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How Do You Solve a Problem Like Mastiha?

by Matthew Wexler
Friday Jan 21, 2011

If you think Maria Von Trapp (at least the fictional version) had it tough hiking over the Swiss Alps with a posse of bratty kids outfitted in floral prints - what about Chios Mastiha: the wildly versatile but virtually unknown product of Chios?

Well, Mastiha is finally making a growing impression in the U.S. due to its unique properties and uses, the committed efforts of the Chios Mastiha Growers Association, and the charming digs at mastihashop new york, where you can get your hands on all things Mastiha.

Tears of Joy

Leave it to the Greeks to discover a resin excrement from the schinos tree and think, ’Hey, let’s chew on that!’

The harvesting of Mastiha is an exacting science that takes a full year to come to fruition. The collection, cultivation, and processing begins in the winter and early spring as the trees are pruned and prepared.

Summer brings the methodic cleaning of the ground, followed by the excising of the tree trunks, referred to as "kentima". An incision is made in the tree’s bark, from which slowly drips a clear, gummy liquid.

After about two weeks, the droplets solidify into crystalline shapes that mellow in flavor and can then be used for a variety of uses. The cultivation and cleaning process continues through the fall and has remained virtually unchanged for centuries, dating back to the Byzantine era.

Today, there are only 24 villages that are landmarked for Mastiha production and it is recognized as a Protected Designation of Origin product by the European Union. But what do you do with it?

Ancient Healing Properties in the Modern Era

The exact composition of Mastiha still remains a mystery. But what is known is that it has been used for medicinal and healing purposes for centuries. Studies confirm the anti-bacterial and anti-microbial properties of Mastiha oil and it can now be found in a variety of bath and body products.

From hand soaps and body washes to lip balms and body butter, Mastiha is combined with other natural ingredients to create products for any skin type. One of the most unique products on the market is Korres Mastiha and Gentian face cream. With roots in Athens’s first-ever homeopathic pharmacy, this Greek skincare brand has created a versatile cream that will revitalize your skin without the residue of synthetic ingredients.

Mastiha is also frequently used in oral hygiene. Mastihashop new york sells a number of refreshing toothpastes and mouthwashes that combine Mastiha with other natural ingredients such as sage, calendula, echinacea, and other plant extracts. The products are more expensive than the average drug store variety, but you’ve only got one set of choppers and they’re worth preserving.

If topical applications aren’t giving you quite the lift you need, you may see Mastiha appear at your next nip and tuck. Its exceptional adhesive properties (what can’t Mastiha do?) have been studied when used as an ingredient in bandages - as well as its healing properties and contribution to skin regeneration.

Mastiha at Mealtime

In its pure crystalline form, Mastiha is chewed as gum and proven to be a benefit for digestive disorders. With a subtle eucalyptus flavor and hard waxy texture, it’s a far cry from your typical over-the-counter brand gum. What you sacrifice in flavor you gain in oral hygiene as well as interesting bar conversation when, in lieu of a pack of Juicy Fruit, you whip out your authenticated tin of Mastiha.

Mastiha also appears in many forms in the Greek kitchen. As a spice it is best to purchase whole and then grind according to need, although Mastiha powder can also be purchased. The liquid form, Mastihelaio, is an extremely potent essential oil and can add a wonderful aromatic quality to beverages or soups.

One of the most versatile products is Mastiha-infused olive oil. The oil can be used in salad dressings, drizzled over beets and yogurt, or added as a final touch to a simply grilled piece of fish.

For dessert, Mastiha appears as a "submarine." This traditional Greek dessert is a Mastiha-infused taffy, often combined with a fruit preserve and served on a spoon submerged in a cold glass of water. It’s the perfect way to imagine yourself enjoying a hot Mediterranean summer day.

Whether you gargle, eat, lick, smear or wear it, Mastiha is one of those rare products that can transform you from an average joe to a Greek god. But remember what Sappho, the ancient Greek lyric poet, once said: "What is beautiful is good, and who is good will soon be beautiful."


Where to Buy

Where to Buy
A wide range of Mastiha products can be found online at:

Visit the store in person at:
145 Orchard Street
New York, NY 10002

Matthew Wexler is EDGE's National Style and Travel Editor. More of his writing can be found at He is also a trained chef and currently writing a food memoir.


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