Chios Mastic, this precious gift of nature, is the resinous secretion of the mastic tree, an evergreen tree with the scientific name of Pistacia lentiscus L., which grows mostly on the shores of the eastern Mediterranean. In this family, only Pistacia Lentiscus var. Chia, systematically cultivated in southern Chios, produces the fragrant and known for its beneficial properties mastic. Indeed, since 1997, mastic is classified as a product of Protected Designation of Origin (PDO).
The resin secreted from the mastic tree, in a tear shape, of the trunk and major branches, through surface incision caused by sharp tools. It remains there, on the bush to stabilize for about 20 days, a period which depends on weather conditions in the area. The solidified product is collected, divided into categories according to the size of the tears, washed and marketed.
Composition of Chios Mastic
The exact composition of Mastic is not yet known. Its healing properties, on the contrary, are known since antiquity. There are many references in ancient medical texts; Herodotus was the first who stated that in ancient Greece people chew the dried resinous tears flowing from the bark of the mastic tree.
The resin combines over 80 known ingredients, which justifies the multiple uses in food, health and personal care. Research has shown that this resin trees mainly contain terpenes (particularly oleanolic acid), substances with anti-inflammatory and antioxidant activity. Due to the strong action of anti-inflammatory eleanolic and oleanolic acids, mastic heals inflammation from specific organs starting from periodontitis, esophagitis, gastritis, duodenal ulcer until colitis and hemorrhoids. It also prevents the stagnation in these areas preventing the occurrence of symptoms such as indigestion or flatulence. Furthermore, digestion is facilitated by reflex secretion of saliva and gastric juice by the chewing gum.
Polyphenols were also detected, known for their potent antioxidant compounds that protect cells and body tissues from free radicals, which are the cause diseases such as heart disease, but also the aging of the skin.
Recently, in fact, before about 1 year, the Committee on Herbal Medicinal Products (HPMC) of the European Medicines Agency (EMA) unanimously accepted mastic in the category of traditional herbal medicines, with two therapeutic indications: digestive problems, and skin inflammations and skin wounds. Consequently, mastic formulations will freely circulate across Europe, with health claims approved by the European Medicines Agency. ”
Benefits of Μastic
Studies and experiments (many of which took place in Greece) have shown that the benefits of mastic act on several levels:
Heart: It is used to treat elevated cholesterol and triglycerides. According to experts, the antioxidant extracts of mastic prevent the formation of plaque in the arteries, thus protecting against heart disease. Polyphenols reduce blood sugar and cholesterol levels, increase HDL ( “good”) cholesterol and reduce LDL ( “bad”) cholesterol.
Mouth: Mastic chewing gum helps remove food residues from the teeth. Also, in contrast to common chewing gum, causes more saliva secretion, thus limiting the growth of bacteria in the oral cavity and increase the purity mouthfeel, whereas the regular use of limiting plaque formation.
Digestion: Mastic appears to play a key role in the prevention and treatment of digestive diseases. Initially, it facilitates digestion with the reflective saliva secretion and gastric fluid during chewing. Moreover, theintake of 1 g. mastic in capsule form showed improvement in dyspeptic symptoms (eg. Stomach pain and heartburn subsided ) in the majority of patients (75%) who participated in the survey. Clinical improvement and reduction of inflammation was observed in patients with moderate rise of Crohn’s disease (idiopathic inflammatory bowel disease) following the intake of Chios mastic powder in capsule form. As for whether the intake of mastic can cure peptic ulcer due to helicobacter pylori, the conclusions vary. On one hand, observations have shown that taking mastic may cure through the antimicrobial action, while other studies suggest that it can not assist in eradicating helicobacter but it simply relieves symptoms.
Anti-cancer: Known (in vitro) is the anti-cancer activity of mastic in various cancers such as lung, prostate and intestine, due to its antioxidant properties. Through a mechanism it restricts the proliferation and survival of tumor cells.
Food: Mastic is an ideal food preservative; it prevents the growth of harmful microorganisms on food, such as salmonella and staphylococcus.
Mastic in the market
Apart from the classic chewing gum, mastic can be found in Greece in different forms: in tearsand mastic essential oil and in products and foods containing it (eg. toothpaste, mouthwashes, soaps, chocolates, etc.)
Tip: To crush mastic tears into powder, place them in the freezer for 30 minutes and then crush them in the mortar. Adding a little bit of sugar or salt (depending on how you’ll use it) in the mortar, it will crush even easier.
Note: The ideas and information presented in this blog are for informational purposes only and in no case can replace the advice of a specialist in nutrition and health. Before starting any diet or exercise or before adding a special food in your daily intake, you should contact a specialist doctor or dietitian; especially if you suffer from a serious illness.