Mastic Gum Uses
What Is Mastic Gum and How Is It Used?
Mastic gum, or Mastiha, is a hard, resinous substance derived from the sap of an evergreen tree that is native to the Mediterranean Basin. The mastic tree, or Pistacia lentiscu, is primarily cultivated on the Greek isle of Chios for the purpose of harvesting the piney resin, which is adored for its gastronomic and medicinal uses. It tastes earthy, piney, and somewhat sweet and citrusy and is known for being the world’s first chewing gum—but its uses span far beyond that.
Mastic Gum for Health
The uses of mastic gum for health date back many centuries to ancient Greece, where it was used as a remedy for a range of ailments. The first recorded medicinal uses for mastic gum came from a man by the name of Dioscorides, who is thought to be the founder of pharmacology. In the first century, he noted mastiha to be a treatment for stomach ailments, coughs, and bad breath.
Today, it is still touted for its treatment of digestive and respiratory issues, toothaches, ulcers, and bad breath and revered for its antiseptic, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory properties.
Mastic Gum in Food
Mastic gum has been used in food for many centuries and is an important ingredient of many beloved dishes around the world, including:
- Arabian Salik
- Greek Easter Cookies
- Turkish Delight, or Lokum
- Lebanese Bouza
- Egyptian Lemon Chicken Soup
- Various Renditions of Mastic Ice Cream
Mastiha has such a unique flavor and it is growing in popularity around the world, which has prompted many chefs to employ it in their dishes. We highly recommend doing the same. Experiment with it and have fun!
How to Use Mastic Gum for Culinary Purposes
Mastic gum can be used just like most other spices, either cooking it in or sprinkling it on after, but it needs to be processed differently. Because it is a resinous sap, it begins to soften and turn sticky after reaching a certain temperature. Grinding it in your spice grinder would heat it up and cause its from to change. It could ruin your grinder, blocking it up with a sticky mess. Because of this, you’ll definitely want to use a motar and pestle but even hand grinding will cause a rise in temperature. To make the process easier, it’s best to start by placing the mastic gum in the freezer for awhile. Working with ice cold mastiha will give you the time you need to grind it into a powder.
More Information About Mastiha
Other Names for Mastic Gum
Mastic gum is known by many names, including mastiha, mastich, mastic tears, tears of Chios, masticha, mastic, and mastique. Regardless what you call it, though, the flavor will be divine.
History of Mastic Gum
The use of Mastiha in medicine, food, and beverages may date back even further than 189 BCE. It was around then that many Romans began settling on the island and matiha was taken to Rome and heavily promoted in the capital. Many people even believe mastic is referenced in the bible. By the 14th and 15th centuries, Mastiha became so coveted that it was even used as a form of currency to pay off debts.