I was researching natural remedies for some dental problems I had and came up with the idea of chewing mastic gum. The more I looked into it, the more supposed advantages I discovered. I am fascinated! Before I try it myself, have you even studied mastic gum? What are you taking
– Bill W.
Thanks for the question. Yes, I looked at mastic gum and there is something to it. Looking back, I’m surprised I haven’t written about it yet. A number of research suggests that mastic gum can help with not only oral health, but a variety of other problems as well, including:
Mastic gum came back on my radar recently, with a renewed interest in proper breathing spurred on by Wim Hof and the publication of books like James Nestor’s Breath. In short, the facial anatomy of modern humans has changed significantly since the advent of agriculture and grain-based nutrition. As the food got squishier, the jaws got weaker, the faces narrowed, and the airways narrowed. The bottom line is that, although humans have evolved to breathe almost entirely through their nose, many people today breathe through their mouths chronically, potentially contributing to a host of modern health problems.
Some people turn to mastic gum to help build their jaw muscles (muscles). The idea is that stronger masseters = wider jaws = improved airways and easier nasal breathing. Of course, eating lots of steak and raw vegetables – foods that require a lot of chewing – would likely have the same effect …
But I happen.
What is mastic gum?
Mastic gum is obtained from the resin of the mastic tree, which is native to the Mediterranean region. The special type of mastic that produces the famous gum grows on the Greek island of Chios near Turkey – this is why mastic is sometimes referred to as CGM (Chios Gum Mastic) or, more poetically, the tears of Chios.
Chewing tree sap is nothing new to humans. In fact, one of my earliest posts on this blog highlighted a then new announcement that archaeologists unearthed 5,000-year-old chewing gum during an excavation in Finland. Since then, scientists have successfully extracted DNA from discarded chewing gum dating back to that era and even older. Using state-of-the-art techniques, scientists were able to analyze the oral microbiome of our Neolithic ancestors and even know what they ate when they died. Very cool stuff.
The ancient Greeks used mastic gum and oil extracted from the gum in cooking and medicine to freshen breath and as a digestive aid. The chewing gum tastes bitter at first, but becomes a licorice-like taste when chewed. Some people enjoy it, others find it hideous – like chewing on a pine cone, I’ve heard.
Today, mastic gum, essential oil, or dietary supplements made from dried and ground resin are easily available. Recent research confirms what the ancient Greeks knew from experience and has shown that mastic gum has antimicrobial, antifungal, and anti-inflammatory properties. It contains a wide variety of beneficial compounds (especially terpenes), so it’s not really surprising that it appears to have such wide-ranging effects.
Mastic and dental health
To get back to your question, Bill, the answer is yes. Chewing mastic gum appears to not only freshen breath, but also improve oral health. More specifically, several studies show that mastic gum can chew for 5, 10, or 15 minutes. reduces the level of bacteria like Streptococci, Lactobacilli, and prevotellaknown to cause tooth decay. Unfortunately, none of the researchers followed the participants long enough to see if they developed less tooth decay or other problems in the future.
One small study also found that chewing mastic gum three times a day for 20 minutes for a week reduced plaque compared to a placebo gum. However, participants in this study were prohibited from brushing their teeth or performing any other oral hygiene measures.
The bottom line is that mastic gum likely has at least some dental health benefits. It doesn’t hurt to ask your dentist if they could help you with your particular concern.
Other benefits of mastic gum
Thanks to the beneficial plant substances mentioned above, the health benefits of gum mastic go far beyond the mouth. More research is needed (a common refrain in these areas), but gum mastic shows promise for a variety of conditions, including:
A study carried out as early as 1984 found that people who took 1 gram of mastic powder daily for two weeks significantly improved ulcer symptoms and showed more signs of healing than their counterparts in a placebo disease. Since then, several lines of evidence have suggested that mastic chewing gum and some of the individual ingredients in it can effectively combat it H. pylori. (The results here are mixed, however, with some studies showing no effect.) H. pylori Bacteria are responsible for the vast majority of ulcers in both the stomach and small intestine.
H. pylori is also a risk factor for developing stomach cancer, although there is no direct evidence that gum mastic is useful for prevention or treatment.
However, a large number of studies have shown that mastic gum and mastic oil are cytotoxic (literally “cell killing”) to cancer cells, including colon, lung and pancreatic cancers and leukemia. Researchers have identified a number of ways that mastic compounds stop cancer proliferation by promoting apoptosis. So far, this research has been limited to in vitro studies (studies using cells) and mouse studies, so it is too early to know whether gum gum would fight cancer in humans. Still, it’s interesting.
Two small studies found that taking mastic supplements (2.2 grams per day for four weeks) reduced inflammatory cytokines in patients with active Chron disease.
High lipids, blood sugar and insulin resistance
I summarize these because the handful of human studies available have done this:
- Healthy Japanese men took 5 grams of powdered mastic or a placebo daily for six months. The researchers also asked half of the men in the powdered mastic group to add brisk walks three times a week. Compared to the placebo group, all men who took powdered mastic had lower triglyceride levels after three months, but these differences disappeared after six months. But after six months both mastic powder groups had significantly lower insulin levels and HOMA-IR, a measure of insulin resistance.
- A group of men and women aged 50 and over received either a high dose (5 grams per day for 18 months) or a low dose (less than one seventh that amount for 12 months). Total cholesterol and LDL decreased over time in the high dose group, but the effect was only significant in men.
- One hundred and fifty-six men and women with baseline total cholesterol above 200 mg / dL received placebo or one of three formulations of mastic gum. After eight weeks, participants in one of the mastic gum groups (but not the other two) had slightly lower total cholesterol. Her average fasting blood sugar also fell by 4.5 mg / dl.
I know that some of my readers are not naturally interested in lowering cholesterol, and I agree with you. However, I dare say that even most skeptics of the lipid hypothesis agree that oxidized LDL is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease. With that in mind, an in vitro study compared how well different gums and resins prevent LDL oxidation. All of the substances tested were effective to some extent, but gum mastic offered the most protection.
Any Risks Or Contraindications To Mastic Gum?
Mastic gum falls under the category of “things that people have used for thousands of years but have not been shown to be safe by modern standards”. The FDA doesn’t regulate it, but neither is there any evidence that it poses a hazard when used as directed. Do what you want with it.
One important thing to note is that the mastic tree is a member of the pistachio family. Anyone with a tree nut or other tree-related allergy should avoid mastic products until they see their doctor.
Where can I buy gum mastic?
As I said, mastic, oil, and capsules are readily available online and at some health food stores. Real mastic comes from Chios and is listed by the EU as a protected designation of origin product, but imitation products are still popping up. Unfortunately, it can be hard to tell what is what, except perhaps by price. Real mastic isn’t cheap. The best thing you can do is look for assurances that the product is from Chios, read reviews, and buy from a reputable retailer.
So what do you say Are you interested in checking it out? Mastic remains a favorite of some alternative health circles, though the clinical data at this point are hardly overwhelming. Try it if your goal is fresher breath, stronger jaw, and potentially less indigestion. Do not yet replace medication for more serious ailments with mastic. Still, there is no reason not to ask your doctor if you are curious about adding it to your current treatment.
Thank You For Reading!