No doubt that Chios mastiha’s uniqueness is due to the exclusiveness of its birthplace, to its exquisite therapeutic properties and to its exceptional aroma, for which it has been famous ever since antiquity, winning a reputation of a remarkable health ally.
Its uniqueness is emphasized by its multi-usefulness and by the fact that it was prized by and therefore integrated in the culture of different people and civilizations, especially in the East Mediterranean.
Chios mastiha, “a tear that pleases, perfumes, relieves and heals”, has a variety of applications and uses, being a main ingredient in food and drink industry, in pharmaceutical and chemical industry, in cosmetics and perfume industry.
Chios mastiha, exported from Chios all over the world, is the basis for the production of a great variety of mastiha products, such as: bakery products, sweets, jams, ice-creams, chocolates, chewing gums, candies, beverages, tea, coffee, dairy products, pasta, sauces, liquors, ouzo and wine. It is also used as an ingredient for ointments against burns and skin troubles. Rosin is a derivative of mastiha used for the production of surgical stitches, while mastiha oil is widely used in perfume and cosmetics industry. Finally, thanks to its quality as a colour stabilizer, mastiha is used for the production of high grade varnishes. Here are the basic uses of Chios natural mastiha:
- Multiple culinary uses
Chios mastiha is one of the oldest known spices in the Mediterranean and lends its distinctive aroma in many foodstuffs. Mastiha has been traditionally used as a flavouring for festive breads, brioches and biscuits. In certain areas of Greece, mostly of the Aegean Sea, mastiha is often used as a flavouring for Easter sweets. In the northern part of the country, it is also used in confectionery, mostly for mastiha-flavoured desserts and for a delicious ice-cream known as kaimaki, which has an unusual chewy and stringy texture thanks to the addition of Chios mastiha as a thickening agent. But modern Greek chefs have proved that this spice with its unique aromatic, wood- and pine-like, exotic taste can go along with almost everything, from tomatoes in a tasteful sauce to white wine and lemon in most delicate sauces, and even to chocolate with which it makes a perfect match. Moreover, mastiha makes an important dietary supplement especially in cases of lack of trace elements. In Cyprus they even use it to flavour bread. In Lebanon and Syria they make a sort of traditional mastiha-flavoured cheese. For Arabs, mastiha is considered as a great luxury for flavouring food, sweets or milk. As a spoon sweet, mastiha is served in a particularly traditional way, inside a glass of water, a version known as ypovryhio (=submarine).
- Use in drink industry
Mastiha is widely used for making liquors and ouzo. Mastiha as a drink is usually served as an aperitif. “Chios Mastiha” liquor is very famous, as well as “Mastiha Ouzo”. Thanks to the addition of mastiha, the above alcoholic drinks acquire its flavour; what’s more, alcohol’s harmful effect on the stomach is definitely moderated. In the Arab world and specifically in Iraq, mastiha is usually added in the local drink Arak. Moreover, the Arab people often flavour their drinking water by burning mastiha. They let its smoke permeate a jug which is then filled with water.
- Use of mastiha in modern cosmetology
The ancient belief that mastiha is gifted with therapeutic and cosmetic properties is supported today by modern scientific research. Modern cosmetology has started to use mastiha’s clinically tested and proved antimicrobial, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and therapeutic properties. Cosmetics enriched with mastiha oil guarantee deep skin cleansing and protect from skin aging. At the same time, they normalize sebum secretions, thus reducing oily skin problems such as excessive shine. As it reinforces the formation of collagen, a frequent use thereof can help dealing with wrinkles and guarantees greater skin elasticity. Mastiha oil further improves the general look of the skin and deeply moisturizes it, while it also has a particularly positive effect on acne-prone types of skin and skins with black spots. Today, there are many mastiha-based beauty products on sale, such as face creams, soaps, bath foams and shampoos.
- Use in Dentistry and Orthodontics
In dentistry, mastiha is used as a component of dental fillings and tooth moulds. Chewing mastiha assists in mouth disinfection, in reducing the frequency of orthodontic problems and in gum strengthening. Moreover, it humidifies the oral cavity, thanks to salivation, thus cleaning and perfuming the mouth. Chewing mastiha systematically eliminates or inhibits significantly the formation of microbial plaques. Therefore, it helps preventing caries and periodontal troubles. Finally, eugenol contained in mastiha oil is used today in dentistry as an antiseptic and soothing substance. Mastiha is used as a toothpaste and mouth wash ingredient for cleanness and disinfection of the oral cavity.
- Medicinal – pharmaceutical use
Mastiha fights helicobacter Pylori according to recent studies carried out by Nottingham university and published in the reliable medical journal The New England Journal of Medicine. Furthermore, universities in Greece and abroad currently study mastiha’s action in relation to diabetes mellitus, cholesterol and triglycerides. It is also worth mentioning mastiha’s effect on liver function by stimulating its detoxifying activity. Today, products such as mastiha powder, mastiha capsules and many more are widely on sale and are actually used by many people for dealing with the above health problems. Mastiha is also used in ointments against burns, frostbites, skin troubles as well as in adhesive plasters.
- Use in surgery
Mastiha and its derivative called rosin (the resinous substance left after the separation of the essential oil from mastiha) are used for making surgical filaments. That type of stitch is absorbed by the organism, without the need of human intervention for removing it. A medical supply called MASTISOL (made in U.S.A.) containing mastiha is used for bandage fixation. Thus, the bandage is fixed with the help of a natural product that does not cause irritation or infection on wounds.
- Industrial use
As mastiha is partially dissoluble in alcohol and fully dissoluble in ether, terpentine and other organic solvents, it is widely used in industry. Mastiha oil is used as a perfume but also as a perfume stabilizer. In textile and cotton industry it is used as a colour stabilizer for textile starching, especially for silk. In tanning industry, in elastics and plastics industry, in the production of colours, glues and glutinous substances, in camphor production and in colour printing, mastiha is used as a colour stabilizer. It is also used for making high grade varnishes, such as airplane, musical instruments, furniture varnishes, etc. as well as Spanish (sealing) wax.