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Athens News Agency: News in English, 09-06-03

Athens News Agency: News in English Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>

CONTENTS

  • [01] Mastice a "gift from God"

  • [01] Mastice a "gift from God"

    The mastic "Pistacia lentiscus" is an evergreen shrub or small tree of the Pistacio family growing up to 4 m (13 ft) tall, cultivated for its aromatic resin, mainly on the Greek island of Chios, in the eastern Aegean.

    This "gift from God" as it is called by the island's inhabitants has given its flavor and aroma to tens of products and lately to a carbonated soft drink named "Mast" that is produced only in this part of the world.

    Within the European Union, mastic spice production on Chios island, has been granted 'protected designation of origin' (PDO) and a 'protected geographical indication' (PGI) name because, although the tree is native to the Mediterranean region, only the mastic trees of southern Chios "weep" the masticha resin when their bark is scored. The island's mastic production is controlled by a co-operative of medieval villages, collectively known as the "Mastichochoria" (mastic villages), located in the southern part of Chios.

    The aromatic, ivory coloured resin, also known as mastic (or mastix), is harvested as a spice from the cultivated mastic trees grown on Chios, where it is also known by the name "Chios Tears". Originally in liquid form, it is sun dried into drops of hard, brittle, translucent resin. When chewed, the resin softens and becomes a bright white and opaque gum.

    Mastic gum is principally used either as a flavoring or for its gum properties, as in mastic chewing gum.

    As a spice, it continues to be used in Greece to flavor spirits and liquors (such as Chios's native drinks of Mastichato and masticha), chewing gum and a number of cakes, pastries, spoon sweets and desserts.

    Apart from its culinary uses, mastic continues to be used for its gum and medicinal properties. The resin is used as a primary ingredient in the production of cosmetics such as toothpaste, lotions for the hair and skin, and perfumes.

    Mastic resin is also chewed as a gum to soothe aching stomach. People in the Mediterranean region have used mastic as a medicine for gastrointestinal ailments for several thousand years.

    Regular consumption of mastic has been proven to absorb cholesterol, thus easing high blood pressure and reducing the risk of heart attacks. Mastic oil also has anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties, and as such is widely used in the preparation of ointments for skin disorders and afflictions. It is also used in the manufacture of plasters

    Further, chewing mastic is a treatment for bad breath. Mastic resin has been proven to reduce bacterial plaque, which explains why many toothpastes and mouthwashes have mastic as one of their main ingredients


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