Mastiha is the name of a resinous sap produced from the mastic tree (Pistacia Lentiscus var. Chia). It is a natural, aromatic resin in teardrop shape, falling on the ground in drops from superficial scratches induced by cultivators on the tree’s trunk and main branches with sharp tools.
As it drips, this sap appears as a sticky and translucent liquid which, 15-20 days later, is solidified into irregular shapes influenced by the area’s weather conditions in summertime, that is intense drought and sunlight.
After being solidified, it has a crystal form, while its rather bitter taste quickly subsides to leave a distinctive aroma that really makes it unique. That solid product is then harvested and washed by mastic growers, giving us finally the natural Mastiha.
Its colour is initially ivory-like but as time goes by, that shade is lost and 12 to 18 months later it changes into yellowish due to oxidation. It is made of hundreds of components, among which only 80 are contained in identifiable quantities. Such multitude probably justifies the multiple uses of Chios mastiha, in the fields of food industry, health and cosmetic care, worldwide.
Ever since antiquity, Mastiha has been well known for its medicinal and pharmaceutical properties. Nowadays, it has been gradually revealed by the scientific community, through accurate and scientifically acceptable methods based on laboratory research and clinical studies carried out by independent researchers in Greece and abroad, that natural Mastiha is gifted with unique beneficial and therapeutic properties, thus confirming what has been historically recorded over the past.
To be more precise, scientific evidence has confirmed Mastiha’s beneficial action against disorders of the digestive system, its contribution to oral hygiene, its significant antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory action, as well as the fact that it constitutes a natural antioxidant agent. In addition to that, Chios mastiha contributes to wound healing and skin regeneration. Reference is subsequently made to the most important research studies regarding Mastiha’s medicinal and pharmaceutical action, the results of which have been already published – as mentioned before – in international scientific journals.
Health benefits of natural Mastiha:
- Antimicrobial action of Mastiha essential oil: significant research activity has been carried out regarding the antimicrobialaction of mastiha’s essential oil – mastiha oil. Researchers have studied in particular that when mastiha oil, mastiha essential oil, has been incorporated in the growth medium, it can delay the growth rate but also eliminate microbes, bacteria and pathogenic microorganisms. The results of such studies confirm the important antimicrobial and antifungal action of mastiha oil, thus encouraging its further usage as a component of pharmaceutical and other protection and care products.
- Mastiha as a protective agent against atherosclerosis: nowadays, there has been an intense scientific interest regarding the use of natural antioxidant agents as protective means against the atherosclerosis disease. Because of their composition, these substances offer protection against the formation of atheromatous plaques, thus preventing the risk of atherosclerosis and heart diseases. The presence of phenolic molecules, triterpenic compounds as well as phytosterols among Mastiha’s components is particularly important because of their action against the oxidation of low density lipoprotein (LDL) and that is a significant evidence for its potential antioxidant effect. Research activity in that field is still in an experimental stage. In any case, the results that have been published up to now are particularly encouraging and indicate a strong possibility of using mastiha as a natural antioxidant agent.
- Mastiha in relation to oral hygiene and dental research: scientific studies have proved that chewing Mastiha is very helpful for gum exercise, along with all its relevant beneficial effects in dental health. It has been further confirmed that Mastiha, unlike ordinary chewing gums, induces greater salivation due to its particular taste and its relative hardness, something that gives a greater feel of mouth freshness and cleanness, while it has been also proved to be relieving for people suffering from dry mouth, a disorder especially common among elderly persons. In addition, researchers have carried out numerous scientific and clinical studies regarding mastiha’s and Mastiha chewing gum’s action in decreasing microbial plaque formation and eliminating bacterial growth inside the oral cavity.
- Use in Dentistry and Orthodontics: in dentistry, mastiha is used as a component of dental fillings and tooth moulds. Chewing mastiha assists in mouth disinfection, in reducing the frequency of orthodontic problems and in gum strengthening. Moreover, it humidifies the oral cavity, thanks to salivation, thus cleaning and perfuming the mouth. Chewing mastiha systematically eliminates or inhibits significantly the formation of microbial plaques. Therefore, it helps preventing caries and periodontal troubles. Finally, eugenol contained in mastiha oil is used today in dentistry as an antiseptic and soothing substance. Mastiha is used as a toothpaste and mouthwash ingredient for cleanness and disinfection of the oral cavity. Mastiha’s action in terms of prevention and treatment of digestive system diseases
- The results of recent scientific studies related to mastiha’s therapeutic action with regard to disorders of the digestive system are especially worth-mentioning: ever since antiquity, it had been known that Mastiha had a strong positive effect in stomach comfort, e.g. relieving from gastrointestinal disorders, dyspepsia, gastralgia (stomach ache), peptic ulcers, etc.
- In our times, scientific, laboratory but also clinical studies have confirmed the aforementioned significant action of Mastiha. The first research efforts were carried out in university foundations and clinics of the Arab world, areas where the use of Mastiha was and still is widespread even in practical medicine tincture.
- Use of Mastiha as a component of wound healing bandages and as a skin regeneration agent: relevant publications have revealed that Mastiha presents excellent wound healing and suturing properties, while at the same time it does not bring undesirable side effects to the skin (such as dermatitis, skin decoloration, etc), like other common healing products do. This unique natural resin is already used very often as a component of bandages, adhesive plasters, compresses and other healing agents applied for the protection and healing of wounds or post-surgical incisions.
- Medicinal – pharmaceutical use: Mastiha fights helicobacter Pylori according to recent studies carried out by Nottingham university and published in the reliable medical journal The New England Journal of Medicine. Furthermore, universities in Greece and abroad currently study mastiha’s action in relation to diabetes mellitus, cholesterol and triglycerides. It is also worth mentioning mastiha’s effect on liver function by stimulating its detoxifying activity. Today, products such as mastiha powder, mastiha capsules and many more are widely on sale and are actually used by many people for dealing with the above health problems. Mastiha is also used in ointments against burns, frostbites, skin troubles as well as in adhesive plasters.
- Use in surgery: Mastiha and its derivative called rosin (the resinous substance left after the separation of the essential oil from mastiha) are used for making surgical filaments. That type of stitch is absorbed by the organism, without the need of human intervention for removing it. A medical supply called MASTISOL (made in U.S.A.) containing mastiha is used for bandage fixation. Thus, the bandage is fixed with the help of a natural product that does not cause irritation or infection on wounds.
- Industrial use: as mastiha is partially dissoluble in alcohol and fully dissoluble in ether, terpentine and other organic solvents, it is widely used in industry.
- Mastiha oil is used as a perfume but also as a perfume stabilizer. In textile and cotton industry it is used as a colour stabilizer for textile starching, especially for silk. In tanning industry, in elastics and plastics industry, in the production of colours, glues and glutinous substances, in camphor production and in colour printing, mastiha is used as a colour stabilizer. It is also used for making high grade varnishes, such as airplane, musical instruments, furniture varnishes, etc. as well as Spanish (sealing) wax.
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