1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Mastic

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MASTIC, or Mastich (Gr. μαστίχη, probably connected with μασᾶσθαι, to chew, since mastic is used in the East as a chewing gum), a resinous exudation obtained from the lentisk, Pistacia lentiscus, an evergreen shrub of the natural order Anacardiaceae. The lentisk or mastic plant is indigenous to the Mediterranean coast region from Syria to Spain, but grows also in Portugal, Morocco and the Canaries. Although experiments have proved that excellent mastic might be obtained in other islands in the archipelago, the production of the substance has been, since the time of Dioscorides, almost exclusively confined to the island of Chios. The mastic districts of that island are for the most part flat and stony, with little hills and few streams. The shrubs are about 6 ft. high. The resin is contained in the bark and not in the wood, and in order to obtain it numerous vertical incisions are made, during June, July and August, in the stem and chief branches. The resin speedily exudes and hardens into roundish or oval tears, which are collected, after about fifteen days, by women and children, in little baskets lined with white paper or cotton wool. The ground around the trees is kept hard and clean, and flat pieces of stone are often laid beneath them to prevent any droppings of resin from becoming contaminated with dirt. The collection is repeated three or four times between June and September, a fine tree being found to yield about 8 or 10 ℔ of mastic during the season. Besides that obtained from the incisions, mastic of very fine quality spontaneously exudes from the small branches. The harvest is affected by showers of rain during the period of collection, and the trees are much injured by frost, which is, however, of rare occurrence in the districts where they grow. Mastic occurs in commerce in the form of roundish tears about the size of peas. They are transparent, with a glassy fracture, of a pale yellow or faint greenish tinge, which darkens slowly by age. During the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries mastic enjoyed a high reputation as a medicine, and formed an ingredient in a large number of medical compounds; but its use in medicine is now obsolete, and it is chiefly employed for making varnish.

Pistacia Khinjuk and P. cabulica, trees growing throughout Sindh, Baluchistan and Cabul, yield a kind of mastic which is met with in the Indian bazaars under the name of Mustagirūmī, i.e. Roman mastic. This when occurring in the European market is known as East Indian or Bombay mastic. In Algeria P. Atlantica yields a solid resin, which is collected and used by the Arabs as a masticatory. Cape mastic is the produce of Euryops multifidus, the resin bush, or harpuis bosch of the Boers—a plant of the composite order growing abundantly in the Clanwilliam district. Dammar resin is sometimes sold under the name of mastic. The West Indian mastic tree is the Bursera gummifera and the Peruvian mastic is Schinus molle; but neither of these furnishes commercial resins. The name mastic tree is also applied to a timber tree, Sider oxylon mastichodendron, nat. ord. Sapotaceae, which grows in the West Indies and on the coast of Florida.