What is Mastic Oil?
Mastic oil is derived from the resin of the mastic tree known scientifically as Pistacia lentiscus. Mastic is often sold commercially as Arabic gum or Yemen gum. It is traditionally produced on the Greek island of Chios and is also known as ‘tears of Chios’ because like many natural resins it resembles droplets or tears.
Mastic resin itself is initially a sap which gets sun dried to form brittle pieces of translucent resin. It is sometimes chewed which softens the resin and it becomes an opaque, white form of gum. When chewed, it has a bitter flavor to begin with but after chewing for a while, it gives off a refreshing flavor similar to pine or cedar.
History of Mastic
Mastic gets its name from a Greek verb – ‘mastichein’ meaning to gnash your teeth. This is the source of a far more familiar English verb ‘masticate’ meaning to chew and mastic is used synonymously with gum in a variety of languages.
Mastic has a very long and illustrious history of use. Records indicate the Greeks have harvested it for over 2500 years. It was first mentioned by Hippocrates who used the resin to prevent various health complaints including digestive issues and colds and also to freshen the breath. The Romans used mastic as an ingredient in a spiced wine together with honey.
During the Ottoman Empire, the best mastic crops were harvested by the sultan and sent to his personal harem. Mastic was incredibly valuable and when the Ottoman Empire ruled Chios, the punishment for stealing the resin was death.
Mastic essential oil is very expensive because of the relative scarcity of the trees and the long and complicated cultivation process. Producing the resin from which the essential oil is derived takes an entire year for local growers.
The mastic harvest takes place each year from July to early October. The area surrounding the trees is first cleared and then sprinkled with calcium carbonate. Every four or five days, several incisions have to be made in the tree’s bark to release its sap. These droplets of sap hang down and resemble tear drops which is where the resin gets its local name – ‘tears of Chios’.
It takes between two and three weeks for the first crystals of sap to harden then fall from the tree. The dry pieces are collected and then washed in natural, pure spring water. The farmers then spend much of their winter separating and cleaning the droplets by hand. Some of the finished product is sold as mastic gum but it is also steam distilled to produce mastic oil.
Mastic Essential Oil Benefits
While mastic essential oil is far from the most popular essential oil on the market, it does have a variety of excellent health benefits. According to research, mastic oil contains monoterpenes and a number of therapeutic compounds which confer various medicinal properties. Mastic essential oil contains myrcene, limonene, alpha-pinene, gamma-terpinene and Terpinene-4-ol.
Mastic essential oil is anti-bacterial, analgesic, anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, anti-spasmodic and decongestant. It also offers lymphatic support and can help strengthen the veins. These properties give mastic essential oil the following uses :
1) Oral Hygiene
If you are looking for a great, natural alternative to your generic toothpaste, mastic essential oil fits the bill. According to research, mastic oil has excellent, natural antibacterial properties that can help protect against plaque and gum disease.
It is thousands of years since Hippocrates mentioned its use to freshen the breath but his advice is as relevant today as it ever was. Mastic essential oil can also help fight the bacteria that causes bad breath which will please you and the people close to you. (1)
How to Use Mastic Oil for Oral Health
Mix one tablespoon of baking soda with a tablespoon of vegetable glycerine and add 10 drops of mastic essential oil. Stir the ingredients well and then put the mixture in a sealed jar. Use this mixture to brush your teeth twice each day. Not only will it help to freshen up your breath but it will also strengthen the gums and protect your teeth from decay.
You can also use mastic essential oil to make a natural mouthwash with just a few natural ingredients. Add a few drops of mastic essential oil to a glass of water or green tea and use it to rinse out your mouth several times each day.
In the ongoing search for an effective cancer treatment, no stone is being left unturned and mastic is one of many plants that researchers have been paying close attention to. While studies are at an early stage, signs are definitely promising.
One study published in 2009 examined the effects of mastic oil on lung cancer. The researchers concluded that the oil was effective and may inhibit the growth of tumors. (2) Another study published two years earlier found that mastic gum had an inhibitory effect on prostate cancer cells. (3)
Admittedly, studies are at a very early stage when it comes to the anti-cancer potential of mastic and mastic oil but the signs are positive and researchers have recommended further studies in the future.
3) Antimicrobial Uses
According to research mastic essential oil contains excellent anti-fungal and anti-inflammatory properties that can help treat a variety of illnesses. As well as its ability to destroy oral bacteria, there is evidence that mastic oil can help eradicate the fungi and bacteria responsible for peptic ulcers. (4)
4) Crohn’s Disease and Anti-Inflammatory Uses
Studies into the biological properties of mastic and mastic oil have revealed that it contains natural anti-inflammatory properties that can help treat various disorders including autoimmune conditions like Crohn’s disease and asthma.
Crohn’s disease is a chronic inflammatory disorder that affects the gastrointestinal tract causing numerous symptoms such as diarrhea, stomach pain and significant weakness and weight loss. According to research, mastic oil may help to treat the condition primarily because of its ability to suppress the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines.
Research published in 2007 found that treatment with Chios mastic helped improve many of the symptoms of the disease in human subjects. It was able to regulate antioxidant status and inflammation and researchers concluded that it was worthy of further study. It could prove to be a valuable, natural alternative to long-term use of corticosteroids. (5)
5) Spice Up Your Sex Life
If you find that your sex life has gone a bit stale and needs some spice, then mastic oil is one of many essential oils with a reputation as a natural aphrodisiac. This reputation may have its roots in history. During the Ottoman occupation of Chios, 30,000 people were killed in a massacre but the villages where mastic was harvested were spared because of its value to Turkey and probably to the sultan himself. The Sultan’s personal harem are said to have used mastic because of its aphrodisiac abilities.
There is no research to support this historic use of mastic but there is certainly no harm in trying it.
6) Other Uses
Mastic oil is often used in the form of a spray because its delightful scent and antiseptic qualities can freshen up your home and kill harmful germs. It can also be used around the home to repel insects.
Mastic oil is often included as an ingredient in commercial skin products and used to treat minor wound, bites and burns.
- Do not take mastic essential oil internally.
- If you are applying the oil to treat a minor wound or bite, make sure that you dilute it in a suitable carrier oil first.
- There is not enough evidence to confirm whether mastic oil is safe for pregnant women and nursing moms. Stay on the safe side and avoid.