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Mastic gum is a resin, or sap-like substance, that comes from the mastic tree. The mastic tree is an evergreen shrub that grows on the Greek island of Chios.
People have used mastic gum for its medicinal properties for centuries. In fact, the first known reference to mastic gum dates back to the 5th century BC. Some evidence suggests that mastic gum is an antioxidant with anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial qualities.
A person can chew mastic gum like normal chewing gum, or they can ingest it in capsule or powder form. Essential oil from mastic gum is also available.
No studies have proven that mastic gum can treat any conditions. That said, there is some evidence to suggest that it may help with issues such as stomach upset and dental cavities.
Mastic gum has a low risk of serious side effects. However, people should always ask a doctor before using mastic or any other natural supplements.
In this article, learn more about the uses and benefits of mastic gum, as well as some potential risks.
People use mastic gum for a variety of health reasons. Though studies on it have generally been small, it does hold promise as a treatment for digestive and oral health conditions. Its antioxidant effects may also be beneficial for conditions such as heart disease and cancer.
However, experts need more large-scale, human studies on mastic gum before they can recommend it as a treatment for serious health issues.
The following are some possible uses and health benefits of mastic gum:
Protecting dental health
One 2007 study found that chewing mastic gum may help prevent cavities. After 15 minutes, people who chewed mastic gum had lower levels of certain bacteria in their mouths. The bacteria levels were even lower after 135 minutes. A placebo did not provide the same results.
Another study in 20 dental students found that those who chewed mastic gum had lower levels of certain bacteria in their mouths. These bacteria can lead to plaque and gum disease.
Those who wish to use mastic gum for dental health reasons can chew it for at least 15 minutes, several times per day.
Reducing stomach pain and heartburn
Mastic gum may help with certain digestive problems.
For example, one study found that people who used mastic gum had an improvement in certain types of indigestion and stomach pain. They had less stomach pain in general and less stomach pain from anxiety. They also reported less heartburn.
The people in the study took 350 milligrams (mg) of mastic gum three times per day.
Soothing stomach ulcers
Mastic gum may also help treat the symptoms of stomach ulcers, or peptic ulcers.
An older study in 38 people found that mastic gum could improve the symptoms of stomach ulcers. Those who took 1 gram (g) of mastic per day reported a reduction in ulcer symptoms after 2 weeks. People who took a placebo did not report this benefit.
Research suggests that taking 1 g of mastic per day, divided into three doses, may soothe symptoms related to stomach ulcers.
Reducing Helicobacter pylori bacteria in the stomach
Older studies have found that mastic gum has antibacterial abilities against H. pylori. A study from 2010, for example, found that mastic gum did clear H. pylori infections better than placebo after 14 days.
Another article states that mastic gum does have the ability to kill H. pylori, but that studies have not shown that it can clear an H. pylori infection completely.
In another study, researchers tested mastic gum in the form of an essential oil against H. pylori. The oil had antibacterial effects against certain strains of H. pylori that are resistant to antibiotics. Researchers found these effects in a laboratory, however — not in humans.
People who wish to use mastic gum to help with the symptoms of ulcers may try taking 350 mg three times per day. Studies show that people who took these amounts did not have serious side effects.
Soothing inflammatory bowel disease
Some evidence suggests that mastic gum could also help with inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD) such as Crohn’s disease. One review notes that mastic gum improved some markers of Crohn’s disease in people who had active disease.
Another study of 60 people with IBD found that those who took mastic gum had significant improvements in their IBD markers after 3 months. The people in the study took 2.8 g of mastic per day.
Controlling cholesterol and blood sugar levels
Having high cholesterol and high blood sugar levels can increase the risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Some small studies suggest that mastic gum could help people improve their levels of both.
A study in 156 healthy volunteers, for example, found that those using mastic gum had lower total cholesterol and blood sugar after 8 weeks.
The volunteers who saw an improvement in cholesterol and blood sugar took 330 mg of crude mastic gum three times per day. Those who took a placebo or polymer-free mastic and mastic powder did not have any improvement.
Another small study of healthy Japanese males found that those who took 5 g per day of mastic powder had lower triglyceride and insulin levels after 6 months. Those who took the mastic powder and exercised three times per week had the biggest improvement.
A person should work with their doctor to keep their cholesterol and blood sugar at healthy levels. For those who wish to try mastic gum as a supplement, some research suggests that a dosage of 330 mg, three times per day, may be effective.
Potentially fighting cancer
Some early research suggests that mastic oil could help fight certain types of cancer.
Mastic oil may also help kill certain types of leukemia cell, according to one study. The study cited results from laboratory tests, but researchers have not yet tested these benefits in humans.
Mastic gum is not an approved cancer treatment, but studies suggest that it may have potential as a cancer-fighting supplement. The usual dosage for this is 1 g per day, divided into three equal doses of 330 mg each.
Mastic gum should never replace prescribed cancer treatments. A person should speak with their doctor if they wish to try mastic gum alongside their other treatments.
Studies of mastic gum have not noted any significant or dangerous side effects. However, due to the limited research, children, pregnant women, and those who are breastfeeding may wish to avoid it.
Also, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) do not regulate mastic gum supplements for safety or effectiveness. People should therefore exercise caution when purchasing mastic supplements, and they should only use those from a reputable source.
Mastic gum is an ancient remedy that may have some medicinal properties.
Although studies have not proven that it can treat or cure any health conditions, it seems to have a low risk of toxicity and side effects. This can make mastic gum an option for people who are looking for natural remedies for digestive or dental health problems.
A person should speak with a doctor before using mastic gum or essential oil. Some natural supplements can interfere with certain medications, or they may be unsafe for people with certain health conditions.