The mastiha tree is an evergreen shrub, belongs to the Anacardiaceae family gender Pistacia lentiscus L and grows in the Mediterranean countries. However, the tree Pistacia Lentiscus Var. Chia is a special variety that grows exclusively in the Southern part of Chios and offers the precious mastiha tears, renowned for their medicinal properties. Chios mastiha is the resinous excretion of the mastiha tree. Ancient Greek physicians (Hippocrates, Dioscorides, Galenos) were the first to report the properties of Chios Mastiha and recommended its use for its distinctive flavour and its therapeutic properties. Documents show that it was the first natural chewing gum of the ancient world, used to clean the teeth and to freshen the breath. It was even used in cosmetology for cleansing the face and body. Then the resin was used as an active ingredient in a series of pharmaceutical formulas and nostrums, many of which have been recorded from time to time in international pharmacopeias. Dioscorides (1st century AD.) in Materia Medica referred the therapeutic properties of Chios mastiha, mentioning that it helps in the cases of indigestion, in blood problems, in chronic coughing, while at the same time it acted as tranquilizer.
In our days, the potential therapeutic activities of mastic gum have been scientifically studied and showed that especially mastic from the island Chios displays positive action against digestive disorders, contributes to oral hygiene, displays antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory action, is a natural antioxidant, and also potentially aids in trauma healing.
The Antimicrobial Action of Mastiha Oil
The essential oil and gum of Pistacia lentiscus var. chia, commonly known as the mastic tree, have natural antimicrobial agents that have found extensive uses in medicine in recent years and several studies have been conducted and published. A research on the chemical composition and antibacterial activity of the essential Oil of Pistacia lentiscus Var . chia conducted in 2005 in the University of Warwick identified the majority of the major components: alpha-Pinene, beta-myrcene, beta-pinene, limonene, and beta-caryophyllene. Several trace components that appear to contribute significantly to the antibacterial activity of mastic oil have been also identified: verbenone, alpha-terpineol, and linalool. It is established that that the antibacterial efficacy of mastiha oil is due to the number of its components working synergistically.
Chios Mastiha in Oral Hygiene
Extensive research has proven the beneficial effects of mastic to the oral hygiene. A study has shown that mastic gum is a useful antiplaque agent and that chewing it reduces both bacterial growth in saliva and plaque formation on teeth. A different study showed that chewing mastic gum decreased the number of viable bacteria and therefore is useful in preventing caries.
Finally, in a clinical study conducted in the Dental faculty of the University of Thessaloniki in 1985 demonstrated that if Chios mastic is used regularly it may decrease the amount of formatting or already formatted dental plaque and hence can be used in the effective prevention of caries, peridental disorders and buccal diseases in general.
Effect of Mastiha on Digestive Disorders
Traditional healers have been using the mastiha resin for the relief of peptic ulcers. A number of studies have shown that mastic gum and mastic oil exhibit actions on gastrointestinal lesions. A specific study showed the findings that suggest that even 1 g of mastic per day, for a time period of two weeks could cure digestive ulcer. This beneficial action, was due to the fact that mastic exterminated Helicobacter pylori which is liable for the majority of the digestive ulcer cases.
Effect of Mastiha on Skin Regeneration
The adhesive properties of mastic, as well as its beneficial presence in healing wounds and post-operative incisions have been identified and studied by researchers for at least twenty years now. The natural resin of mastic is used very often as ingredient in bandages, plasters, compresses and other healing means, applied in the protection and healing of wounds or postoperative incisions. The results of relevant publications show, that the mastic gum of Chios presents exceptional adhesive properties, when used in wound and incisions healing means, while at the same time, it contributes to the effective regeneration of the skin and to the wound healing, while it does not have undesirable side-effects (irritation, itching, dermatitis, skin depigmentation, etc), as the conventional ingredients used in healing means.
- “Mastic Gum and Gastrointestinal Diseases”, Andrianna C. Kaliora, G. Dedoussis, N.K. Andrikopoulos, Annals of Gastroenterology 2005
- “Medical Composition and Antibacterial Activity of the Essential Oil and the Gum of Pistacia lentiscus Var. chia” Christina Koutsoudaki, Alison Rodger, Martin Krsek Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 2005
- “European Medicines Agency”, Assessment Report on Pistacia lentiscus L., resin (mastix) 2015