“Chios tears” Pleases, Perfumes, Relieves and Heals

chio mastic

Chios Mastic

Recently I was talking with a good friend of mine and mentioned that I was having a bit of a hard time, emotionally.  He reminded me how healthy gut flora was tied to our emotional health.  In speaking about his process to become “gut healthy” it included  chewing  Chio mastic and he offered me up a bag of the resin. As an herbalist, I was familiar with the use of resins in other traditional cultures, but not this particular variety.  Needless to say, it peaked my interest.  I started chewing and researching.

Chio mastic comes from the Pistacia lentiscus of the pistachio genus , which is mainly cultivated on the Greek island of Chios.  When you first pop a piece of the resin in your mouth it is hard and I was somewhat concerned that it might stick to my teeth, but the more I chewed the more it soften and turned into opaque gum.  In fact, it has primarily been used as a chewing gum for 2,400 years.  Besides chewing gum, it is used in cooking especially in Greek, Turkish and Arabic kitchens.


Harvesting Chios Mastic

Although Pistacia lentiscus is considered a tree, it has more of the appearance of a large shrub.  Incisions are made in the trunk and branches, where the juice slowly exudes and hardens into tears of resin.  Several parts of the plant are used medicinally, including the leaves, fruits and resin.  The healing properties of mastic gum have been known since antiquity.  Dioscorides used it for coughs, stomach aliments and to sweeten the breath.  Galen recommended it for inflammation of the stomach, intestines and liver. Al-Razi prescribed a mixture of alum and mastic to fill decayed teeth.  In Milan in 1712, it was included in “Jerusalem Balsam” and was a considered a panacea medicine-curing everything from stomach aches to protection from the plague, along with aloe, frankincense, and myrrh.

Today it is exported all over the world and is the basis for many products including bakery, sweets, jams, ice cream, chewing gums, ouzo and wine.  The resin is added to several popular burn medicines.  The Chios Mastiha Growers Association who promote, educates and ensures proper cultivation of the tree’s products,  has several links to research on the antibacterial, dermatological, antioxidant and anticancer properties of this unique resin.


Chio Tears

According a much referenced article in the New England Journal of Medicine published in December 24th, 1998.

“Even low doses of mastic gum — 1 mg per day for two weeks — can cure peptic ulcers very rapidly, but the mechanism responsible has not been clear. We have found that mastic is active against Helicobacter pylori, which could explain its therapeutic effect in patients with peptic ulcers.”

According to a research paper on the anti-inflammatory activity of Chios mastic gum, its terpenes can account for some of its medicinal effects including the hypotensive effects of oleanane, euphane and lupine, alpha-tocopherol and polyphenols, as well as, the anti-bacterial activity of verbenone, alpha-terpineol, and linalool.  In the same paper, which surveyed other research done on the resin, it indicated that it traditionally was regarded  as an anti-cancer agent, especially on tumors of breast, liver, stomach, spleen, and uterus. As stated in the paper “surprisingly enough, these traditional beliefs are in line with recent studies demonstrating that Chios mastic induces apoptosis and possesses antiproliferative activity in colon cancer cells”. The paper  also went on to say that Pistacia lentiscus research also indicates that it has  cardiovascular protection and hepatoprotection by reducing oxidative stress.

As is so often the case, modern scientific findings verify Chio mastic’s traditional medicinal uses.  Finding it available for sale is a bit difficult though, although I did find it on Amazon at 100g for $32 with free shipping.  The growers chios masticassociation’s products were the only ones I could find in chewable resin form.  There are several  dietary companies that are encapsulating the powder, although I would venture to say that the act of chewing and the manufacturing of saliva might have a more medicinal effect than popping a pill.  As a resin it is soluble in alcohol, so making a tincture would be a viable option, although I still believe that the act of chewing, which initiates an alimentary system chain reaction is probably the best option.

Links to more information about Chio Mastic