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People on predominantly soft diets, including those who use healthy green smoothies as a staple food, tend to give their jaws too little exercise. The same applies to frequent dieters, all of us who wolf down their food without proper mastication as well as those with compromised teeth where using certain teeth may even elicit pain.

There is a way to compensate for this common lack of jaw exercise we all know of - chewing gum. Unfortunately gums sweetened with sugar (for obvious reasons) are better avoided - but so are so-called sugar-free gums the vast majority of which seems to be laced with aspartame, a known causative agent in brain tumors and dozens of other diseases.1

Thankfully there is an amazing all-natural product with multiple medicinal effects which comes to the rescue: mastic.

What is mastic?

Mastic natural resin or gum is an (originally) liquid product of the evergreen mastic shrub (Pistacia lentiscus) and has been traditionally harvested on the Greek island of Chios. After making longitudinal gouges in the tree bark, the resinous exudate is collected as droplets from the stem and main leaves of the tree and subsequently sun-dried to form translucent yellowish oval "tears". Upon chewing, the hardened mastic resin quickly softens and turns into a white "plastic" gum.

Mastic's wide-ranging uses

As early as 2500 years ago, mastic was used in Greek medicine for treating diseases such as gastralgia and peptic ulcers, and the ancient Greeks also used it as a chewing gum. To this day mastic is used in many foods and recipes particularly in the cuisine of several mediterranean countries.

Additional areas of mastic application include pharmaceuticals, perfumes, cosmetics, and others. Mastic's greatest attraction for people interested in dental health and healing lies in its "chewiness" combined with its anti-microbial qualities. Similarly to chewing gum, natural mastic can be chewed near-indefinitely without dissolving in the mouth.

Mastic's medicinal properties

Particularly recent research has shown mastic and its nearly 70 constituents to be some kind of a jack-of-all-trades demonstrating diverse biomedical and pharmacological activities, among which

  • anti-bacterial and antifungal effect against microorganisms involved in dental plaque formation (antiplaque), malodor of mouth and saliva, and peptic ulcers (antibacterial effects on Helicobacter pylori)
  • protection of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) from oxidation
  • in-vitro induction of apoptosis in cancer cells
  • strong inhibition of tumor growth (in animal experimentation2)
  • symptomatic improvement in functional dyspepsia
  • antioxidant, antiseptic and anti-inflammatory effects.

Mastic-related scientific research

Entering the search term "mastic" into the PubMed database (maintained by The United States National Library of Medicine) yields 200+ scientifically validated research studies, among them

  • www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12747455

"A pilot study on antiplaque effects of mastic chewing gum in the oral cavity" (published in the Journal of Periodontology in 2003) concluded that "results suggest that mastic chewing gum is a useful antiplaque agent in reducing the bacterial growth in saliva and plaque formation on teeth".

  • www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25054150

The study "High-level antimicrobial efficacy of representative Mediterranean natural plant extracts against oral microorganisms", published in BioMed Research International (2014) among other results found that "total mastic extract showed considerable antimicrobial activity against oral microorganisms".
Free full text available at http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4098616/

  • www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19414406

The study "Selective antibacterial and apoptosis-modulating activities of mastic" published in In Vivo (2009) among other findings showed that mastic had "selective antibacterial action against Porphyromonas gingivalis", and even oral squamous cell carcinoma (HSC-2, HSC-3, HSC-4) was sensitive to the cytotoxicity of mastic. The authors concluded that mastic has possible beneficial effects on oral health.

  • www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22414110

"Chios gum mastic: A review of its biological activities", a study published in Current Medicinal Chemistry in 2012, concluded that "studies of the antimicrobial, antifungal, antioxidant, hypolipidemic, anti-inflammatory, anti-Crohn and anticancer activities of mastic have characterized it as a wide-range therapeutic agent".

  • www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22949590

"Review: Chios mastic gum: a plant-produced resin exhibiting numerous diverse pharmaceutical and biomedical properties" (published in In Vivo, 2012)

  • www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21645369

"Anti-inflammatory activity of Chios mastic gum is associated with inhibition of TNF-alpha induced oxidative stress" (study published in Nutrition Journal, 2011).

Quote: "Gum of Chios mastic (Pistacia lentiscus var. chia) is a natural antimicrobial agent that has found extensive use in pharmaceutical products and as a nutritional supplement."

  • www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25089241

"Chemical Composition of the Essential Oil of Mastic Gum and their Antibacterial Activity Against Drug-Resistant Helicobacter pylori."

This study (published in Natural Products and Bioprospecting in 2014) examined which component of mastic is responsible for its action against H. pylori.

  • www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22044444

"Current evidence on the anticancer potential of Chios mastic gum", a study published in Nutrition and Cancer (2011), concludes that "Taking into consideration the available data so far, Chios mastic gum could be considered as a conglomeration of effective anticancer drugs".

  • www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15796160

"Induction of apoptosis in human colon cancer HCT116 cells treated with an extract of the plant product Chios mastic gum"
Printed in In vivo (2005), the study demonstrated that a hexane extract of Chios mastic gum kills human colon cancer cells in the petri dish via the process of anoikis, warranting "further in vivo and in vitro studies of the anticancer activities of this plant product".

  • www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22126583

"Chios mastic gum extracts as a potent antitumor agent that inhibits growth and induces apoptosis of oral cancer cells"
Published in the Asian Pacific Journal of Cancer Prevention (2011), the results of this study "suggest Chios mastic gum's potential as an anti-tumor agent".

  • www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16713222

"Antiproliferative activity and induction of apoptosis in human colon cancer cells treated in vitro with constituents of a product derived from Pistacia lentiscus L. var. chia."
Printed in Phytomedicine (2007), the study findings suggest that Chios mastic gum "might be developed into a chemotherapeutic agent for the treatment of human colon and other cancers".

Important note for "beauty junkies"

As if all of the above benefits of mastic chewing weren't impressive enough, there is another huge advantage to regular thorough chewing for individuals concerned with their appearance.

Sagging cheeks, jaws, "jowls" and deep nasolabial folds which creep up on most everyone as they advance in age account for a less-than-youthful appearance even when the skin is otherwise fine. In addition to a healthy diet and regular detoxification, facial exercises help to efficiently counteract this effect (which has been variously ascribed to gravity, toxicity, lack of vitamin C and/or other nutrients, "aging" and other causes) and lift the entire face.

According to beauty expert Tonya Zavasta there is however one broad and strong muscle underlying the cheek-supporting muscles which also plays an important role in determining the cheeks' contour but which cannot be exercised at will. The only way to exercise this particular muscle is - via mastication!

Carriers of amalgam fillings beware

Any act of chewing seems to increase mercury release from fillings[3] so if you have "silver" fillings in your mouth you may be on the (relatively) safer side by not chewing any kind of gum. (If you so choose, you could still use mastic for its many other medicinal and culinary benefits.)

This caveat may be of lesser importance if your amalgam fillings are older, see the study "The chemical forms of mercury in aged and fresh dental amalgam surfaces" published in Chemical Research in Toxicology (2009).[4]

Don't overdo it and start out slowly

Especially those with compromised (weakened) teeth and fillings - be aware that mastic (although the original chewing gum) offers more resistance than chewing gum (someone described it as feeling "like little pebbles in my mouth" - although I would disagree).

I've read of one case of a tooth actually breaking and another saying that it  dislodged a filling.  It is to be assumed that in the former case, the tooth in question was already structurally weakened, and in the latter, that the filling had already lost its stability, so in both cases, the accident would have happened at the next "opportunity" anyway. The lesson is that to be on the safe side, start slowly and don't do it too aggressively.

Chios gum mastic available at Amazon

This product is harvested from the tree Pistacia lentiscus var. Chia (which is only cultivated on the Aegean island of Chios, Greece). It has no added ingredients such as magnesium stearate and is offered in a number of packagings, including in a 17g jar (see photo to the left) and a 10g bag.

Reported user experiences confirm and add to the studies quoted above: "removes bad breath", "leaves mouth feeling clean", "teeth getting whiter", "seemed to greatly improve gums", "greatly improves saliva flow, after suffering with dry mouth for 20+ years and trying various products which usually made the condition worse", "gums feeling better", "severe heartburn gone", "worked for my bloating", etc.

For each "chewing session", I suggest to use the smallest amount of mastic "drops" possible (which additionally allows one to chew relatively discreetly) and spit out the gum only when the jaw muscles get tired or all remnants of mastic's faintly cedar-like flavour (also described as balsamic or turpentine-like) are gone. (That said, personally I have to use about a level teaspoon or more for each session in order to obtain a proper little "chewing ball" in my mouth.)

Caveat: In pharmacies (chemist's) and health food stores, mastic can be called "Arabic gum" (which is NOT the same as gum arabic) and "Yemen gum". Cheap imitation resins (other types of resins including pine tree, almond tree, Boswellia, gum arabic, Pistacia palaestina) are also sold under the designation "mastic".

Note: Should you plan to buy the above (or any other item) via Amazon USA, Canada, UK, France, Spain, Germany or Italy, please do so via Healing Teeth Naturally's Amazon partner links. In this manner, you can support this humanitarian site at no extra cost to you.

Footnotes

1 Compare Causes of cancer: aspartame.

2 Not supported by Healing Teeth Naturally, for the reasons click here.

3 See e.g. http://www.mercuryexposure.info/context/products/item/665-ada-promotes-chewing-gum-which-increases-mercury-vapor-released-from-silver-mercury-fillings-by-15 . Background on amalgam dangers in the Conventional section.

4 See www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19842619. Free full text available at www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2866173/ and short summary at http://phys.org/news177184158.html.

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