Mastic gum, scientifically known as Pistacia lentiscus, and colloquially known as the tears of Chios, is a unique resin from a tree grown in Mediterranean regions.

Resins have been used to improve oral health, lover health, and digestion for centuries. This is because of the high amount of antioxidants present in these, which are considered to support their therapeutic properties.

Mastic use can be used in many different forms depending upon your need. It is available in powders, capsules, and tinctures or can also be chewed as gum. Mastic essential oil is also applied topically to treat certain skin conditions.

What is mastic gum?

Mastic gum is a Greek product obtained from the mastic tree, a shrub grown in the southern parts of the Greek island of Chios.

It is a type of resin that is extracted from the incisions made within the trunk of the mastic tree. The resin drops out looking like tears, hence the resin became known as the tears of Chios.

Mastic is famous due to its unique aroma and beneficial healing properties. It was the first natural chewing gum used to freshen breath and clean teeth. Furthermore, the mastic gum extract is still used in various body and face care products.

Mastic trees in a grove on chios, greece

History of mastic:

Mastic has been harvested since Greek antiquity. The word mastic is derived from the Greek word “mastichaein,” which means to gnash the teeth.

The first mentioned use of the mastic was by Hippocrates, which used this resin to prevent digestive issues and colds and as a breath freshener. It became very popular all around the world.

Romans used mastic gum with the combination of egg, pepper, and honey in the spiced wine “conditum paradoxum.

In the Ottoman Empire, the sultan gathered mastic crops and finest them to send to its harem. During Ottoman rule, mastic was worth as much as gold, and stealing it was a big crime.

Mastic villages look like a forest, surrounded by high walls and no doors at the street level, and the villagers can only enter through ladders in order to protect the crop from invaders.

In August 2012, a fire caught in the Chios forest threatened the mastic crop and destroyed some of its groves.

Plant Description:

The mastic tree is an evergreen shrub with a height of 2-3 meters. It grows very slowly and reaches full growth after 40-50 years.

It thrives in other countries with climates like the Mediterranean region. However, only mastic villages in the Chios, the southern part of the island, cultivate a special variety of mastic trees.

At first, the putty seems like a tear with a sticky texture, but after 15-20 days solidifies and turns into an irregular crystal shape.

Mastic trees are only cultivated in the southern part of the island because of the temperature climate of the region and also due to underwater volcanoes and limestone soil.

In the past, there have been many attempts to cultivate mastic trees in some parts of Greece and other countries, but it did not show any success.

Mastic is traditionally collected: workers level the area around the tree and tear off its trunk in specific places. The putty starts to flow and is ready for collection in a few days.

The process of the collection starts in the mid of August and ends in mid-September. Then the product is washed and cleaned carefully and delivered to the market piece by piece.

Mastic gum dripping off of a mastic tree

Mastic gum benefits:

As it is clear from its name, mastic gum is mainly used as gum to freshen breath and prevent other oral problems. But it can also provide many other benefits due to the high amount of antioxidants present in it.

1. Helps with preventing cavities:

Researchers have found the effect of three types of mastic gum: pure mastic gum, probiotic mastic gum, and xylitol mastic gum, on both the pH and the level of bacteria found in the salvia. These three types of mastic gums were given to three groups thrice a day for a month.

Two types of bacteria, Lactobacilli bacterium, and Mutans streptococci bacterium, can lead to cavities.

Researchers (Biria, 2014)found that all these three types of gums reduced the level of mutans streptococci.

However, the level of Lactobacilli bacterium was raised in the groups using pure mastic and xylitol mastic gums. The group with probiotic mastic gums has significantly reduced levels of lactobacilli.

 It is worth noting that the probiotic mastic gum can decrease the saliva pH and make it more acidic. This acidic saliva can lead to various dental health issues, so probiotic gums are not recommended for used conditions like cavities.

Pure mastic gum can be helpful in this case. The recommended amount of mastic gum for preventing cavities is to chew a piece for five minutes after every meal.

2.  Help control cholesterol and blood sugar levels:

High cholesterol and blood sugar levels are dangerous on their own and can also increase the risk of other chronic diseases like heart disease, cancer, and type 2 diabetes.

Some small studies have suggested that mastic gum can be very helpful in reducing the level of both of these factors.

People who use mastic gum regularly often show lower blood glucose levels. Glucose levels are often linked with high cholesterol levels.

Researchers have also found a positive effect of mastic gum on people who were suffering from overweight or obesity.

According to a study (Karalis, 2015) of 156 volunteers, the participants who took mastic gum had lower cholesterol and blood sugar levels after 2 months.

The group of people who improved cholesterol and blood sugar levels took 300 mg capsules of crude mastic gum thrice a day. The other group, which was given polymer-free mastic powder, did not show any effects.

In another small study (Fukazawa, 2018), Japanese males found out that people who took 5 grams of mastic powder daily had lower insulin and triglyceride levels after one and a half months. Those who took mastic powder with regular exercise had better improvements.

However, a person suffering from such medical conditions should consult the doctor before adding any other supplement into a routine. The recommended dosage is 330 mg of mastic powder thrice daily.

3. Potentially fight against cancer:

Certain studies show the effectiveness of mastic oil in fighting against cancer. One animal study (Spyridopoulou, 2017) found out about the antitumor effect of mastic oil on colon cancer in mice. And some studies show the same effect of mastic oil on lung cancer in mice.

Some researchers have also investigated mastic gum’s role in inhibiting prostate cancer development. For example, according to one laboratory study (He, 2006), mastic gum can inhibit the androgen receptors that may affect the development of prostate cancer.

Mastic gum has also been shown to weaken the function of expression of androgen receptors in prostate cancer cells.

Mastic gum is not approved as a cancer treatment, but studies suggest that it has the potential to fight against cancer cells and work as a cancer-fighting supplement.

The recommended dosage for this is 1 gram daily. However, mastic gum should never be replaced with the prescribed cancer treatment.

4. Reduce the risk of stomach issues:

An infection caused by H. pylori bacteria is one of the major risk factors for stomach ulcers. These bacteria are also linked with stomach cancer.

Various studies have shown the antibacterial properties of mastic gum against H. pylori.

For example, one study (K.J.Dabos, 2010) found that in people who were given mastic gum for 14 days, H. pylori infection improved compared to the placebo group.

Some studies have shown that mastic gum cannot kill the H. pylori bacteria, but it can clear the infection caused by this.

For example, in one study (Miyamoto, 2014), the researchers tested mastic gum in the form of oil against H. pylori.

The researchers found out that mastic oil has an antibacterial effect against a certain strain of H. pylori, on which antibiotics have no effects.

The recommended amount of mastic gum for people with ulcer symptoms is taking 350 mg three times a day. Studies have shown that people who take this amount do not show any side effects.

Chios mastic tears spilling out of a scoop onto a wooden surface

5. Ease symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease:

Some evidence has shown that mastic gum can also be very helpful in reducing the risk of inflammatory bowel diseases like Crohn’s disease. Also, some studies have shown its effectiveness in irritable bowel syndrome.

For example, one study (Papada, 2018)of 60 people found out that those who took 2.8 grams of mastic for 3 months improved their IBD markers.

Another study (Triantafyllidi, 2015) of people suffering from IBD showed that the group of people who were given mastic gum for four weeks showed a significant decrease in the severity of the inflammation.

Researchers also found out that the levels of IL-6 and C-reactive protein also reduced, which both are markers of inflammation.

It is also considered that the anti-inflammatory properties of mastic gum also help in reducing inflammation.

However, larger research is needed to understand the exact mechanism by which the mastic gum works against irritable bowel syndrome. 

6. Treat symptoms of allergic asthma:

Mastic gum also has anti-inflammatory properties, which makes it very useful in treating allergic asthma. This type of asthma is often related to airway inflammation, airway hyper-responsiveness, and eosinophilia.

An animal (Qiao, 2010) study can inhibit airway hyper-responsiveness and the production of inflammatory substances.

The video tests found that mastic gum reduces the growth of cells which reacts negatively with allergens and causes inflammation in the airways.

Mastic tree extract has been used since ancient times to treat allergic asthma and other conditions like cold flu and chest infection. But these days, mastic gum capsules are available.

7. Improves liver health:

According to a 2007 study (AngelikiTriantafyllou, 2007), mastic gum can be very beneficial In preventing liver damage.

In this study, the participant was divided into two groups. One group was given 5 g of mastic powder for 18 months, while the other group did not.

The result has shown that the group with an intake of mastic powder has a lower level of the enzyme, which can cause liver damage, compared to the group of a participant who did not have any mastic powder.

Research is ongoing to learn more about the protective effect of mastic gum against liver damage. However, in some animal studies, it is effective for protecting the liver and is used as an anti-inflammatory.

The recommended amount of mastic powder for a liver condition is 5g per day. This dosage can be divided into small portions and can be taken throughout the day.

Potential side effects and risks

Not many cases are reported about the side effects of mastic gum as it is well tolerated. But in some cases, if the dosage is higher, it may show some side effects like:

  • Dizziness
  • Stomach ache
  • Headache
  • Nausea

In order to minimize all of these side effects, always start from a lower dose and if you do not feel anything upset, then increase the dose gradually.

Moreover, such supplements as mastic gum are not regulated by the Drug Administration or U.S. Food, so if you are buying these supplements, make sure to buy these from a trustworthy manufacturer. And always follow the instructions that are given on the product.

An allergic reaction can also be possible, especially in people allergic to certain plants like Pistacia species or Schinus terebinthifolius. Moreover, mastic gum is also not suggested for pregnant or breastfeeding women.

Bottom Line:

Mastic gum is a unique resin that comes from a tree grown in the Mediterranean. The mastic tree is an evergreen shrub with a height of 2-3 meters, only cultivated in the southern part of the island because of the temperature climate of the region.

Mastic gum is a type of resin extracted from the mastic tree’s trunk. This resin has been very famous due to its unique aroma and beneficial healing properties.

At first, this resin was used to prevent digestive issues and colds and as a breath freshener. But now studies have found numerous health benefits of it.

It can help in improving digestion and oral health and prevents liver damage. Mastic oil has also been shown to help reduce the risk of cancer and lower cholesterol and blood sugar levels.

Although mastic is considered safe to use, there are no dangerous side effects of it reported. But it is better to consult your doctor before starting any supplementation into your routine.

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