At last, mastic gum’s warhead has been identified …

Mastic Extinguishes Ulcer-
and GI Cancer-Bug

Even drug-resistant H. pylori are annihilated

By Will Block

T he tree named Pistacia lentiscus is grown mainly on the Greek Archipelago island of Chios—alleged to be the birthplace of Homer.

P. lentiscus exudes a traditional biomedicine, a resin (or gum) called mastic. Despite its long history of medicinal use, dating back some 3,000 years, it wasn’t until 1998 that mastic was first reported to kill Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori). This stomach bacterium was found to be the cause of peptic ulcers—for which a Nobel Prize was awarded in 2005.

Which Constituents Enable Mastic to Kill H. pylori?

It is incredible that no study since then has accurately clarified which specific components of mastic show antimicrobial activity against H. pylori. But at last, Japanese researchers have determined which constituents are responsible for mastic gum’s profound anti-H. pylori activity.1 Because gastrointestinal problems are common in Japan, it makes sense that the Japanese would be very interested in the subject of improved gastrointestinal health. In Japan, the incidence of gastric cancer is almost 10-fold higher than rates observed in the United States.

This stomach bacterium was found to
be the cause of peptic ulcers—for
which a Nobel Prize
was awarded in 2005.

Using a mass spectrometer, 20 components were identified. Of these, 10 standard components were assayed for anti-H. pylori activity. And out of these, it was determined that α-terpineol and (E)-methyl isoeugenol showed significant anti-H. pylori activity against four different H. pylori strains that were isolated from patients with gastritis, gastric ulcer, and gastric cancer. The researchers concluded that these components could overcome drug-resistant H. pylori growth in the gastrointestinal tract. Moreover, as other studies have shown, the benefits of mastic go beyond its antibacterial effects. It also possesses anti-inflammatory, anticancer, and possibly antidiabetic effects.2

The researchers concluded that these
components could overcome drug-
resistant H. pylori growth in the
gastrointestinal tract.

The Need for Mastic

Rising antibiotic resistance has increased the need for new therapeutic strategies, thus highlighting the health-improving importance of mastic. In fact, drug-resistant H. pylori have been found to reduce the effectiveness of so-called “triple therapy”—the antibiotic, anti-acid, and proton pump inhibitor regimen that is the foundation of conventional treatment for H. pylori. Not only do H. pylori become resistant to the antibiotics in triple therapy, the functioning of the entire GI tract is impaired—especially when antibiotics destroy the healthy balance of normal colonic bacteria.

Why it’s Important to Identify Mastic’s Mechanisms

The constituent identification is important for several reasons: 1) H. pylori induces chronic gastric infection in more than 50% of the world’s population; 2) After many years, the infectant provokes and progresses ultimately to cancer; 3) Infection with H. pylori is frequently associated with a viable proportion of duodenal ulcer, gastric ulcer, gastric carcinoma, and MALT lymphoma.

Gastric oncologists know that intestinal-type gastric cancer progresses in a multi-step manner to a carcinogenic conclusion—from chronic gastritis to atrophic gastritis to intestinal metaplasia to dysplasia to cancer. Other Japanese researchers have reported that gastric cancer was inhibited after H. pylori was eradicated in patients who had undergone endoscopic gastric mucosal resection of their cancer.3

Mastic May Also Protect Against Other Cancers

It is interesting to note that mastic has been proved by in vitro studies to inhibit proliferation of cancer cells derived from several types of human neoplasia, including prostate, colon, lung and pancreatic carcinoma.4

Because H. pylori lives on in both the
oral cavity and the GI tract, mastic
must be used therapeutically in
two different ways:
for damage and for maintenance

A New Approach to Prevent Gastric Cancer

Gastric cancer is the second most common cause of cancer deaths worldwide. A large body of evidence substantiates the causal role of H. pylori in the majority of gastric tumors.5 While great strides have been made in understanding the pathology of this disease, there is a lot to learn. For example, once H. pylori colonize the gastric environment, if not treated effectively, they persist for the lifetime of the host, suggesting that the host immune response is ineffective in clearing this bacterium. This means that H. pylori must be fought again and again, and that antibiotics are not the long-term answer.

Mastic’s Antidiabetic Effect

Figure 1. Mechanism of action of mastic as PPAR agonist. PPAR-γ = peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor-gamma; TNF-α = tumor necrosis factor-α.

(click on thumbnail for full sized image)

There is also groundbreaking evidence that mastic may help protect against diabetes.6 This is rather complicated. Peroxisome proliferator-activated receptors (PPARs) are a group of nuclear receptor proteins that function as transcription factors regulating the expression of genes. PPAR agonists help to improve blood glucose levels and levels of blood lipids (fats and cholesterol) and may also reduce risks of atherosclerosis, by regulating the expression of genes that affect blood lipid metabolism, the generation of adipocytes (fat cells), and blood glucose control. Thus, they present a key target for pharmacological interventions (see “The Antidiabetes Trigger,” in the March 2009 issue). Recently, mastic has been found to act as a natural PPAR modulator (see Fig. 1). Researchers thus believe that this may be one of the ways mastic asserts its diverse effects.7 Furthermore, the use of mastic would avoid the side effects of PPAR agonist drugs.

Maintenance Treatment with Mastic

H. pylori lives in both the oral cavity and the GI tract. Therefore, mastic should be used therapeutically at two levels: 1) To prevent damage that can result in ulcers and cancers; and 2) To prevent reinfection with H. pylori, and the resultant increased inflammation and tissue damage.

Ultimately, reducing the discomfort, inflammation and GI damage is mastic’s most immediate and noticed benefit. Many who use mastic report a level of GI health unlike any they have known—in some instances, throughout their entire lives. And if they continue, on a maintenance basis, the problems never return. Try it and notice the difference!


  1. Miyamoto T, Okimoto T, Kuwano M. Chemical composition of the essential oil of mastic gum and their antibacterial activity against drug-resistant Helicobacter pylori. Nat Prod Bioprospect. 2014;4:227–31.
  2. Loizou S, Paraschos S, Mitakou S, et al. (2009) Exp Biol Med (Maywood). 2009 May;234(5):553–61.
  3. Fukase K, Kato M, Kikuchi S, et al; Japan Gast Study Group. Effect of eradication of Helicobacter pylori on incidence of metachronous gastric carcinoma after endoscopic resection of early gastric cancer: an open-label, randomised controlled trial. Lancet. 2008 Aug 2;372(9636):392–7.
  4. Katsanou ES, Kyriakopoulou K, Emmanouil C, et al. Modulation of CYP1A1 and CYP1A2 hepatic enzymes after oral administration of Chios mastic gum to male Wistar rats. PLoS One. 2014 Jun 20;9(6):e100190. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0100190. eCollection 2014.
  5. Herrera V, Parsonnet J. Helicobacter pylori and gastric adenocarcinoma. Clin Microbiol Infect. 2009 Nov;15(11):971–6.
  6. Georgiadis I, Karatzas T, Korou LM, et al. Evaluation of Chios mastic gum on lipid and glucose metabolism in diabetic mice. J Med Food. 2014 Mar;17(3):393–9.
  7. Georgiadis I, Karatzas T, Korou LM, et al. Beneficial Health Effects of Chios Gum Mastic and Peroxisome Proliferator-Activated Receptors: Indications of Common Mechanisms. J Med Food. 2014 Aug 18. [Epub ahead of print]

Will Block is the publisher and editorial director of Life Enhancement magazine.

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