Mastiha: Gum Mastic

Mastic resin in small bowl, high angle view
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Mastiha starts as a semi-transparent sap from lentisk trees (actually evergreen bushes) found only in certain areas of the Greek island of Chios. As resinous granules, it was the original chewing gum, and the name "mastiha" is the root word of "masticate," meaning "to chew."

At the market, look for "mastiha," "mastihi," or "mastic tears" and it might also be available in powdered form.

Mastiha is used as a spice in sweets and cooking, as a flavoring for liqueurs, and in soap-making, cosmetics, and toothpaste, among others. Recent evidence of its positive effect on ulcers has resulted in a boom in purchases by large pharmaceutical companies.

Pronunciation: mahs-TEEKH-hah

Also Known As: gum mastic

Alternate Spellings: masticha, mastica, mastihi

Examples: To make powdered mastic, use a mortar and pestle to grind the resin. Because the resin can be sticky, grind together with a little sugar or salt (from recipe ingredients). "One drop" of mastic powder means one granule, ground.