Mastic is a resin derived from the sap of the Mastic tree, Pistacia lentiscus, which is native to Greece, in particular the island of Chios. The sap is exuded naturally and hardens into a pale-yellow resin when it dries in the air and sunlight, usually forming a teardrop shape that can be gathered from the trunk or the ground below. Removing strips of bark enhances the flow of the resin.
Mastic is a brittle, translucent resin, often sold in tears. When chewed, the resin softens and becomes a white, opaque gum. It has a bitter liquorice flavour at first, but releases a slightly pine or cedar-like flavour after chewing.
Mastic is used as a stabiliser, replacing gelatine and corn starch. Mastic is used as an ingredient in bread, cakes, pastries, puddings, ice cream, meringues and other desserts. It is also an additive in jam and other preserves, soups, sauces and seasonings, and in the preparation of meat, smoked foods and cheese. The Beverages industry uses Mastic in soft drinks and Turkish coffee.
Mastic has traditionally been used as a chewing gum, but more recently is used as an ingredient in Turkish delight, nougat and liqueurs.
Mastic is used in a wide range of medical products because it contains antioxidants and has antifungal and antibacterial properties. Consumption of it may help to lower cholesterol, while Mastic oil is used in ointments for skin disorders.
Mastic is used in its hardened form to produce an incense with balsamic and pine aromas. It is also a key ingredient of chrism, the holy anointing oil used by the Orthodox Catholic Church.
Mastic is a component in varnishes and lacquers.
Mastic is used in lithographic printing.
Mastic is used as a coating for metals; a varnish for watercolour and oil-based paintings and to protect photographic negatives.
The Dental industry uses Mastic in dental cement and to help reduce oral bacteria and prevent inflammation of the gums and tooth decay.
In the Personal Care industry, Mastic is used in skin cleansers, lotions, body oils and perfumes.