Experience and science have combined to introduce a multitude of natural remedies used to support human health over the millennia. Mastic gum is just one of those, whose purported ancient health benefits appear as befitting of the 21st Century as it was 2800 years ago when the resin was referred to as the Miracle Tears of Chios mastic gum and was used to treat snakebites and to fill dental cavities.

Pedanius Dioscorides, a surgeon with the armies of the Roman emperor Nero, utilised its natural components for coughs, stomach ailments and to sweeten the breath. In Milan in 1712, it was included in “Jerusalem Balsam” which one recipe indicated contained four plants: olibanum (Boswellia spp.), myrrh (Commiphora spp.), aloe (Aloe sp.) and mastic (Pistacia lentiscus L.). 

Pharmacological assays on this four-plant formula showed anti-inflammatory, as well as anti-oxidative, and anti-septic properties. Jerusalem Balsam was considered a panacea medicine-curing everything from stomach aches to protection from the plague, along with aloe, frankincense, and myrrh.

An interesting detail about the mastic trees is that although they grow in many parts of the world, the only place where its resin is harvested is in Chios 

It is not very clear when the cultivation of these trees on the island started, but it is known that Herodotus, a Greek historian, was one of the first to notice their resin, around the 5th century BC. Other records show that Mastic Gum as a supplement has been used for health purposes since 7th Century BC. 

Chios is one of the eleven East Aegean Islands of Greece and is just a few miles off the coast of Turkey. The mastic trees are the trademark of Chios and the main source of income for many residents of the island. 

The mastic trees of Chios, pistacia lentiscus of the pistachio genus, provide a resin that oozes from their bark in the shape of teardrops. This resin is used for the manufacture of different products, especially as a unique chewing gum, as well as quality spices, alcoholic beverages, and sweets, and now in powdered form that is encapsulated for nutritional supplements. 

The resin is referred to as mastic, mastica and mastiha. Today, the Chios Mastiha Growers Association promotes and educates on the product and ensures proper cultivation of the tree’s gum. Their web site has several links to research on the antibacterial, dermatological, antioxidant and anticancer properties of this unique resin.

Contemporary Applications

The digestive disorder gastro esophageal reflux disease (GERD) is one of the most common gastrointestinal disorders, with a prevalence of approximately 20% of adults in western culture. A systematic review by El-Serag et al. estimated the prevalence of GERD in the US between 18.1% to 27.8%. Treated primarily with antacids such as proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) or histamine-2 receptor antagonists (H2RA). In a large study of over 14 million registered patients, just over 3 million patients were prescribed at least one PPI or H2RA from 1 January 1990 to 31 December 2018. That’s 21% of the population. In 2016, approximately 58 million prescriptions for PPIs were dispensed in primary care in England at a cost of more than £100 million. 

In a double-blind controlled clinical trial of mastic gum in patients with duodenal ulcer, researchers found that it had an ulcer-healing effect and was well tolerated without any side effects.  148 patients with functional dyspepsia were followed, researchers from the Chios Island found that mastic gum significantly improved symptoms. 

Another study found that it influenced the growth of Helicobacter pylori which has been implicated as the root cause of acid reflux. Overgrowth of H. pylori causes inefficient indigestion.

Some evidence suggests that mastic gum could also help with inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD) such as Crohn’s disease. One review notes that mastic gum improved some markers of Crohn’s disease in people who had active disease. 

Another study of 60 people with IBD found that those who took mastic gum had significant improvements in their IBD markers after 3 months. The people in the study took 2.8 g of mastic per day. 

Having high cholesterol and high blood sugar levels can increase the risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Some studies suggest that mastic gum could help people improve their levels of both. A study in 156 healthy volunteers, for example, found that those using mastic gum had lower total cholesterol and blood sugar after 8 weeks.

In addition to addressing the issues of modern diet and lifestyle, perhaps it is time to call on help from nature’s ancient flora. Indeed, there is additional contemporary scientific evidence for Chios Mastic Gum (CMG) for the treatment of GERD, H. pylori, Functional Dyspepsia, Inflammation, Hyperlipidaemia, & Hypercholesterolaemia, & Hepatoprotection,. 

Considering the potential benefit to health, reduction in cost, absolute minimum side effects in using Mastic Gum, this substance, firmly rooted in nature’s pharmacopoeia may help to plant it in your consciousness for your personal use.