The Chios Mastic is a gum resin extracted from Pistacia lentiscus: the name derives from the greek “pistakio”, the consonant with the Persian “pistah”, which means “full of flour.”
Pistacia lentiscus is a plant that grows from sea level up to 600 meters. It is a typical component of the Mediterranean evergreen, often in association with the olive and myrtle; very adaptable to soil, but prefers acidic soils, approximately 1 -3 m high, rarely arboreal, with strong resinous smell, but the putty purest and fine, firm and fragrant, is found only in an area south of Chios island called “Mastichoria”, which includes about 20 villages gathered in a cooperative of family businesses that collect the resin during the summer. Each adult tree, then about 15 years of age, annually produces 100-200 grams of mastic, resin ivory, which will tend to turn yellow over time, the intense aroma and taste.
The earliest historical references to mastic of Chios and its medicinal uses date back to Herodotus in the fifth century BC. But a description targeted to its medicinal properties is for the first time in the text of Dioscorides, military doctor under Vespasian and Titus. Pliny the Elder (23-79 AD) in his “Naturalis Historia”, appoints the Chios mastic and also suggests using the oil extracted from the fruits of Mastic and mixed with wax to heal the bruises, as well as the fresh leaves for inflammation of the oral cavity. Even Galen, the famous physician of Pergamum, describes the mastic tree in his book “The Virtues of simple medicines”.
This text describes both the Mastic as such, that the mastic. Legend has it that the “tree of Schina” began to issue his “healing tears” to mourn the fate of San Isidoro, Christian martyr, when he passed through a forest of mastic trees on the way to the execution by the Romans in 250 AD, the period in which the beginning of the intensive cultivation of Pistacia lentiscus in the island of Chios. It is also said that the crystalline resin produced on the island of Chios with that degree of purity that ensures the effectiveness medicinal product that only at that particular place in the world because of the volcano submerged in the sea off the island itself. Certainly we can not say that the trade was profitable and that the mastic resin was well known, so that the Genoese, who used them to feel less thirst, relieve nausea and protect sailors from illnesses during long sea voyages , they occupied the island of Chios called Scio then, in 1346, and held it until 1556, a period when it was occupied by the Turks. Even Christopher Columbus sailed to the island of Chios, as noted by an Italian postage stamp issued in 1992, to stock the precious mastic.
The plant complex that characterizes the resin and essential oil derived from Pistacia lentiscus is especially rich in triterpene derivatives, for anti-inflammatory and antibacterial, like in particular the alpha terpineol, alpha-pinene, the myrcene, the caryophyllene, the methyl isoeugenol and germacrene. Extracts are also present also anthocyanins, tocopherols, arabinogalactans acting mildly immunostimulatory and organic acids.
The mastic of Chios is known to have high antibacterial activity and a fungicide and to protect the stomach from some insults cancerous.
It acts quickly against peptic ulcers and is particularly effective in the case of infection by Helicobacter pylori. As regards the effectiveness against H. pylori, more recent studies have shown that the mastic is able to induce significant morphological changes in load of the bacterium itself. The gum resin also has high anti-inflammatory and antioxidant, and is particularly effective in the treatment of patients with Crohn’s disease, which has been shown to decrease in a statistically significant level of gastro-intestinal tract inflammation.
Putty, already used for this purpose since ancient Greece, has finally shown a strong antiseptic and healing, useful in diseases of the oral cavity such as gingivitis and periodontitis. In particular has been studied bactericidal activity against Streptococcus mutans, the authors considered the main causative agent of dental caries.