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11 Mastic Gum Benefits + Side Effects, Dosage

Written by Puya Yazdi, MD | Reviewed by Ana Aleksic, MSc (Pharmacy) | Last updated:
Medically reviewed by
Jonathan Ritter, PharmD, PhD (Pharmacology) | Written by Puya Yazdi, MD | Reviewed by Ana Aleksic, MSc (Pharmacy) | Last updated:

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Mastic gum

Mastic gum is a sticky substance collected from a shrub found almost exclusively on the Greek Isle of Chios. Studied since antiquity, the Greek physician Hippocrates first described its use for gut disorders. Many other health benefits have been discovered, including its ability to kill the ulcer-causing H. pylori. Read on to learn more about how it works, with dosage and side effects.

What is Mastic Gum?

Mastic gum is a type of sticky substance called resin. Various plants produce resin, but mastic gum specifically is obtained from the trunk and stems of an evergreen shrub (Pistacia lentiscus var. chia).

This shrub is mostly found on Chios, an island of the Greek archipelago. Mastic gum is also popularly used to flavor liqueurs, which are called “Mastiha”. The liquor is used as a digestive, while this Greek island is the biggest exporter of mastic gum and has earned the nickname “the Mastic Island”.

Traditionally, mastic gum has been used for thousands of years in the Mediterranean as a natural remedy for wound healing, pain relief, and various gut disorders. Its use was described by ancient Greek physicians such as Hippocrates.

Aside from the Ancient Greeks, Roman emperors allegedly used mastic with honey, pepper, and eggs to make spiced wine.

Currently, it is used in a variety of other ways: from seasoning food to making chewing gum and from perfume to dentistry [1, 2, 3, 4].

Bioactive Components

Mastic gum contains many beneficial bioactive compounds. The main ones are triterpenic acids (such as isomasticadienolic acid) and triterpenes. These compounds are natural antibiotics and strong anti-inflammatories [3].

It also contains a large percentage of aromatic terpenoids: alpha-pinene (40%) as well as beta-pinene, beta-myrcene, limonene, and beta-caryophyllene. Alpha-pinene is also found in conifers, pines, and rosemary. It has a strong woody and earthy aroma and is a potent topical antiseptic [5, 6].

Snapshot

Proponents:

  • Kills mouth bacteria and improves oral hygiene
  • Lowers cholesterol
  • May reduce IBD symptoms
  • Fights many bacteria and microbes, including H. Pylori
  • Good for ulcers

Skeptics:

  • Most of the studies were small and sponsored by the manufacturers
  • May trigger allergies in sensitive people

Health Benefits of Mastic Gum

Mastic gum has not been approved by the FDA for medical use in any form. Supplements generally lack solid clinical research. Regulations set manufacturing standards for them but don’t guarantee that they’re safe or effective. Speak with your doctor before using mastic gum for any reason.

1) Gut Health

IBD

In a clinical trial of 60 IBD patients, 2.8 g/day of mastic gum improved the quality of life and IBD markers (lysozyme, lactoferrin, and calprotectin levels). However, it did not change CRP levels in this study. CRP is one of the most commonly used markers of IBD, and mastic gum did influence its levels in people with Crohn’s disease specifically [7].

Crohn’s disease falls under the umbrella term of IBD or inflammatory bowel disease (not to be confused with IBS or irritable bowel syndrome) [8].

Supplementation with mastic gum (2.2 g/day) reduced symptoms of Crohn’s disease and improved general well-being in a clinical trial of 18 people over 4 weeks. Aside from reducing the frequency of liquid stools, stomach pain and cramps, and antidiarrheal drug use, it also significantly decreased key markers that trigger and worsen inflammation (IL-6 and CRP) [9].

In a rat study, mastic gum reduced additional inflammatory markers associated with IBD (TNF-alpha, IL-8, and IL-6). But in animals, the effect wore off after 6 days [10].

Indigestion

In a clinical trial of 148 people with indigestion, 350 mg of mastic gum, taken 3x/day, reduced symptoms of indigestion such as stomach pain (both in general and from anxiety), heartburn, and dull upper-stomach ache [1].

Ulcers

In a study with 38 people with small intestine ulcers, mastic gum improved ulcer healing and reduced ulcer symptoms [11].

H. pylori Infections

Mastic gum is commonly used in people with stubborn H. Pylori infections wishing to go the natural route. Sometimes it’s combined with probiotics, an adequate diet, or other supplements.

Pure mastic gum alone (350mg-1g, 3x/day) was moderately effective at eradicating H. pylori (30%-38% cured) after 14 days. However, it did not work when combined with the conventional anti-ulcer medication, pantoprazole (clinical trial of 52 people) [12].

But in another clinical trial of 8 people, 4 g/day of mastic gum had no effect on H. pylori infection status [13].

In a mouse study, a mastic gum preparation was able to reduce H. pylori numbers, but it did not completely cure the infection [3].

In cell studies, mastic gum was very effective against H. pylori, killing 90% of the bacteria [14].

Larger and more robust clinical studies will be required to confirm these benefits in humans.

2) Heart Disease

Heart disease refers to many conditions that affect the heart or blood vessels, but the two main risk factors are high cholesterol and high blood pressure [15].

Cholesterol

Mastic gum powder (5 g/day) reduced total, LDL cholesterol, the total/HDL cholesterol ratio in a trial of 133 people. Over a year and a half, it also reduced other markers of heart and liver disease (apolipoprotein B, AST, ALT, GGT) [16].

However, in a clinical trial of 179 healthy people, 1 g/day of crude mastic gum lowered total cholesterol levels but did not affect HDL, LDL, or triglyceride levels. This effect was more pronounced in overweight and obese individuals. Two other types of mastic gum (polymer-free mastic and powdered crude mastic) had no effect whatsoever [17].

Mastic gum also lowered total cholesterol in a rabbit study as well as LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels in a mouse study [18, 19].

Blood Pressure

In a rat study, mastic gum supplementation lowered both systolic and diastolic blood pressure. It also reduced inflammation and the damage to the heart and other organs that can result from high blood pressure [20].

Again, larger and more robust clinical studies will be required to confirm these benefits in humans.

3) Diabetes

In a clinical trial of 179 people, 1 g/day of crude mastic gum lowered fasting glucose levels, especially in overweight and obese people. Polymer-free and powdered crude mastic had no effect, though [17].

Mastic gum also reduced high blood sugar levels in mice with diabetes [19].

More human trials will be required to determine whether mastic gum is actually useful in controlling diabetes.

4) Oral Health

Chewing mastic gum for 7 days reduced plaque buildup in a clinical trial of 10 people [21].

In several clinical trials with over 100 people, chewing mastic gum reduced saliva bacteria levels [21, 22, 23, 24].

In a cell study, mastic gum extract was able to kill the bacteria that cause gum diseases and inflammation (such as gingivitis) [25, 26].

These early results are promising, but additional human studies are required.

5) Wound Healing

While mastic gum helped heal wounds from childbirth in a clinical trial of 147 women, the effect was very modest. However, mastic gum wasn’t taken orally. It was applied as directed by traditional healers, through burning the mastic gum/resin and smoking the wound with it over 3 days [2].

This was the only study that used mastic gum smoke and the mechanisms and implications remain largely unknown. Smoking and smudging resinous materials is common in some forms of traditional medicine, especially among Native Americans, but the scientific evidence for it is sparse [27, 28].

Areas of Further Research

The following studies were conducted only on animal models or cell lines. These results should therefore be taken with some skepticism until they are either confirmed or refuted in human trials.

9) Cancer Research

Mastic gum has a major anti-cancer potential, according to scientific reviews, animal, and cellular studies [4+].

In mice with colon cancer, mastic gum extracts were able to stop cancer growth by 35% without any detrimental effects [29].

In a cellular study, mastic gum reduced the sensitivity of prostate cancer cells to male sex hormones (androgens). It also turned off genes that make receptors for male sex hormones, which stopped cancer development. In fact, most drugs used to treat prostate cancer work by reducing the activity of these receptors (Androgen Receptor, AR) [4+, 30].

In a cell study, mastic gum had similar anti-cancer effects to Taxol, a chemotherapy drug commonly used for ovarian and breast cancer [31].

In two other cell studies, mastic gum extracts killed colon cancer cells [32, 33].

The purported cancer-fighting properties of mastic gum are probably due to its triterpenes. Mastic gum may stop cancer cell growth by blocking the key inflammatory, NF-κB, and further inflammatory signaling.

Cell and animal studies should never be used as grounds to replace conventional therapy with alternative methods. If you wish to use complementary strategies in addition to treatment, talk to your doctor and do so with medical supervision.

10) Fights Microbes

Mastic gum effectively inhibited the growth of multiple types of bacteria as well as the Candida albicans yeast [34].

The triterpenic acids in mastic gum are likely responsible for its microbe-fighting activity. Their effect is synergistic – it’s stronger when all of them are combined. If any of the compounds are isolated and used separately, the antimicrobial effect weakens [5+, 4].

11) May Reduce Inflammation

Mastic gum is an anti-inflammatory that may help with autoimmune diseases or chronic inflammation. It acts to:

  • Decrease the levels of various inflammatory substances and markers (cytokines IL-5, IL-6, IL-8, IL-13, TNF-alpha, and CRP) [9, 35+]
  • Block inflammatory pathways and the activation of neutrophils (a type of white blood cell) [35+]

Insufficient Evidence

These are topics of current study, but they have either never been tested or produced primarily negative results in the available research. Mastic gum is unlikely to have these benefits in humans.

12) Gastritis

There are currently very little data on the effects of mastic gum on gastritis (inflammation or irritation of the stomach lining). But because chronic gastritis can be a result of an H. pylori infection, some believe that mastic gum may be helpful in reducing the symptoms.

13) Acid Reflux/GERD

Although some people believe mastic gum could be effective for acid reflux, there are currently very little data on its effect on acid reflux, also known as GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease).

14) SIBO

Although some websites suggest consuming mastic gum for SIBO (small intestine bacterial overgrowth), there are very little data to support this idea.

Limitations and Caveats

Almost all of the human studies had a conflict of interest. For example, the following studies were funded by the Chios Gum Mastic Growers’ Association or Marubeni Company:

  • Cholesterol study [16]
  • Crohn’s disease study [9]
  • H. pylori study [12]
  • Indigestion study [1]
  • Anti-plaque and anti-bacterial study [21]

The diabetes study was not funded by but received mastic gum for testing from the Chios Gum Mastic Growers’ Association [17].

Currently, there are a limited number of human trials on the effects of mastic gum, especially those without a conflict of interest. Some of the human trials had a small sample size.

There is currently no data on the long-term effects of mastic gum.

Side Effects & Precautions

Mastic gum (up to 10 g/day) was generally well-tolerated with no reported side effects. Mastic gum may cause immune reactions or allergies in some individuals. In one case, it caused constipation [12, 36, 37].

To avoid adverse side effects or unexpected interactions, talk to your doctor before using mastic gum.

Drug Interactions

In one study, people who took mastic gum with the conventional anti-ulcer medication, pantoprazole, weren’t cured of H.Pylori infections. Consult your doctor before taking mastic gum if you have been prescribed pantoprazole (Protonix) or any other medication for ulcers [12].

In the above study, some people who took just mastic gum eradicated H.Pylori infections while those who combined it with antibiotics (amoxicillin or clarithromycin) were all cured (clinical trial of 52 people). Based on this single study, mastic gum shouldn’t reduce the effects of antibiotics [12].

Still, these data are limited. Therefore, discuss with your doctor before using mastic gum alongside prescription drugs [35].

Supplementing with Mastic Gum

Forms of Supplementation

Mastic gum is available in a variety of forms:

  • Tears (solidified pieces of pure mastic gum)
  • Tablets
  • Capsules
  • Chewing gum
  • Powder
  • Coffee with mastic gum

Mastic gum is also added to Mastika, a Mediterranean liqueur, or Mastiha, a liqueur made only on the Greek island of Chios.

Despite its reputation, matula tea, thought to be helpful in eradicating H. pylori infections, does not contain any mastic gum.

Dosage

Up to 10 g of mastic gum appears to be well-tolerated and safe. A common dosage of mastic gum is usually lower and about 1 – 2 g/day [37].

There is no safe and effective dose of mastic gum, as no sufficiently powerful study has been performed to determine one.

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About the Author

Puya Yazdi

MD
Dr. Puya Yazdi is a physician-scientist with 14+ years of experience in clinical medicine, life sciences, biotechnology, and nutraceuticals.
As a physician-scientist with expertise in genomics, biotechnology, and nutraceuticals, he has made it his mission to bring precision medicine to the bedside and help transform healthcare in the 21st century.He received his undergraduate education at the University of California at Irvine, a Medical Doctorate from the University of Southern California, and was a Resident Physician at Stanford University. He then proceeded to serve as a Clinical Fellow of The California Institute of Regenerative Medicine at The University of California at Irvine, where he conducted research of stem cells, epigenetics, and genomics. He was also a Medical Director for Cyvex Nutrition before serving as president of Systomic Health, a biotechnology consulting agency, where he served as an expert on genomics and other high-throughput technologies. His previous clients include Allergan, Caladrius Biosciences, and Omega Protein. He has a history of peer-reviewed publications, intellectual property discoveries (patents, etc.), clinical trial design, and a thorough knowledge of the regulatory landscape in biotechnology.He is leading our entire scientific and medical team in order to ensure accuracy and scientific validity of our content and products.

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