Source, Etc

Mastich is a resin obtained from a broad-leaved variety of Pistacia Lentiscus, Linne (N.O. Anacardiaceoe), a shrub or small tree indigenous to the countries bordering on the Mediterranean.

The resin, which has been known from the earliest times, and was formerly much more highly prized than it is now, is collected on the island of Scio in the Grecian Archipelago, and also in Cyprus, and possibly on other islands, but is exported only from Scio.

The bark of the tree, which contains a circle of oleo-resin ducts in the bast, is punctured with a small instrument resembling a chisel; the oleo-resin exudes in the form of small tears which in a few days become dry and hard. It is then collected, that taken from the tree itself forming the best qualities, whilst that which has dropped upon the ground is inferior.

Description

Mastich occurs in small hard tears about the size of peppercorns. The majority are pear-shaped, ovoid, or nearly globular; sometimes, but not often, they are elongated and resemble small stalactites. When fresh they are nearly colourless and quite clear and bright, but by keeping and handling they become pale yellow in colour and acquire a dull, dusty surface. They are brittle, breaking with a clear, glassy, conchoidal fracture, the interior of the tears being quite transparent. When chewed the tears break up at first into a sandy powder, which subsequently agglomerates into a plastic mass. The drug has an agreeable, rather aromatic odour, and a slight agreeable taste, both of which though, not pronounced, are characteristic.

The student should observe

(a) The preponderance of rounded or pear-shaped tears,

(b) The characteristic odour,

(c) The formation of a plastic mass when the resin is chewed; and should compare the drug with

Sandarac resin (see below).

Constituents

Mastich has approximately the following composition:

a- and β-Masticonic acid, amorphous, soluble in alcohol

380

per cent.

α-Masticoresene, soluble in alcohol ..

30.0

"

β-Masticoresene, insoluble in alcohol. . . .

200

"

a- and β-Masticinic acids. ...

4.0

"

Volatile oil ....

20

"

Masticolic acid, crystalline . .

0.5

"

It consists, therefore, chiefly of resin acids and resenes associated with about 2 per cent, of volatile oil (chiefly d-pinene).

Uses

Mastich was formerly employed as a stimulant, and was also used in the manufacture of varnishes. For the latter purpose it has been superseded by other cheaper resins, whilst as a medicine it is obsolete.

Varieties

Bombay or East Indian mastich is obtained from P. Khinjuk, Stokes (and probably other species); it is darker than genuine mastich, less vitreous, more soluble in alcohol and less soluble in oil of turpentine. It may also be distinguished by the acid value (103 to 109) which is much higher than that of genuine mastich (45 to 67).