Mastiha in our Life
No doubt that Chios mastiha’s uniqueness is due to the exclusiveness of its birthplace, to its exquisite therapeutic properties and to its exceptional aroma, for which it has been famous ever since antiquity, winning a reputation of a remarkable health ally.
Its uniqueness is emphasized by its multi-usefulness and by the fact that it was prized by and therefore integrated into the culture of different people and civilizations, especially in the East Mediterranean.
Chios mastiha, “a tear that pleases, perfumes, relieves and heals”, has a variety of applications and uses, being a main ingredient in food and drink industry, in pharmaceutical and chemical industry, in cosmetics and perfume industry.
Chios mastiha, exported from Chios to all over the world, is the basis for the production of a great variety of mastiha products, such as: bakery products, sweets, jams, ice-creams, chocolates, chewing gums, candies, beverages, tea, coffee, dairy products, pasta, sauces, liquors, ouzo and wine.
It is also used as an ingredient for ointments against burns and skin troubles.
Rosin is a derivative of mastiha used for the production of surgical stitches, while mastiha oil is widely used in perfume and cosmetics industry.
Finally, thanks to its quality as a colour stabilizer, mastiha is used for the production of high-grade varnishes. Here are the basic uses of Chios natural mastiha:
Multiple culinary uses
Chios mastiha is one of the oldest known spices in the Mediterranean and lends its distinctive aroma in many foodstuffs. Mastiha has been traditionally used as a flavouring for festive bread, brioches and biscuits. In certain areas of Greece, mostly of the Aegean Sea, mastiha is often used as a flavouring for Easter sweets. In the northern part of the country, it is also used in confectionery, mostly for mastiha-flavoured desserts and for a delicious ice-cream known as kaimaki, which has an unusual chewy and stringy texture thanks to the addition of Chios mastiha as a thickening agent. But modern Greek chefs have proved that this spice with its unique aromatic, wood- and pine-like, exotic taste can go along with almost everything, from tomatoes in a tasteful sauce to white wine and lemon in most delicate sauces, and even to chocolate with which it makes a perfect match. Moreover, mastiha makes an important dietary supplement especially in cases of lack of trace elements.
In Cyprus, they even use it to flavour bread. In Lebanon and Syria, they make a sort of traditional mastiha-flavoured cheese.
For Arabs, mastiha is considered as a great luxury for flavouring food, sweets or milk. As a spoon sweet, mastiha is served in a particularly traditional way, inside a glass of water, a version known as ypovryhio (=submarine).
Use in drink industry
Mastiha is widely used for making liquors and ouzo. Mastiha as a drink is usually served as an aperitif. “Chios Mastiha” liquor is very famous, as well as “Mastiha Ouzo”. Thanks to the addition of mastiha, the above alcoholic drinks acquire its flavour; what's more, alcohol’s harmful effect on the stomach is definitely moderated.
In the Arab world and specifically in Iraq, mastiha is usually added in the local drink Arak. Moreover, the Arab people often flavour their drinking water by burning mastiha. They let its smoke permeate a jug, which is then filled with water.
Use of mastiha in modern cosmetology
The ancient belief that mastiha is gifted with therapeutic and cosmetic properties is supported today by modern scientific research. Modern cosmetology has started to use mastiha’s clinically tested and proved antimicrobial, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and therapeutic properties. Cosmetics enriched with mastiha oil guarantee deep skin cleansing and protect from skin ageing. At the same time, they normalize sebum secretions, thus reducing oily skin problems such as excessive shine. As it reinforces the formation of collagen, a frequent use thereof can help dealing with wrinkles and guarantees greater skin elasticity. Mastiha oil further improves the general look of the skin and deeply moisturizes it, while it also has a particularly positive effect on acne-prone types of skin and skins with black spots. Today, there are many mastiha-based beauty products on sale, such as face creams, soaps, bath foams and shampoos.
Τhe Mastiha Tree
The mastic tree or lentisk – scientific name: Pistacia Lentiscus var. Chia (of the Anacardiaceae family), is an evergreen shrub, 2-3 metres high that grows very slowly and becomes ready for cultivation after 40-50 years, reaching up to the height of 5 metres at its mature age. Lentisks and similar varieties of this tree family are an essential part of maqui-type vegetation found in Mediterranean countries, but only in Chios and only in its south part, the special characteristics of the ground, the micro – climate and the traditional cultivation finally create such an impressive result and shape the uniqueness of this special resin.
Any attempt to extend the cultivation beyond this limit has totally failed.
Chios Mastiha Growers Association was founded in 1938 as a compulsory agricultural cooperative according to Law 1390 and represents an entity that has undertaken the exclusive management of natural Chios Mastiha in Greece and abroad.
It is the collective representative organ of 20 primary cooperatives founded in the 24 mastiha villages (Mastihohoria) of southern Chios.
Today, Chios Mastiha Growers Association has approximately 4.500 members and is among the largest organizations in the North Aegean periphery.
The Chios Mastiha Growers Association
Monomachou 1, 82100 Chios, Greece
Tel: +30-22710-21001 (ext.0)