The beneficial effects of mastic gum, a resin produced by the Pistachio lentiscus tree on the Greek island of Chios, has spread worldwide.
The iconic product from the beautiful island has attracted the interest of Frank Bruni, a columnist for the New York Times, who wrote about its properties in a recent column speculating on the ability of the ancient Greek medicine to help treat many of mankind’s ailments.
Titled “Can this Ancient Greek Medicine Cure Humanity?” Bruni’s column asks the intriguing question of what other purposes this ancient medicine could possibly serve.
The reason behind Bruni’s interest was his involvement in a clinical trial in the United States to determine if the fluid extracted from mastic resin could, through regular injections, repair ravaged nerves.
Bruni himself suffers from a condition called Naion, which is rare, affecting only about one in 10,000 Americans. The disease has caused damage to the optic nerve behind Bruni’s right eye, and he is at risk of suffering the same damage to his left eye.
Bruni believes that the resin extracted from a mastic tree may be able to do more than we have asked it to do in the past. Americans who suffer from the same optic nerve condition that Bruni does, already use one medicine with resin.
An Israeli biotech start-up company, Regenera Pharma, built as the result of an Iraqi émigré’s research, produces the medicine. Through two small-scale human studies and animal testing, Regenera confirmed that it was safe, and showed enough promise in the restoration of neural function that the Food and Drug Administration accepted the larger trial in which Bruni is taking part.
The Naion study involves nearly 250 people at a dozen sites in the United States. People suffering from this condition are currently injecting a translucent amalgam of selected compounds in the resin — or a placebo of cottonseed oil — into their bellies or thighs twice a week for six months.
Any positive results gained from this trial could also have profound implications for millions of Alzheimer’s patients and stroke survivors, who could also possibly benefit from the compounds in mastic.
The firm acquires the entirety of its resin supply from Chios, according to Jordan Robinson, the chief executive of the company.
The columnist was in Greece recently to discover more about the healing properties of mastic, considered to be a “natural medicine” by the European Medicines Agency, in hopes that this ancient cure-all will be the missing link in the treatment of his eye condition.
The positive effects of Chios mastic
Ancient Greeks used to chew the resin from the Mastika tree as part of their oral hygiene. But the substance has also seen myriad other uses, being made into creams to heal wounds and reduce inflammation, and dried into a powder to treat irritable bowel syndrome and ulcers.
The resin has even been used in traditional medicine for the management of asthma. Today, mastic has piqued the interest of pharmaceutical and nutritional supplement companies worldwide.
Bruni was on Chios at the beginning of July and spoke with Leandros Skaltsounis, professor in the Department of Pharmacy at the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, about this ancient gum which many see as a panacea for a host of ailments.
“We always knew that mastic is good for health. But it is now that we have really learned the reasons for its great prospects,” Professor Skaltsounis told Bruni.
Bruni notes that mastic is not only a vital part of Chios’ natural resources but is actually the engine of Chios’ economy, and it serves as a pillar of the identity of the Greek island.
Regarding the properties of mastic, the columnist points out that there are still questions that are not easily answered, even after Greeks and others have used this substance as a cure-all for millennia.
He is eagerly awaiting the results of the ongoing study to see if mastic will prove to be the long-hoped-for cure that he and others wish it to be.