production process begins by tapping the branches of the tree with a sharp tool until a milky color and viscous resins begins to come out from some of the holes caused by scratching the tree. Within 14 days, the liquid solidifies or freezes, then it is harvested.
Tapping Luban trees is not a random process. It is a process that requires special technical skill and expert hands. Even the process of tapping on the tree varies from one tree to another according to their size. The harvest lasts for three months, and the average yield per tree is 7 to 10 kilograms.
Omani Luban, which is considered one of the best types of Luban in the world, is still on demand in many countries around the world, as it is included in the manufacture of medicines, oils, powders, perfumes, special candles and cosmetics, in addition to its use in many places of worship around the world.
It is, also, used as an important material in the incense industry, which is one of the symbols of Omani culture and is used almost daily in every Omani house. it was mentioned and praised by (Ibn Sina, a Muslim scientist), who said (it cures all diseases).
Since ancient times, India, the African continent, and the Sultanate of Oman have been famous for using Luban in traditional folk medicine to treat many diseases; the most important of which are mouth and skin ulcers, hair loss, diarrhea, colds, and arthritis, and was used against snakes venom or poison.
A team of researchers at the Research Center for Natural and Medical Sciences at Nizwa University, confirmed the possibility of increasing the production of the Acetyl keto-Beta-Bowsellic Acid (AKBA) from 5% to 30% from a natural source – that is, Luban gum- and purity up to 99.9%, as it is an effective compound against types of cancer cells, and its commercial value is 30 riyals per milligram. This method, actually, was first invented and registered as a patent in the name of the university.
Efforts to protect Luban include preserving it in it is habitats, protecting it from grazing and the unfair use of it is lands, and conducting surveys of the Luban environment in a number of areas in order to identify the plant intensity of this species and the current state of these trees.