Mastic is a resin from an evergreen shrub, commonly known as mastic tree. Τhe scientific name of the mastic tree is Pistacia lentiscus (L.) var. chia (Duham), it belongs to the Anacardiaceae family and it is cultivated uniquely in southern Chios. It is obtained as an exudate after “hurting” the trunk and branches of mastic tree. Mastic has been used for more than 2500 years in folk medicine, mainly for gastrointestinal disorders like peptic ulcer and gastralgia.

Herodotus (5th c. B.C.) is the first historian that refers to the use of mastic. He reports the use of the dried resinous fluid secreted by the bark of the mastic tree by chewing it. Additionally, it is possible that Herodotus referred to mastic on his reports of a sticky material that aided mummification. Nowadays, with the help of technology and chemical analysis, the modern archaeologists confirmed the use of mastic in mummification (7th c. B.C).

According to Dioscorides (1st c. A.D.), mastic has many medical properties and applications, such as for stomach aches, healing chronic cough, being beneficial for blood coagulation, also giving glow to the face when used as an ointment, useful for cleaning the teeth and adoring the mouth. One of the Dioscorides works mentions “mastichinon elaion”, a mix of mastic with olive oil, with therapeutic effect on inflammations of the stomach, intestinal disorders, as well as its astringent and emollient properties. It should be also noted that one of the first reports of natural product adulteration, by Dioscorides, was for the making of “mastichinon elaion”, by replacing mastic with pine resin or frankincens.

In addition, medical prescriptions from Galinos have been found, with mastic as the main ingredient for the treatment of stomach aches, as well as, with the addition of mandragora root, for an antidote for snake bites.

In Italy, studies revealed mastic as one of the compounds of an ointment found in an unguentarium in a tomb of the 2nd c. B.C. This is probably the oldest cosmetic preparation containing mastic discovered until now.

During the Byzantine era, mastic was used as toothpaste, for stomach aches, as facial cream, to produce soap etc. The trade of mastic was very profitable for the imperial treasury, acquiring 120.000 golden tokens annually.

Furthermore, the use of mastic was recommended in the Quran by Mohammed himself, because of that, mastic was very popular in the Islamic world. It was mainly used to prepare bread, for chewing and as breath freshener.

In the 19th century, mastic was present in many European pharmacopoeias such us the Hellenic Pharmacopeia, British pharmacopeias, Belgian pharmacopeias, French pharmacopoeias etc.

Τhe Greek state has made an effort to organize matters concerning mastic production and distribution (1912). The government created the Chios Gum Mastic Growers' Association (CGMGA) and passed a law for obligatory association, to release farmers from exploitation by mediators. The CGMGA, is the only competent agency for collecting, packaging, and trading of mastic.

Biological Activities

Mastic has been studied extensively for its biological action. Many studies support the positive effects of mastic on gastrointestinal disorders and for the treatment of ulcer and indigestion. It has also been suggested to possess anti-Crohn’s disease properties. Αnti-inflammatory, antioxidant activity and hypolipidemic properties have been also suggested. Furthermore, researches attributing anti-cancer potential.

In cosmetology, mastic has been used for centuries. Due to its antimicrobial and antiseptic properties, mastic is used for oral hygiene, but also as a natural preservative. Its antioxidant potential protect from free radicals, one of the main causes of aging. The combination of wound healing and antioxidant activities gives to the products an excellent anti-aging action and elastic skin properties.