MASTIC EO & Tree Resin ~ Mastic EO & tree resin to understand the nature of Mastic, its description,
distillation methods, particular plant properties, uses, and science ~
MASTIC Essential Oil &/or Herb Resin Profile
By Jeanne Rose and other sources ~ 2023
INTRODUCTION ~ Mastic is a resin. I love the resins; I love to burn them for magic and ritual and, above all, use their essential oils in healing blends and via inhalation.
COMMON NAME/LATIN BINOMIAL ~ Gum Mastic / (Pistacia lentiscus L.) is an oleoresin from a flowering shrub and contains very little oil. Other common names include Gum Mastic or Chios Mastic Gum in Greece. The word “masticate” comes from an ancient Greek word from the Greek practice of chewing this interestingly flavorful resin as gum in addition to freshening the breath and fighting tooth decay.
—-Family – Anacardiaceae is most often known as the cashew family; they are flowering plants with over 800 species, some of which produce an irritant called urushiol.
MASTIC EO & the HERB RESIN is known from Greece but grows in Mediterranean Europe and Northern Africa, Algeria, Morocco, and the Canary Islands. Only the true Mastic tree, the variety chia, has the qualities that are desirable. This variety grows well only in this specific area that has the perfect terroir, that is, the southeast corner of the island of Chios, a Greek island in the Aegean Sea.
ENDANGERED OR NOT ~ A tree called Mastic (species unknown) is considered critically endangered in the Cayman Islands. The Pistacia lentiscus is considered threatened and endangered.
GENERAL DESCRIPTION OF PLANT HABITAT AND GROWTH ~ The Mastic tree, Pistacia lentiscus, is a flowering shrub with a strong smell of resin; it is a dioecious tree with separate male and female plants. It is an evergreen from 1 to 5 m high and grows in dry and rocky areas in Mediterranean Europe. The leaves are alternate, leathery, and compound with five or six pairs of deep-green leaflets but no terminal leaflet. It has very small flowers; the male flowers are vivid red with five stamens, and the female flowers are green with a 3-part style. The fruit is a drupe (a fleshy fruit with thin skin and a central stone containing the seed). It is first red and then black when ripe, about 4 mm. in diameter.
PORTION OF THE PLANT USED IN DISTILLATION, HOW DISTILLED, EXTRACTION METHODS, AND YIELDS ~ Mastic is an oleoresin containing a little oil. The oleoresin is produced primarily in the secretory tissues of the bark of stems and branches. “Mastic resin collecting is restricted to the southeastern corner of the island of Chios.
–––––– “The resin is collected by making small cuts made in the bark of the main branches and then allowing the trees to drip the sap onto the specially prepared ground below. The harvesting is done during the summer between July and October. After the Mastic is collected, it is washed manually and is set aside to dry, away from the sun, as it will start melting again.”3 The ground is prepared with fine white kaolin clay on spread on the ground and Mastic falls on it and keeps it clean.
______In Greece to get the Mastic from the Mastic tree is very precise work and takes all summer. First, the ground around the tree is cleaned, then the tree is carved with a special needle to a depth of about 3 mm. Now the Mastic flows slowly from the tree. The first Mastic is collected after fifteen days when it has become more solid.
_____YIELD is 0.7-1 and occasionally up to 3% EO.
ORGANOLEPTIC CHARACTERISTICS OF MASTIC oil
Color EO is pale yellow
Viscosity Very slightly viscous
Taste Bitter (We do not recommend ingestion-only chewing of the resin)
Intensity of odor 5
Intensity scale of odor ~ On a scale of 1-10, if Usnea is a 1, Lavender a 2, Tea Tree a 5, and Cinnamon or Massoia is 8; then Mastic is about 5-6 in intensity.
Odor Description/ Aroma Assessment: The Mastic odor is green, with strong smoky, herbaceous, and fruity notes and hints of spice, citrus, conifer, wood, and leather. Excellent to use in a gentleman’s fragrance or for a brunette woman.
Sources ~ This work is sponsored and supported by Prima Fleur Botanicals.
CHEMICAL COMPONENTS OF MASTIC ~ The main components were α-pinene (58.86–77.10%), camphene (0.75–1.04%), β-pinene (1.26–2.46%), myrcene (0.23–12.27%), linalool (0.45–3.71%), and β-caryophyllene (0.70–1.47%).
TASTE ~ I have chewed the gum and tasted this sweet with tea for years, yet I am at a loss to describe the taste of Mastic. I suggest that you give it a try as it is a very special savor, and most memorable. It starts out floral and slightly bitter and then smooths its way to a herbal and sweetish taste. Delicious!
GENERAL PROPERTIES of MASTIC
The essential oil is produced by steam distillation from the oleoresin or occasionally directly from the leaves and branches. It is considered antimicrobial, antiseptic, antispasmodic, diuretic, astringent, expectorant and stimulant. Mastic (Pistacia lentiscus) resin and EO have a plethora of qualities and uses. The resin is said to absorb cholesterol when masticated, and is an antibacterial and, acts as an oral antiseptic, tightens the gums, helps digestion, heals wounds; and scientists recently discovered that when it is administrated in small doses over a period of time, it cures stomach ulcers.
The EO is used to heal external skin problems.
Mastic varnish has been in use for thousands of years and is primarily obtained from male trees and used to protect oil and watercolor paintings. The varnish is also used in lithography and cement for precious stones1.
PROPERTIES AND USES ~ Gum Mastic is used in medicine, pharmaceutical products like medical creams and dental toothpaste, and cures for ulcers; it is used in the paint industry, cosmetics, paint varnish, and artists use it both as an adhesive and to color oil. In the food industry, gum Mastic is used in liqueurs, ice cream, pure Mastic gum, chewing gum, and the most precious of all — Mastic EO.
After the oil is removed, a small, very durable, and pliable bit of chewing gum is left that lasts for a long time without disintegrating. This is the Olde Worlde chewing gum, while Spruce and Pine gums were traditionally chewed in the Newe Worlde of the USA and Canada.
It is suggested by Franchomme and Daniel Pénoël that Mastic EO can assist cardiovascular function. It also is useful as an inhalant for assisting bronchitis, coughs, and colds and application of muscular aches and pains. An interesting oil.
APPLICATION/ SKINCARE: GUM MASTIC (Pistacia lentiscus) ~ Mastic is widely used in the preparation of ointments for skin afflictions like burns and eczema, frostbite, cancers, as well as other external skin afflictions, including the manufacture of plasters. Mastic EO is used in products as well, both for this effect and its scent.
Skin Care Recipe ___________________________________
A teaspoon of any unscented cleansing creams with a slight drop of Mastic EO works well in cleansing the skin. Apply a warm wet washcloth to warm the skin, and gently massage it into the skin for 10 seconds, then warm the skin again with the warm wet washcloth and gently wipe. This is great in the morning as a wake-up ritual. This is also considered to be rejuvenating.
Other Uses: Mastic is found in varnishes.
DIFFUSE/DIFFUSION: Since Mastic oil is from a resinous material, it can be diffused by using a FanFuser on the scent disc but not from a glass-enclosed diffuser as the resin and will clog the diffuser. The scent should be used as an accessory odor, not the primary odor.
EMOTIONAL/ENERGETIC USE: Aleister Crowley considered Mastic to be pale yellow, energetically and clean, and free from prejudice, whether for or against any moral idea. It is used in a ritual blend to intensify them and quicken their rate of vibration. Mastic is used as incense for Pisces people.
BLENDS AND PERFUMERY ~ I like to use Mastic EO & Herb resin in my Natural Perfumery class as a tincture and used as a fixative where it lends a subtle smoky note.
Blends Best ~ Citrus scents, Lavender-fern combos as a top note and in floral odors. I enjoy using Mastic in massage blends.
Use the essential oils in moderation. Use the herb tea or resin when it is more appropriate.
HERBAL USE OF MASTIC ~ The Mastic fruit (berries) can be crushed to obtain an oil that is used in liquor, or they can be used whole to flavor preserved meats and sausages. The leaf and stems of the plants are burned to smoke meats. Masticha is often prepared in a liquid form, mixed with honey or sugar, and spooned into cold water as the main flavor for a refreshing drink. “In Greece, it is mixed with sugar and water to form a thick white cream eaten by the spoonful with dark bitter coffee.” — 375 Essential Oils & Hydrosols.
Pistacia lentiscus is used occasionally as a chewing resin to improve breath, prevent tooth decay, and heal the gums.
BATHING ~ Francis Bacon’s prescription for a bath is as follows, “First, before bathing, rub and anoint the Body with Oyle, and Salves, that the Bath’s moistening heate and virtue may penetrate into the Body, and not the liquor’s watery part: then sit 2 hours in the Bath; after Bathing wrap the Body in a seare-cloth made of Masticke, Myrrh, Pomander and Saffron, for staying the perspiration or breathing of the pores, until the softening of the Body, having layne thus in seare-cloth 24 hours, bee growne solid and hard. Lastly, with an oynment of Oyle, Salt and Saffron, the seare-cloth being taken off, anoint the Body.” (cited by Classen, Howes & Synnott)
CULINARY USE ~ “One typical spoon sweet is from the island of Chios called the ‘ipovrichio’ or submarine. It can be flavored with Vanilla or is made from mastic resin, for which the Aegean island is famous. This is a sugary fondant to be served on a teaspoon and dipped into a glass of ice-cold water, thus why it is referred to as a submarine. Once you get your spoon submerged, the fondant softens, and you go to work licking the spoon like a fondant lollipop of sorts. During the summer, you will see people at the beach or cafeterias enjoying a submarine. This dessert is loved by children and adults alike. Although the typical flavors are Vanilla and Mastic, if you opt to make the sweet dessert at home, you can also add fresh berry juices to flavor and experience a glimpse of summertime traditions in Greece.”3
• Greece also makes a resinated white or rose wine that’s infused with sap from an Aleppo pine tree (Pinus halepensis). This wine is called Retsina and emerged from an ancient winemaking tradition that can be traced back as far back as the 2nd century BC.4 This wine has a unique flavor said to have originated from the practice of sealing wine vessels, the amphorae, with the resin of this tree.
Since antiquity, the resin of the Mastic tree that grows on the Greek island of Chios is also used to flavor wine and gives it a very special and surprising taste.
JEANNE ROSE TOMATO TALES – Mastic
Mastic is a translucent sticky substance similar to tree sap, and when combined with sugar, lemon juice, and water is served on a spoon immersed in cold water. This is a special treat called a spoon sweet. In Greece, this ‘spoon sweet’ specialty is called a Submarine. It is delicious!
In December 1993, I had a very formal 8-course meal for friends, and the 7th course was a cheese course of Roquefort with Aromatherapy sweetmeats of Bergamot candied peels, Bitter Orange candied peels and Mastic sweet on Lavender Honey Thins with a delicious wine of Muscat de Beaumes de Venise. It was a very successful meal.
#2 – Mastic Tomato Tale
CHEWING MASTIC. In 2018 at a Resin Distillation Conference in Spokane, WA., I asked several well-known gum chewers if they wanted to try Mastic. “Yes, of course,” they said, but in fact, they were unable to learn to chew it or even try past 30 minutes. This is great gum and can be chewed for 4 hours without losing its eponymous taste, and it is good for the teeth.
And the occasional chewing of a Mastic ball will ease the pain of a tooth carie or cavity, act as a mouth antibacterial, and has in the past been used as a temporary tooth filling. Remember this when you travel out of the country to carry some Mastic resin with you, both to burn as a magical fragrant incense and also as a first aid remedy. Really, we are forgetting some of our simplest first-aid skills!
Mastic resin pieces are also delicious when chewed like American chewing gum. It has a mild taste that is not lost after hours of chewing, and it can be chewed for hours. The problem is that Mastic takes a few times to learn how to chew, as a small ball of resin needs to be soaked in the mouth first to get to perfect mastication texture. Then you need to roll it around in the mouth once in a while so that it doesn’t stick to your fillings.
Mastic is tasteless in a tasty way, and a small tear (piece) can be chewed for hours without seeming to melt away. Since it does not have a strong taste, it doesn’t get tiring to chew like American chewing gum. I put a small tear in my mouth when writing this part of the article, slowly let it soften in my mouth, and then chewed it a bit and still had it in my mouth three hours later. It was pleasant to chew. I also love Chicle but think I like Mastic more.
The taste is floral with a bitter edge. As you hold it in your mouth, saliva begins to flow, which softens the Mastic, chewing becomes easier, and the floral taste softens and becomes quite pleasant.
MASTIC TOMATO TALES #3
AROMATHERAPY SALONS … Years ago, I would have meetings in my home with women that I called “Aromatherapy Salons.” We would discuss various aromatic subjects, aromatherapy, essential oils, and drink fragrant tea, have tea cookies and sweetmeats. (A sweetmeat is a delicacy prepared with sugar, honey, or the like, as preserves, candy, or, formerly, cakes or pastries. Usually, they are any sweet delicacy of the confectionery or candy kind, such as candied fruit, sugar-covered nuts, sugarplums, bonbons, or balls or sticks of candy) One of my favorites sweetmeats was to use the Mastic from Greece that came as a smooth sweet white cream; a small spoonful on a cookie with tea was delicious, but it was especially tasty with bitter coffee.
• • •
HYDROSOL: I do not as yet know a source for the hydrosol or its use. However, I postulate that its hydrosol would make a good antibacterial mouthwash.
PLEASE NOTE ~ A true hydrosol should be specifically distilled for the hydrosol, not as a co-product or even a by-product of essential oil distillation. The plant’s cellular water has many components; most are lost under pressurized short steam runs for essential oil or by using dried material. We recommend that the producers specifically distill for a product by using plant material that is fresh.
Key Use ~ Resin is a masticatory and is also used to burn to cleanse spaces and EO in skin care.
HISTORICAL USES ~ The Mastic resin has been used for chewing since the time of Theophrastus, in relieving halitosis and as a filler for caries, and is also used in varnishes for oil pictures. It is also an ingredient in Ouzo. Ouzo is a high-proof drink whose production begins with distillation in copper stills of 96% alcohol by volume and herbs. Anise is added, sometimes with other flavorings such as Cardamom, Cinnamon, Cloves, Coriander, Fennel, Mastic, and Star Anise.
“In January 1992, National Geographic mentioned that Columbus, sent by Genoese traders to cash in on the money-making crop of Mastic, visited Chios at least once”. — The Aromatherapy Book.
INTERESTING INFORMATION ~ It is believed that the Sardinian warbler [a bird] is only found near fruiting shrubs of this species [Mastic].2 The tear-shaped drops of Mastic gum are associated with Saint Isadoros, whose martyred body was dragged under a Mastic tree where it wept the resinous tears called Mastic.
Ancient Egyptians employed Mastic during their embalming procedures, while Biblical scholars believe that bakha—derived from the Hebrew term for weeping (and, thus, the tear-shaped pieces of Mastic gum)—was none other than the Mastic tree.
ABSTRACT/SCIENTIFIC DATA ABOUT THE GUM RESIN MASTIC ~
—–Researchers at Nottingham University Hospital and Barnet General Hospital have found that Chios Mastic is an effective treatment for ulcers. The findings showed that even in small doses of one gram a day for two weeks, Mastic gum could cure peptic ulcers.
—–In recent years, university researchers have provided scientific evidence for the medicinal properties of Mastic resin. A 1985 study by the University of Thessaloniki and by the Meikai University discovered that Mastic could reduce bacterial plaque in the mouth by 41.5%. A 1998 study by the University of Athens found that Mastic oil has antibacterial and antifungal properties. A recent and extensive study showed that Mastic gum reduced H. pylori populations after an insoluble and sticky polymer (poly-β-myrcene) constituent of Mastic gum was removed and taken for a longer period of time. Further analysis showed the acid fraction was the most active antibacterial extract, and the most active pure compound was isomasticadienolic acid.
CONTRAINDICATIONS ~ Side effects of taking Mastic gum may include nausea, diarrhea, and constipation.
Arctander, Steffen. Perfume and Flavor Materials of Natural Origin. Arctander. 1960
Aromatherapy Studies Course/ Jeanne Rose, San Francisco, California, 1992
Dioscorides. The Greek Herbal of Dioscorides. Translated in 1655 by Goodyer and printed in 1933.
Guenther, Ernest. The Essential Oils. Krieger Publishing. Florida. 1976
1Langenheim, Jean H. Plant Resins • Chemistry, Evolution, Ecology, Ethnobotany. Timber Press. 2003
2Mabberley, D. J. Mabberley’s Plant-Book, 3rd edition, 2014 printing, Cambridge University Press.
Rose, Jeanne. 375 Essential Oils and Hydrosols. Berkeley, California: Frog, Ltd., 1999
Rose, Jeanne. The Aromatherapy Book: Applications & Inhalations. San Francisco, California:
3Wikipedia – Mastic
Other References are included within the body of the work.
The Jeanne Rose Aromatherapy Studies Course carries these blog posts as well as much more information on the many aspects of essential oils, hydrosols, absolutes, and aromatic ingredients for health and skin care.
My latest analyses of Mastic using the Advanced Vocabulary of Odor – See Natural Perfumery Workbook to use.