MASTIC, Frankincense, Galbanum, and more … I love all the resins; I love to burn them as incense
and use their essential oils in healing blends and via inhalation.
MASTIC – an Ancient Resin produced by a tree
By Jeanne Rose ~ 11-30-22
COMMON NAME/LATIN BINOMIAL ~ Gum Mastic / (Pistacia lentiscus L.) is a tear-like oleoresin obtained from a flowering shrub-like tree. When distilled, it has very little oil. It is called Chios Mastic Gum in Greece.
Family ~ Anacardiaceae
COUNTRIES OF ORIGINS ~ Mastic is known from Greece but grows in Mediterranean Europe and Northern Africa, Algeria, Morocco, and the Canary Islands. Only the true Mastic tree, var. chia, has the proper qualities considered desirable. It is true to its terroir, and this variety grows well only in the specific area with this perfect terroir, the southeast corner of the island of Chios, a Greek island in the Aegean Sea.
GENERAL DESCRIPTION OF PLANT HABITAT AND GROWTH ~ The Mastic tree, Pistacia lentiscus, is an evergreen, flowering shrub, growing 1 to 5 m high in dry and rocky areas in Mediterranean Europe. It has a vivid fruity smell of resin; it is a dioecious tree with separate male and female plants. 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 green flowers 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 at first red and then black when ripe, about 4 mm in diameter. This is edible.
This 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. Small cuts are made in the bark of the main branches, and the trees drip the sap onto the specially covered ground below, and the resin is collected. 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 This small bushy tree produces the natural oleoresin from the trunk, obtained by wounding the trunk and larger branches with a gouge-like instrument.
ENDANGERED OR NOT: The Pistacia lentiscus is considered threatened and endangered.
Jeanne Rose collection of Mastic from 1973 to the present.
MASTIC RESIN OF THE PLANT, HOW DISTILLED, EXTRACTION METHODS, AND YIELDS ~ Mastic is a resin, or more correctly, an oleoresin containing a little oil, obtained from an evergreen dioecious shrub, Pistacia lentiscus L. Mastic occurs in yellow or greenish-yellow rounded or pear-shaped tears about 3 mm in diameter. The tears are brittle but become plastic when chewed. The essential oil is produced by steam distillation from the oleoresin or occasionally directly from the leaves and branches. 160-170 tonnes per annum from the male plants on Chios.
THE YIELD is 0.7-1 and occasionally up to 3% EO.
ORGANOLEPTIC CHARACTERISTICS OF MASTIC ~ Mastic oil is a pale yellow, clear, slightly viscous, and with a bitter taste; the intensity of scent is 5-6.
Taste ~ Mastic is the world’s first chewing gum. I have been chewing this gum and tasting the sweet for weeks, and the taste is very eponymous. I suggest that you give it a try as it is a very special savory, most memorable taste. It starts out floral and slightly bitter, and then it is herbal and floral. Delicious!
ODOR DESCRIPTION/ AROMA ASSESSMENT: The Mastic odor is earthy and green and woody, with a slightly fungal odor and back notes of fruity and citrus, herbaceous, and hay. It is excellent to use in a fragrance for a man or for a darker-haired woman.
GENERAL PROPERTIES of Mastic
PROPERTIES AND USES ~ Gum Mastic is used in medicine and products like medical creams, dental toothpaste, and cures for ulcers; it is used in the paint industry, cosmetics, paint varnish, and in artist 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 old Worlde chewing gum, while Spruce and Pine gums were traditionally chewed in the Newe Worlde, USA, and Canada.
Years ago, I would have meetings in my home with my students and friends that I called “Aromatherapy Salons”. We would discuss various aromatic subjects, aromatherapy, essential oils, drink fragrant herbal teas, have tea cookies and sweetmeats. (A sweetmeat is a delicacy, prepared with sugar, honey, as a cake or pastry.) 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 and it is especially tasty with bitter coffee.
Mastic cream from Greece
APPLICATION/ SKINCARE: GUM MASTIC (Pistacia lentiscus) is widely used to prepare ointments for skin afflictions like burns and eczema, frostbite, cancers, as well as external skin afflictions, including the manufacture of plasters. Mastic EO is used in products for this effect and scent.
DIFFUSE/DIFFUSION ~ EMOTIONAL/ENERGETIC USE ~ The mystery of aromatherapy is to find that elusive essence that can create various emotional and physical changes. Aleister Crowley considered Mastic a pale yellow color energetically and is clean, and free from prejudice, whether for or against any moral idea.
It is used in any ritual blend to intensify them and quicken their rate of vibration. Mastic is used as an incense for Pisces people.
BLENDING & PERFUMERY ~ Mastic blends best with citrus scents, Lavender-fern combos as a top note, and in floral odors. In perfume, use the tincture as a fixative. I enjoy using Mastic in massage blends. I particularly like to use Mastic EO in my Natural Perfumery class as a tincture and as a fixative where it lends a subtle smoky note.
HYDROSOL ~ I have not as yet had the opportunity to experience Mastic Hydrosol.
CULINARY &HERBAL USE OF 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. I find it delicious!
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. Regular consumption of Mastic resin has been proven to absorb cholesterol, thus easing high blood pressure, and reducing the risk of heart attacks.
In 1993, I had a very formal 8-course meal for friends, and for the 7th course was a cheese course of Roquefort with Aromatherapy sweetmeats of Bergamot candied peels, Bitter Orange candied peels, and Mastic spoon sweet with Lavender Honey Thins and a delicious wine of Muscat de Beaumes de Venise. It was a very successful meal.
KEY USE ~ The Olde Worlde gum.
INTERESTING INFORMATION ~ The word “masticate” comes from an ancient Greek word from the Greek practice of chewing this interestingly flavorful resin as a gum to freshen the breath and to fight tooth decay.
JEANNE ROSE’S MASTIC TOMATO TALES
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 it 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.
In 2018 at a Resin Distillation Conference in Spokane, WA., I asked several well-known gum-chewers [thankyou, Monica, and Kendall] 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 caries 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, 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 our simplest first-aid skills!
This work is sponsored and supported by Prima Fleur Botanicals.
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.
3Wikipedia – Mastic
Mabberley, 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:
Herbal Studies Course/ Jeanne Rose & Berkeley, California: North Atlantic Books, 1992
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SOME CAUTIONS TO REMEMBER for all Plants and their Parts
DISCLAIMER: This work is intended for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for accurate diagnosis and treatment by a qualified health care professional. Dosages are often not given, as that is a matter between you and your healthcare provider. The author is neither a chemist nor a medical doctor. The content herein is the product of research and personal and practical experience. Institute of Aromatic & Herbal Studies – Jeanne Rose©