Chios mastic is resinous secretion obtained from the stem and the main leaves of Pistacia lentiscus. In Mediterranean countries it is also used as a food ingredient. Clinically, mastic was effective in the treatment of benign gastric ulcers and duodenal ulcers. Also, mastic showed cytoprotective and mild antisecretory properties in rats. In the current study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, the antibacterial properties of mastic against Helicobacter pylori were evaluated.

Helicobacter pylori NCTC 11637 strains (a standard control strain) and six clinical isolates (three sensitive and three metronidazole-resistant) were maintained on 7% horse blood chocolate agar or IsoSensitest broth (5% serum) at 37 °C microaerobic atmosphere (6% oxygen and 5% carbon dioxide in nitrogen). The mastic was prepared as a stock solution in ethanol at a concentration of 50 mg per milliliter and diluted in the broth culture (containing 107 Helicobacter pylori cells per milliliter) for a final concentration ranging from 0.0075 to 1.0 mg per milliliter. Ethanol was added to the control cultures at appropriate concentrations followed by incubation of the cultures.

The mastic killed the Helicobacter pylori NCTC 11637 strain and the six clinical isolates (reducing the viable number by 1000) regardless of the level of sensitivity of the organism to metronidazole. The minimum bactericidal concentration at 24 hours for all strains studied was 0.06 mg of crude mastic per milliliter. At lower concentrations, bacterial growth was still significantly inhibited, with a pure post-antibiotic effect even at the lowest concentration used, 0.0075 mg per milliliter. The mastic caused clear superstructural changes in the body, as demonstrated by electron microscopy.

These results suggest that mastic has a clear antibacterial effect against Helicobacter pylori. This activity can at least partially explain the properties of mastic against peptic ulcer. Chios mastic is cheap and widely available in Third World countries, with these data having a significant impact on the management of peptic ulcers in developing countries.

Even low doses of mastic 1 mg per day for two weeks are able to treat peptic ulcers on a short period of time. Chios mastic is active against Helicobacter pylori, which could explain its therapeutic effect in patients with peptic ulcers.

  • Huwez FU, Thirlwell D, Cockayne A, Ala'Aldeen DA. Mastic gum kills Helicobacter pylori. N Engl J Med 1998;339:1946.
Related product: L-Glutamine & Chios Mastiha
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