Mastic gum was used by the ancient Greeks, Babylonians and Egyptians in many products, from chewing gum to healing formulas. In the 2nd century B.C., Galenus wrote that mastic was used for improving the condition of the blood and for bronchitis. Christopher Columbus wrote of its antibacterial value and its use against cholera. Thomas Fuller’s Pharmacopoeia extemporanea, published in 1710, lists many ancient formulas that include mastica.
Traditionally, mastic has been used as a food preservative, for dyspepsia and other disorders of the digestive tract, to prevent dental caries and other gum and mouth problems, and to help control diabetes. In Europe mastic gum has been used to help normalize cholesterol, triglyceride and blood pressure levels, as well as in the preparation of ointments for skin problems, including burns, eczema and frost-bite. Because Mastic gum is valuable for oral hygiene, it is used in toothpaste, mouthwash, and as a component in dental fillings.
Pharmaceutical companies use it in the production of pills and capsules, in self-absorbing surgical threads, and doctors use it for sticking a septic bandage on a surgical wound. The Kurds add mastic to their drink arac, similar to the Greeks’ ouzo, to prevent damage to the stomach. This wide range of application points to mastic gum’s toxicological safety.
Many modern researchers have confirmed some of the traditional uses of mastic gum, including its roles in oral health and healthy digestive functioning. Researchers at the University of Nottingham used mastic gum in clinical trials on patients with peptic ulcers. Mastic relieved the pain and seemed to clear the stomach and duodenal ulceration within 2 weeks. They later confirmed that mastic gum kills Helicobacter pylori, at concentrations as low as 0.06 mg/ml. [Results published in the NEJM.]
Mastic gum has been shown in a more recent study to inhibit the growth of H. pylori as well as act as an antibiotic against the bacterium. Mastic gum has been tested against ulcer formation and healing in various models. One study involved experimentally-induced gastric and duodenal ulcers in rats. At a dose of 500 mg/kg, it reduced gastric secretions, protected cells, and demonstrated a significant reduction in the intensity of gastric mucosal damage, confirming a low toxicity potential. In another study, human patients with endoscopy-proven duodenal ulcers were given either one gram of mastic or placebo daily for two weeks. Eighty percent of the patients taking mastic gum reported improvements in their symptoms of stomach pain and seventy percent had healing changes in the gastric mucosa as observed by endoscope.
Helicobacter pylori is one of the most common chronic bacterial infections in humans and affects most populations throughout the world. Over 75% of cases of gastric ulcers and over 95% of duodenal ulcers are infected with H. pylori. It is also blamed for other gastrointestinal problems such as dyspepsia and heartburn. A number of investigators have shown that H. pylori-infected individuals with duodenal ulcer and H. pylori-positive healthy volunteers have higher basal serum gastrin levels compared with uninfected controls, indicating increased potential for hydrochloric acid production. Although it is a major pathogenic factor in gastroduodenal disease, including chronic type B gastritis, duodenal ulcers, and gastric adenocarcinoma, H. pylori has shown increasing resistance to standard treatment with antibiotics. The World Health Organization confirms that H. pylori is a major cause of stomach cancer. Mastic gum has been shown to work against many strains of H. pylori.
Researchers at Aristotle University in Greece found that topical mastic gum reduced bacterial plaque by 41.5%. Mastic gum drew leukocytes into the liquid found in the gingival, which also reduced the toxins in the bacterial plaque. Other European researchers confirm that mastic can help preserve and strengthen gums and teeth. Recent research at the University of Athens Department of Pharmacy has shown that mastic and mastic oil have significant antibacterial and fungicidal properties.
Mastic gum is well tolerated and has no serious side effects when consumed at the recommended dietary supplement dose of 1-2 grams per day. As with any dietary supplement, please see your physician before use.
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