People have known about Chios mastic since ancient times. It comes from the resin of the mastic tree, a very widespread plant on the island of Chios, in Greece. With its abundance of properties, this product finds applications in various sectors, including phytotherapy, cosmetics, and food.
Let’s delve into more details about this natural substance, which serves as an effective remedy for preventing gastric reflux.
What is Chios Mastic?
Chios mastic gum, often referred to simply as “mastic,” is a rare resin with a rich history and a range of applications. This natural product is derived from the mastic tree (Pistacia lentiscus var. chia), primarily found on the Greek island of Chios.
The resin has gained global recognition for its distinct properties and versatile uses.
The mastic tree is an evergreen shrub that thrives in the arid Mediterranean climate. It is particularly abundant in the island of Chios, Greece and can reach 4 meters in height. With a tortuous trunk, it has dark, leathery leaves and flowers arranged in spikes that give off a pleasant scent.
However, the mastic tree’s unique feature lies in its ability to produce resin, an exceptional substance highly prized for various purposes.
Chios Mastic: The Resin
Chios mastic is essentially the resin harvested from the mastic tree. Mastic is a natural, aromatic resinous sap, shaped in tears.
To obtain the resin, small incisions are made in the bark of the tree. Around 15 days after the incision, the resin starts leaking, and upon exposure to air, it oozes, acquiring a transparent and yellowish hue. After washing and removing impurities, the resin transforms into a whitish form, ready to be marketed for both medicinal and food purposes.
The resin hardens upon exposure to air, forming translucent, brittle ‘tears’ with a distinctive aroma. This labor-intensive extraction process has been refined over centuries, contributing to the exclusivity and value of Chios mastic.
Chios Mastic Properties
This resin boasts a plethora of properties that contribute to its diverse range of applications in various fields. Here, we explore the key properties that define Chios mastic:
- Anti-Inflammatory: Chios mastic is renowned for its potent anti-inflammatory properties. This characteristic makes it valuable in traditional medicine, where it has been used to alleviate inflammation-related ailments. Research suggests that the resin contains compounds with anti-inflammatory effects, offering potential relief for conditions characterized by inflammation.
- Antioxidant: The presence of antioxidants in Chios mastic contributes to its ability to combat oxidative stress in the body. Antioxidants play a crucial role in neutralizing free radicals, which are linked to various health issues, including aging and chronic diseases. Regular consumption of Chios mastic may contribute to overall health and well-being.
- Antibacterial: This resin exhibits significant antibacterial properties, making it effective against various strains of bacteria. This quality has led to its historical use in promoting oral health and combating bacterial infections. Chewing mastic gum, for example, has been a traditional practice to maintain dental hygiene.
- Gastrointestinal Benefits: The resin’s impact on the gastrointestinal system is notable, particularly in addressing acid reflux and related issues. Chios mastic has been studied for its potential to form a protective coating on the stomach lining, providing relief from reflux symptoms. This natural remedy offers an alternative to conventional medications with potential side effects.
- Aromatic and Flavorful: This unique mastic contributes a distinct aroma and flavor profile, characterized by hints of pine and cedar. This unique sensory quality makes it a prized ingredient in the culinary world. From desserts to savory dishes and beverages, Chios mastic adds a special touch that sets dishes apart. It’s also a very effective natural remedy for halitosis.
- Cosmetic Applications: In the realm of cosmetics, it finds application due to its antimicrobial properties. It is incorporated into skincare products to promote healthy skin and combat issues such as acne. The resin’s natural fragrance also enhances the sensory experience of beauty and personal care items.
Chios Mastic and Reflux
One notable application of Chios mastic is in addressing gastrointestinal issues, particularly acid reflux. Studies suggest that mastic gum may help alleviate symptoms of reflux by promoting a protective coating on the stomach lining and inhibiting the growth of harmful bacteria. This natural remedy has garnered attention for its potential to provide relief without the side effects associated with conventional medications.
Moreover, it is the only natural product capable of combating the bacterium Helicobacter pylori from the stomach.
Thanks to these properties, it is therefore used to:
- Alleviate heartburn
- Treat symptoms of reflux, esophagitis and gastritis
- Heal peptic ulcers
- Treat Crohn’s disease
Chios Mastic Shampoo
Thanks to its sanitizing, healing, and regenerating properties, Chios mastic is very useful in preventing chapping, peeling, and skin dehydration. That’s why it is often used in the production of shampoos suitable for people experiencing excessive dryness of the scalp, flaking, dry dandruff, excessive dehydration, and redness.
Chios mastic-based shampoo can also be used as a cleanser for the entire body in cases of flaking and redness.
Culinary Use of Chios Mastic
Chios mastic finds widespread application in food production, contributing to both sweet and savory recipes. Its crystals initially possess a bitter taste, but upon chewing, they release a more pungent and balsamic aroma reminiscent of cedar or pine.
It serves as the foundational ingredient for creating Masticha or Mastika, a Greek aromatic liqueur consumed as a digestif, poured over ice cream and fruit salad, used as a cocktail ingredient, or incorporated into pastries (Masticha desserts are highly appreciated in Greece).
In Greece, Chios mastic is also added to lollipops, puddings, milk, spoon sweets, and baked goods, such as Tsoureki, a braided bread consumed traditionally during the Easter period. It is an irreplaceable component in dondurma, the renowned Turkish ice cream.
In Arab countries, it is used to prepare savory dishes with meat or rice and is an ingredient in masticha cheese.
Lastly, it is also present in chewing gums and used to prepare a highly refreshing flavored water.
Beyond culinary and medicinal applications, Chios mastic finds itself employed in various other fields due to its versatile nature.
- Perfumery: The resin’s aromatic qualities make it a sought-after ingredient in perfumery, contributing a unique and exotic note to fragrances.
- For Oral Hygiene and Dental Technology: Mastic’s antibacterial properties extend to oral care, making it a valuable component in dental products like toothpaste and mouthwash. Its traditional use as a chewing gum also promotes oral health.
- Incense: Mastic’s fragrant smoke has been utilized in incense, adding a distinctive aroma to religious ceremonies and rituals.
- Art and Craftsmanship: The translucent nature of mastic tears has inspired artists and craftsmen. From jewelry to art installations, mastic’s aesthetic appeal transcends its functional uses.
Where to Buy Chios Mastic
This natural product is often available in specialty stores, particularly those focusing on Mediterranean or Greek products. Online platforms provide a convenient way to access Chios mastic from various suppliers, ensuring a reliable source for this precious resin.
While Chios mastic is generally safe for consumption and external use, individuals with known allergies to tree nuts or related substances should exercise caution. As with any natural product, it is advisable to consult with a healthcare professional before incorporating mastic into one’s diet, especially for pregnant or breastfeeding women.
For a long time, Chios mastic has been the primary economic source for the people of Chios. Even today, a significant portion of the income for around 5000 families on the island comes from the cultivation of mastic and its export to the Arab world.
In the past, the importance of this product made the island of Chios a target for conquerors. For this reason, many villages were constructed as true fortresses.
However, the exact moment when this cultivation became famous is unknown. What is certain is that even Hippocrates recommended its use for oral hygiene and health. In ancient Greece, it was a widespread practice to chew Chios mastic to whiten teeth.
Tradition has it that the mastic tree “began to weep” when Saint Isidoros was martyred by the Romans in 250 AD, precisely the same period when it is believed that the people of Chios started the continuous cultivation of mastic.
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