Gamboge (/ɡæmˈbʒ/ gam-BOHZH, /-ˈbʒ/ -BOOZH)[2] is a partially transparent deep saffron to mustard yellow pigment.[Note 1] It is the traditional colour used to dye Buddhist monks' robes,[3][4] and Theravada Buddhist monks in particular. Physicist Jean Perrin used this pigment to prove Brownian motion in 1908.[5]

    Color coordinates
Hex triplet#E49B0F
sRGBB (r, g, b)(228, 155, 15)
HSV (h, s, v)(39°, 93%, 89%)
CIELChuv (L, C, h)(69, 92, 48°)
SourceMaerz and Paul[1]
ISCC–NBS descriptorStrong orange yellow
B: Normalized to [0–255] (byte)


Gamboge is most often extracted by tapping latex (sometimes incorrectly referred to as sap) from various species of evergreen trees of the family Clusiaceae (also known as Guttiferae). The tree most commonly used is the gamboge tree (genus Garcinia), including G. hanburyi (Cambodia and Thailand), G. morella (India and Sri Lanka), and G. elliptica and G. heterandra (Myanmar).[6] The orange fruit of Garcinia gummi-gutta (formerly called G. cambogia) is also known as gamboge[7] or gambooge.

The trees must be at least ten years old before they are tapped.[8] The resin is extracted by making spiral incisions in the bark, and by breaking off leaves and shoots and letting the milky yellow resinous gum drip out. The resulting latex is collected in hollow bamboo canes.[6] After the resin is congealed, the bamboo is broken away and large rods of raw gamboge remain.[5]


The pigment first reached Europe in early 17th century, and was used by artists such as Rembrandt, J.M.W. Turner, and Sir Joshua Reynolds. William Hooker mixed it with Prussian blue to create Hooker's Green. By the early 20th century it was replaced by a synthetic, more lightfast pigment, aureolin; however Winsor & Newton continued to sell the resin form until 2005.[5]

Gamboge has strong laxative properties. Small doses are sufficient to produce watery feces, while large doses can be fatal.[5]


The word gamboge comes from gambogium, the Latin word for the pigment, which derives from Gambogia, the Latin word for Cambodia.[9] Its first recorded use as a colour name in English was in 1634.[10]


  1. Other forms and spellings are: cambodia, cambogium, camboge, cambugium, gambaugium, gambogia, gambozia, gamboidea, gambogium, gumbouge, gambouge, gamboge, gambooge, gambugia. (Oxford English Dictionary)


  1. The colour displayed in the colour box above matches the colour called gamboge in the 1930 book by Maerz and Paul A Dictionary of Color New York:1930 McGraw-Hill; the colour gamboge is displayed on page 43, Plate 10, Color Sample K6.
  2. Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd Ed. (1989)
  3. Hanelt, Peter (11 May 2001). Mansfeld's Encyclopedia of Agricultural and Horticultural Crops: (Except Ornamentals). Springer. p. 1352. ISBN 9783540410171. Retrieved 8 August 2011.
  4. Lewington, Anna (1990). "Recreation-Plants that entertain us". Plants for people. London: Natural History Museum Publications. p. 206. ISBN 0-565-01094-8.
  5. St. Clair, Kassia (2016). The Secret Lives of Colour. London: John Murray. p. 81. ISBN 9781473630819. OCLC 936144129.
  6. Nicholas Eastaugh; Valentine Walsh; Tracey Chaplin; Ruth Siddall (2004). The Pigment Compendium: A Dictionary of Historical Pigments. Butterworth-Heinemann. ISBN 0-7506-5749-9.
  7. "Gamboge: Garcinia cambogia". Asia Food.
  8. Grieve, Maud; Leyel, C. F. (1971). A Modern Herbal (illustrated ed.). Courier Dover Publications. p. 341. ISBN 0-486-22798-7. Retrieved 2009-03-03.
  9. Mish, Frederic C., ed. (1984). Webster's Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary. Springfield, Massachusetts: Merriam-Webster. p. 504.
  10. Maerz and Paul (1930). "Color Sample of Gamboge: Page 43 Plate 10 Color Sample K6". A Dictionary of Color. New York: McGraw Hill. p. 195.
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