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I hope you have all had a great week... I know... we all get caught up in the hum and drum of our daily routines... perhaps we should view life in a different way and be more present ... stop and look around us and notice beauty and joy around us, whether it be in the wondrous scent of a bright, red rose, the early morning dew drops on the blades of grass under our feet, our children's smiles, your partner's laugh or your pet's dance of joy. These and many more snippets are what I believe are the precious moments in our lives...
I was inspired to write about Mastiha in this week's newsletter as my Grand-mother is from the Greek island of Chios where this evergreen tree grows. It is the only Chia variety of Pistacia lentiscus that cries resin tears that have been sought through millenia for the inherent flavour and healing properties.
The resin dries into nuggets -- gum mastic -- that in turn are ground into powder, and ready for use.
Its aroma and flavour are unique and reminds one of a pleasant piney, musty quality which adds a mysterious earthy flavour to products.
While not well known in the West, mastiha is part of many worldwide cultures in hundreds of forms. Singapore, Pakistan and India import mastiha for use in home remedies. Eastern Europe uses the product as an ingredient in health and beauty products.
Tears of Chios.
While mastic trees might be grown -- and resin extracted -- in other parts of the world, there is something unique and recognizable about Chios Mastiha.
Common lore has it that the mastiha tree grows in other parts of Greece but it only "cries" in southern Chios. The "tears" are a clear sap that dries to a hard, brittle, transparent nugget.
Mastiha's place in the Greek kitchen was traditionally in the pastry kitchen, especially as a featured ingredient in ice-cream, breads, cookies and spoon sweets.
On a healthier note -- Chef Thocharis Babis of Acqua restaurant located just outside Chios town, serves a salad with mastiha-vinaigrette dressing... sounds delicious ! I will experiment with it this week and come up with a Mastiha salad dressing. If it is a success and has been tried and tested on my close family and a couple of daring friends then I shall send you all the recipe !
Mastiha is unique in that it can be consumed raw, as a gum, or as a processed ingredient with wide applications. When used as a spice, it is usually purchased as crystals, which keep their flavour as all whole spices do, to be ground according to need.
There are liquid forms of Mastiha, too. The essential oil mastihelaio shares the same therapeutic, aromatic and flavouring properties as mastiha resin. There is also distilled mastiha water, akin to rose and orange blossom water, which has a subtle flavour.
For centuries, mastiha has been recognised for its variety of therapeutic properties.
From the first through to the seventh centuries, Mastiha was used by medical practitioners for the treatment of indigestion and stomach disorders.
The modern scientific community has come to corroborate and document the therapeutic actions of Chios mastiha. Studies indicate that mastiha displays beneficial action against digestive disorders, contributes to oral hygiene, displays significant antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory properties and is a natural antioxidant, and also aids in trauma healing and skin regeneration.
A clinical study published in 1984 in Clinical & Experimental Pharmacology & Physiology magazine concluded that mastiha aided in alleviating symptoms of and curing ulcers with no unwanted side effects.
Various studies confirm the antibacterial action of the essential oil of Chios mastiha. A study published in the International Journal of Food Microbiology in 2004 indicates mastiha oil is effective against the appearance of botox bacteria in nutrition substrates. The study comes to a conclusion that Chios mastiha and mastiha oil could potentially be used as natural preservatives in baked goods.
Relevant studies have shown that the polyphenols and phytosterols in mastiha help fight LDL cholesterol, which contributes largely to the appearance of atherosclerosis.
Other studies indicate that Mastiha fights plaque formation and oral micro-flora by eliminating bacterial growth.
If you are aware of any health problem which may compromise your general health, it is important to seek treatment. A Health and Wellness Counselor may help you, to bring you back in balance and to good health through, detoxing, healthy eating and living, create a proper diet suited for your condition, advise natural remedies, herbs, wholefood supplements and organic cosmetics.
Barbara is a qualified nutritionist offering Health, Nutrition & Lifestyle Counseling. She gives Healthy weight loss advice and promotes the Mediterranean diet. She is the author of the Med Life Diet - creating healthy lifestyle habits and attitudes for life !