Mastic Reports

Mastic Shows Antibacterial and
Apoptosis-Modulating Activity

A new report from Japan’s Meikai University School of Dentistry has found that mastic shows hydroxyl-radical scavenging activity.1 Mastic is a resin that is produced by an evergreen shrub or small tree (reaching 13 ft in height) of the Pistacia family. It is cultivated as a multifunctional food and for its beneficial pharmaceutical properties, mainly on the Greek island of Chios. In addition, this new study finds that it has an inhibitory effect on oral polymorphonuclear leukocytes (OPMNs).

We have reported on the antiplaque effect of mastic-containing chewing gum on the oral cavity (See “Mastic Gum May Have Far-Reaching Effects” in the January 2007 issue, “Mastic for Improved Oral Health” in the May 2002 issue, “Unique Protection Against Gingivitis and Dental Plaque” in the December 2000 issue, “Reducing Oral H. Pylori Benefits the Stomach” in the May 2000 issue, and “Discovering Antibacterial Mastic” in the April 1999 issue). The goal of this new study was to determine mastic’s cytotoxicity effects against fibroblasts, its radical-scavenging promotion activities, and its inhibitory effect on cell death of oral OPMNs.

Mastic demonstrated selective antibacterial action against Porphyromonas gingivalis and Prevotella melaninogenica. Of thirteen human cell types investigated, promyelocytic leukemia HL-60 was the most sensitive to the cytotoxicity of mastic, followed by myeloblastic leukemia, oral squamous cell carcinoma, hepatocellular carcinoma, glioblastoma and normal oral cells such as gingival fibroblast, pulp cell, and periodontal ligament fibroblast (see “Mastic Suppresses Human Leukemia Cells” in the December 2006 issue). Mastic also induced apoptotic cell death, and moreover, its activity against leukemic cells did not diminish during its storage. These selective antibacterial and apoptosis-modulating activities of mastic proffer beneficial effects for improved oral health.

Mastic Shows Colorectal Antitumor Activity

Greek scientists have followed up on an earlier study in which they reported that ethanol and hexane extracts of mastic contain constituents which can induce apoptosis of human colon cancer cells in vitro (see “Mastic Kills Colon Cancer Cells” in the September 2005 issue). In their new study, the researchers investigated the in vivo anticancer activity of the hexane extract of mastic against human colon tumor.2 In a human colon cancer/immunodeficient mouse model, the anticancer activity of mastic extract was assessed.

Using amounts of the mastic extract (injected intraperitoneally) in doses ranging from 100 to 220 mg/kg body weight, tumor growth was monitored. At a dose of 200 mg/kg per day for 4 consecutive days (followed by 3 days without treatment) the mastic extract inhibited tumor growth by approximately 35% in the absence of toxicity (side-effects) after 35 days.

Hexane mastic extract demonstrated antitumor activity against human colorectal cancer within the boundaries of this study, with the extent of suppression and toxicity correlating to the schedule of administration.

More Cardioprotective Effects from Mastic

The findings of another new Greek study extend the cardioprotective findings for mastic.3 In earlier work, mastic was found to exert its effects through its ability to increase the antioxidant defense system, and by its power to lower serum cholesterol levels in human subjects (See “Mastic May Help Your Heart and Liver” in the March 2007 issue). Yet, data on its anti-inflammatory effect on endothelium—the thin layer of cells that line blood vessels—are scarce.

It is widely accepted that the attachment of leukocytes to the vascular endothelium and the subsequent migration of cells into the vessel wall are the initial events in atherogenesis, the formation of cardiovascular plaque. In is also known that this process requires the expression of endothelial adhesion molecules. In their study, the researchers examined the effect of mastic extract (25–200 μg/ml) and tirucallol* (0.1–100 μM) on the expression of adhesion molecules by the enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA), a biochemical technique used mainly in immunology to detect the presence of an antibody or an antigen in a sample. They also examined the attachment of monocytes in human aortic endothelial cells (HAEC) by an adhesion assay. The impact of treatment with mastic extract and tirucallol in NFkB (a transcription factor) phosphorylation—the addition of a phosphate group to a protein or other organic molecule that is required for turning many protein enzymes on and off—was also examined by a cell-based ELISA kit.

*Chios mastic contains certain active components, namely triterpenic compounds and phytosterols like tirucallol that the researchers thought could prove more potent for their investigation.

What they found was that both mastic extract and tirucallol significantly inhibited the expression of two primary adhesion molecules in HAEC. They also significantly inhibited the binding of a model cell line to HAEC and lessened the activity of a mischievous transcription factor.

This study extends our understanding of the cardioprotective effect of mastic, by expanding the spectrum of mastic’s phytosterols that possess potent antiatheromatic activity reducing the swelling of arterial walls. It also provides new insight into the mechanisms underlying the beneficial effect of mastic on endothelial function. Thus, it may aid in the design of new approaches for the treatment of atherosclerosis.


  1. Sakagami H, Kishino K, Kobayashi M, Hashimoto K, Iida S, Shimetani A, Nakamura Y, Takahashi K, Ikarashi T, Fukamachi H, Satoh K, Nakashima H, Shimizu T, Takeda K, Watanabe S, Nakamura W. Selective antibacterial and apoptosis-modulating activities of mastic. In Vivo 2009 Mar-Apr;23(2):215-23.
  2. Dimas K, Hatziantoniou S, Wyche JH, Pantazis P. A mastic gum extract induces suppression of growth of human colorectal tumor xenografts in immunodeficient mice. In Vivo 2009 Jan-Feb;23(1):63-8.
  3. Loizou S, Paraschos S, Mitakou S, Chrousos GP, Lekakis I, Moutsatsou P. Chios mastic gum extract and isolated phytosterol tirucallol exhibit anti-inflammatory activity in human aortic endothelial cells. Exp Biol Med (Maywood) 2009 May;234(5):553-61. Epub 2009 Feb 20.

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