In the natural health world, there are a lot of remedies which come and go quickly. It is nearly impossible to keep up with all of these trends. Yet, some of these natural remedies stay in the spotlight – and for good reason: they actually work. This is the case with mastic gum, a tree resin from Greece which is proven to help fight h. pylori infections, ulcers, candida, and much more.
What is Mastic Gum
Mastic gum is a resin which comes from pistacia lentiscus, which is an evergreen tree belonging to the pistachio family. When the mastic tree is scored, the resin starts to flow out of it forming “teardrops.” The drops solidify when they hit the air. After about 15 to 30 days the mastic resin becomes totally crystallized.1
Once the resin has crystallized, it can be chewed as a gum. In fact, the word masticate comes from the Greek word mastikhan meaning “to grind the teeth.” When you first start chewing the mastic gum resin, it has a bitter taste (which admittedly can take some getting used to). After chewing for a while, the bitterness goes away and you have only an aroma.2, 3
Alternatively, mastic gum can be ground into a powder then used in culinary dishes. It helps to freeze the mastic beforehand to make it easier to grind with a mortar and pestle.4
Mastic Gum in History
The use of mastic gum goes back centuries. Greeks traditionally use mastic in many culinary dishes ranging from savory sauces to desserts. Mastic is also a key ingredient in the liquor called mastika or mastiha.
The Greeks have also known about the medicinal of mastic gum for centuries. Pedanios Dioscorides, the “Patron Saint of Herbal Medicine” wrote about mastic in a book called De Materia Medica in 70 AD.
Dioscorides noted many benefits of mastic gum, including that it helped treat internal bleeding (aka ulcer), is a diuretic, strengthens teeth, and fights coughs. His observations are now being confirmed by research.5
There is actually a cool legend around mastic gum. When St. Isidore was tortured by the Romans, he was left bleeding under a mastic tree. The trees sympathized with Isidore and started to cry. Their teardrops are mastic gum.
However, others say that the secret to mastic gum is the underwater volcanoes of Chios. These volcanoes produce the conditions which allow the mastic trees to “bleed” their resin.6
Chios Mastic versus Arabic Mastic
The mastic gum tree was long thought to only grow in the Greek island of Chios (hence the name Chios mastic gum). However, the mastic tree has been cultivated in many areas around the Mediterranean.7
Yet, the Chios mastic gum is considered different than the ones grown in other areas: only the Chios mastic trees “bleed” resin when cut. Thus, the EU has granted Chios mastic protected designation of origin (PDO) and protected geographical indication (PGI).8 This is the same labeling system which is used with products like Champagne and similar to the appellation system which used with wines.
Why is mastic gum sometimes called Arabic gum if it is grown in Chios? The reason is because researchers in the Arabic world were the first in modern times to re-discover the health benefits of mastic.
It was during the 1980s that researchers in Iraq (yes, Iraq used to be a highly-developed country!) discovered that mastic gum has anti-ulcer properties and people in the Middle East started using it. As use of mastic gum started to spread, people referred to it as “Arabic gum.” It is also sometimes called “Yemen gum.”9, 10
Note that mastic gum should not be confused with gum Arabic, which is resin from the acacia tree. This is a substitute and will NOT provide the same benefits as true Chios mastic!
Mastic Gum for H. Pylori (Ulcers)
Ancient Greek medicinal literature – including works from Hippocrates and Dioscorides — mentions the stomach-healing benefits of mastic. However, it wasn’t until the 1980s that modern researchers nook notice of mastic gum.
Coincidentally, the 1980s is when researchers realized the true cause of ulcers is a bacteria called helicopter pylori.11
H. pylori causes 80% of ulcers in the stomach and 90% of ulcers in the duodenum. Considering that h. pylori is found in 2/3 of the world’s population, this is something we should really worry about! To make matters worse, h. pylori is also linked to stomach cancer.
H. pylori normally is asymptomatic, so the only reliable way to know if you have it is to get tested. Normally your doctor needs to order the test for you. However, True Health Labs offers a test you can take at home. You can order the h. pylori test here.
If your test shows positive for h. pylori, the good news is that mastic gum can kill h. pylori. Some of the studies which show this include:
- 1998 study published in The New England Journal of Medicine found that even small dosages of mastic gum of 1 mg per day over a course of 2 weeks kills h. pylori. (Source)
- 2007 study published in Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy found that mastic reduced the h. pylori levels in mice by 30-fold (Source)
- 2010 study published in the journal Phytomedicine showed that administering mastic gum in patients in dosages of 1.05 grams per day eradicated h. pylori in over 1/3 of patients. (Source)
Considering how effective mastic gum is at killing h. pylori, it is something that should definitely be considered as an alternative to antibiotics for ulcers. While antibiotics can kill h. pylori, there are numerous side effects – including the long-term damage which could occur by creating a dysbiosis of gut flora.
Note that mastic gum alone isn’t always effective in killing h. pylori. If you have a serious ulcer, you might want to take treatment up a notch – such as with the use of matula tea. Read this post on How to Treat H. Pylori Naturally for more info.
UPDATE: Good news! There is now an h. pylori test that you can order directly without a doctor’s order! While I’m a HUGE fan of having a doctor’s guidance, I understand the need to know whether you have h. pylori or not before you invest in a practitioner.
Other Uses for Mastic Gum
Though mastic gum is best known for treating h. pylori, it also has numerous other health benefits. Some of the main ones are listed below.
Mastic Gum for GERD
Contrary to what most people think, GERD (heartburn, acid reflux) is NOT caused by too much acid. There is mounting evidence that GERD is actually caused by a bacterial infection and that h. pylori plays a big role. Since mastic kills bacteria, it makes sense that studies show it helps treat GERD in patients.12, 13
Studies show that chewing mastic gum decreases dental damage, tooth plaque, and bad breath. The mechanism of action is likely that the mastic gum is killing the bacteria in your mouth which causes decay.14, 15
Mastic has been shown to help control regulatory inflammation responses. This research is really exciting because inflammation is an underlying cause of many disorders. It is particularly promising for gastrointestinal disorders such as Crohn’s disease and IBS.18, 19
In addition to being an antibacterial, mastic is an antifungal. It has been shown to kill candida albicans (yeast infections) as well as other types of fungal infections.20
Mastic Gum Dosage
If you want to take mastic gum for dental health, then chew the gum. However, if you are taking mastic gum for other uses such as killing h. pylori or treating GERD or candida, you’ll want to take mastic as capsules. The capsule form means that the mastic gum will get into your stomach where it can provide the most benefits.
As little as 1 gram of mastic gum daily has been shown to have benefits. To get full benefits and eradicate h. pylori, follow this mastic gum dosage:
- Week 1: 1000mg of mastic gum daily on an empty stomach
- Week 2: 2000mg of mastic gum daily, divided into two dosages taken on an empty stomach (take in the morning and afternoon)
- Week 3: 3000mg of mastic gum daily, divided into three dosages taken on an empty stomach (morning, afternoon, and evening)
Where to Buy Mastic Gum
True mastic gum only grows on the island of Chios. Because production is limited, real Chios mastic gum can be a bit pricey. There are many mastic knockoffs available, so be careful that you are buying the real thing and not a cheap mastic imitation!
I like this brand of mastic gum. It is high quality and still reasonably priced. One bottle will last you for a 3-week treatment. You might need a second bottle to maintenance treatment. You can buy it here.
Have you tried mastic gum? I’d love to hear your experiences with it!