Pinyin: Ru Xiang Latin: Boswellia Carterii
An evergreen Shrub growing to 5m by 3m. It is hardy to zone 9. It is in leaf all year, in flower from May to July, and the seeds ripen in October. The flowers are dioecious (individual flowers are either male or female, but only one sex is to be found on any one plant so both male and female plants must be grown if seed is required)The plant is not self-fertile. The plant prefers light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and requires well-drained soil. The plant prefers neutral and basic (alkaline) soils and can grow in very alkaline soil. It cannot grow in the shade. It requires dry or moist soil and can tolerate drought.
Edible Uses: Condiment; Gum; Oil. 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.*
Traditional Chinese Medicinal (TCM) Uses*
Analgesic; Antitussive; Carminative; Diuretic; Expectorant; Odontalgic; Sedative; Stimulant. 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 diarrhea. 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 diarrhea in children and externally it is applied to boils, ulcers, ringworm and muscular stiffness.*
Mastic resin is also chewed as a gum to soothe the stomach. People in the Mediterranean region have used mastic as a medicine for gastrointestinal ailments for several thousand years. The first century Greek physician and botanist, Dioscorides, wrote about the medicinal properties of mastic in his classic treatise De Materia Medica ("About Medical Substances"). Some centuries later Markellos Empeirikos and Pavlos Eginitis also noticed the effect of mastic on the digestive system. In ancient Jewish halachic sources, it is indicated that chewing mastic was a treatment for bad breath. "Mastic is not chewed on shabbat. When (is it permissible to chew mastic on shabbat)? When the intention is medicinal. If it is against a bad odor, it is permissible." (?????? ??? ??"? (??) ?, ??"?) In recent years, university researchers have provided the scientific evidence for the medicinal properties of mastic.*
A 1985 study by the University of Thessaloniki and by the Meikai University discovered that mastic can reduce bacterial plaque in the mouth by 41.5 percent. A 1998 study by the University of Athens found that mastic oil has antibacterial and anti-fungal properties. Another 1998 University of Nottingham study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, claims that mastic can heal peptic ulcers by killing Helicobacter pylori, which causes peptic ulcers, gastritis, and duodenitis. Some in vivo studies have shown that mastic gum has no effect on Helicobacter pylori when taken for short periods of time. However a recent and more extensive study showed that mastic gum reduced Helicobacter pylori populations after an insoluble and sticky polymer (poly-ß-myrcene) constituent of mastic gum was removed and taken for a longer period of time. Further analysis showed the acid fraction was the most active antibacterial extract, and the most active pure compound was isomasticadienolic acid.*
Microscope; Oil; Resin; Tannin. 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.*
Source: Mastic Tree Boswellia Carterii Ru Xiang Frankincense Plants For A Future, England 1996-2008; Mastic Tree
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