Mastic gum is a resin obtained from the mastic tree ( Pistacia lentiscus ), which has been collected since ancient Greece. It is traditionally used as chewing gum to freshen breath and improve digestion. In the United States, chewing gum is commonly sold as a dietary supplement in capsule or tablet form. You can also buy raw putty or gum.
During the harvest season, which runs from July to October, cuts are made in the bark of the tree to remove the valuable resin. Because the extracted juice is tear-shaped, the mastic gum is often referred to as "Tears of Chios." The Greek island of Chios is traditionally grown with pistachio lentiliscus , and putty is still the main cash crop today.
Also know as
In addition to Chios tears, mastic gum is also called:
- Gum arabic
- Yemeni chewing gum
What is putty gum used for?
Alternative medicine practitioners have long promoted mastic gum as a natural remedy for indigestion, acid reflux , peptic ulcers , inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) , respiratory disease, gum disease, and various bacterial or fungal infections. The aromatic oils in mastic gum, best described as a blend of pine and eucalyptus, can also help fight bad breath .
Mastic gum contains a number of compounds believed to have medicinal effects, one of which is linalol, which alternative practitioners say can treat stress, inflammation, muscle pain, and insomnia. (Linalool is also found in orange , rose , and jasmine oils.)
Some of these health claims are better supported by research than others. Here are some studies that point to the possible benefits of chewing gum.
Putty gum can help treat dyspepsia (indigestion), according to a 2010 study published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology. In this study, 148 people with functional dyspepsia took 350 milligrams (mg) of chewing gum or 350 mg of placebo by mouth three times a day.
After three weeks of treatment, there was a marked improvement in symptoms in 77% of the people who received gum, compared to 40% in the placebo group. Relief of specific symptoms included general abdominal pain, abdominal pain with anxiety, heartburn, and dull pain in the upper abdomen.
A 2010 study published in the journal Phytomedicine examined the effectiveness of chewing gum compared to several types of antibiotics that are commonly used to treat H. pylori. The 52 study participants were divided into four groups and received one of four treatment regimens:
- Group A: 350 mg of gum three times a day for 14 days.
- Group B: 1050 mg of putty three times a day for 14 days.
- Group C: pantoprazole 20 mg twice a day plus 350 mg of mastic gum three times a day for 14 days.
- Group D: pantoprazole 20 mg twice daily plus amoxicillin 1000 mg twice daily plus clarithromycin 500 mg twice daily for 10 days.
(Pantoprazole is a proton pump inhibitor , a medication commonly prescribed for patients with gastric problems. Amoxicillin and clarithromycin are antibiotics).
Five weeks after completing therapy, four of 13 people in group A and five of 13 people in group B have achieved H. pylori eradication. On the contrary, no one in Group C has succeeded. Treatment in group D was more effective, with 10 of 13 people achieving complete bacterial death.
While this shows that mastic gum is not a viable replacement for standard H. pylori treatments, it could potentially help improve the effectiveness of treatment in people with antibiotic resistance . More research is required.
Chewing gum has long been touted as a natural cavity control agent with powerful antimicrobial effects when chewed or applied topically.
A 2017 study in the Journal for Periodontology aimed to determine whether putty gum could kill oral bacteria commonly associated with periodontitis (progressive gum disease). For this study, researchers exposed eight oral pathogens to one of three agents: chewing gum extract, hydrogen peroxide, and chlorhexidine digluconate (a topical disinfectant / antiseptic).
The chewing gum extract was as effective as chlorhexidine digluconate and much better at killing oral pathogens than hydrogen peroxide. Even more impressive, chewing gum was less damaging to the cells and tissues of the mouth than any of the other agents.
It is reasonable to assume that by suppressing the bacteria associated with periodontitis, putty gum can help prevent gum disease and even tooth decay. However, putty gum should not replace good oral hygiene, including brushing and flossing.
Possible side effects.
Although mastic gum is generally considered safe and well-tolerated, it is not known at what point the dose may turn into an overdose or what the consequences of long-term treatment may be (if any). Despite centuries of use, there has been little research on the long-term safety of chewing gum.
Putty gum can cause allergies in some. The mastic tree belongs to the pistachio plant family, which also includes the pistachio tree ( Pistacia vera ). People allergic to pistachios (or their close relatives cashews) may also be allergic to mastic gum.
Some allergic reactions are mild and present only with nasal symptoms, itchy mouth, or swollen lips. Others can be serious and require treatment. In rare cases, a life-threatening whole-body reaction known as anaphylaxis can occur. If left untreated, anaphylaxis can lead to shock, coma, respiratory or heart failure, and death.
Call 911 or seek emergency help if you develop a rash; urticaria; difficulty breathing; wheezing fast or irregular heartbeat; dizziness or fainting; or swelling of your face, throat, or tongue after using gum.
Mastic gum has not been tested on children, pregnant women, or nursing mothers. Talk to your doctor to fully understand the benefits and risks.
It is not known if chewing gum can interact with other drugs. To avoid interactions, tell your doctor about all medications, supplements, or herbal medicines you are taking.
Selection, preparation and use
Raw mastic gum is dangerous simply because it is impossible to tell if a product is contaminated or what kind of processing it may have gone through (including discoloration from hydrogen peroxide).
If you choose to use raw gum, choose products that have been certified organic or at least marked 100% natural or pure. After all, don't think natural is safe. If you are unsure about a supplement or ingredient, ask your doctor or pharmacist.
Food additives are not strictly regulated in the United States. To ensure safety and quality, select brands that have been tested by an independent certification body, such as the United States Pharmacopeia (USP), ConsumerLab, or NSF International.
There are no established guidelines for the proper use of putty gum itself. However, there are several guidelines that can help:
- Raw gum: Whole raw gum is usually chewed to freshen breath or relieve occasional nausea or heartburn. When chewed, its bitter taste will gradually soften as the resin becomes more malleable from a translucent yellow to an opaque white. When you're done, you should spit out the gum.
- Butter: One or two drops of putty gum oil in a quarter glass of water can be used as an antiseptic mouthwash. Similarly, you cannot swallow.
- Supplements: These are usually available in 500 mg tablets or capsules that need to be taken once or twice a day. For safety reasons, it is best to start with lower doses and gradually increase if the drug is well tolerated. Never exceed the dosage recommended by the manufacturer.