Herb: Mastic Tree
Latin name: Pistacia lentiscus
Medicinal use of Mastic Tree:Mastic was at one time greatly used in herbal medicine, the resin obtained from the tree (see below for more details) being used. It is little used in modern herbalism though it could be employed as an expectorant for bronchial troubles and coughs and as a treatment for diarrhoea. The resin is analgesic, antitussive, carminative, diuretic, expectorant, odontalgic, sedative and stimulant. It is mixed with other substances and used as a temporary filling for carious teeth. Internally it is used in the treatment of diarrhoea in children and externally it is applied to boils, ulcers, ringworm and muscular stiffness.
Description of the plant:
Habitat of the herb:Open woods and scrub on dry hillsides, usually by the coast.
Edible parts of Mastic Tree:A sweet liquorice-flavoured resin, called "mastic", is obtained from incisions made into the bark of the trunk, but not into the wood. The odour is agreeable and the taste mild and resinous, when chewed it becomes soft and so can easily be masticated. It is chewed to strengthen the gums and as a breath sweetener and also used as a flavouring in puddings, sweets (including "Turkish delight") cakes etc. It is also the basis of a Greek confectionery called "masticha" and a liqueur called "mastiche". An edible oil is obtained from the seed.
Other uses of the herb:The resin "mastic" is obtained by making incisions in the bark (not the trunk) of the tree from mid summer to the autumn. It can be dried and used as a powder, or distilled for oil and essence. It is used in high grade varnishes, as a fixative in perfumes, tooth pastes, glue (especially for false beards), embalming, a temporary filling for teeth etc. It is used to seal the edges of microscope mounts and is also chewed to preserve the teeth and gums. An oil obtained from the seed is used for lighting, soap making etc. The leaves contain up to 19% tannin, they are often used as an adulterant of sumac, Rhus coriaria.
Propagation of Mastic Tree:Pre-soak the seed for 16 hours in alkalized water, or for 3 - 4 days in warm water, and sow late winter in a cold frame or greenhouse. Two months cold stratification may speed up germination, so it might be better to sow the seed in early winter. The germination is variable and can be slow. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle and grow on the plants for at least their first winter in a greenhouse. Plant out into their permanent positions in early summer and consider giving some protection from winter cold for their first year or two outdoors. Cuttings of half-ripe wood from juvenile trees, July in a frame. Layering.
Cultivation of the herb:Open woods and scrub on dry hillsides, usually by the coast.
Known hazards of Pistacia lentiscus:None known
Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.