Mastic of Chios, the miracle of nature

• Category: Interviews
Since the Medieval times, mastic has been the trademark of Chios. This resin in the shape of teardrop that comes from the bark of the mastic trees has been an important source of wealth for the island for many centuries now. The myth says that the first mastic tree was brought on Chios by Christopher Columbus on one of his commercial trips around the Mediterranean, way before he discovered America. These trees grew amazingly well on the island and perfectly fitted with the climate and the local soil. Others believe that this product was cultivated on the island since the ancient times and that Hippocrates himself, the famous practitioner known as the "father of medicine", used mastic to produce remedies for various kinds of diseases or wounds.

Many centuries now, the residents have discovered the beneficial qualities of the mastic and its demand is gradually growing. Today, about 5,000 families in southern Chios produce mastic and in fact 90% of the product is exported. Giorgos Galatoulas, a native of Chios, opened in 2001 the company ANEMOS, along with his partner Giannis Benetos. As they both had 20 years of experience in commerce, they decided to set up this company and make the mastic famous all over the world. They make and sell high-quality products with mastic as the main ingredient.

"Right from the beginning, Chios only had profits from mastic", told us Mr Galatoulas. "Because of this product, Chios had special benefits during the Venetian and the Ottoman occupations. Over the last years, following globalization, the mastic has become more famous around the world and there is more demand, which has pushed producers to a larger cultivation. However, few producers live exclusively from the cultivation of mastic and for most of them this is an additional -but still very important- income. It is also rather impressive that mastic is produced exclusively in southern Chios, as the mastic tree grows anywhere else but only in southern Chios it produces mastic."

Can you mention us some of the beneficial qualities of mastic?

Mastic is fairly called "the miracle of nature". It would not be exaggerating to say that mastic is appropriate for practically all health problems. Not only it was used as a medicine in the ancient times, but modern researches and clinical tests have proven that mastic has anti-inflammatory qualities, therefore it acts epulotically in many cases, starting from periodontitis, gastritis and gastric ulcer till colitis and hemorrhoids.

Mastic also has strong anti-oxidant and detoxicational effects contributing in the overall health condition of the organism. So, mastic absorbs cholesterol and consequently reduces heart diseases. As for mouth hygiene, mastic has antimicrobial qualities and extinguishes microbes that cause caries, gingivitis and periodontitis. Also mastic oil has analgetic virtues on teeth with caries. Mastic is also used in cosmetics because it cleans the skin well with its antimicrobial qualities. This makes the skin look brighter and gives it the appropriate moistness. Also it helps the organism abort the dead cells and to produce new healthy cells. In cooking and pastry, mastic is used as spice and gives a pleasant, discrete flavor in many recipes. Moreover, it is an important complement for diets, particularly in cases of lack in micronutrients.

Your products are all traditional or you create your own, too?

We like to pioneer. We have created many new products with mastic that didn't exist before. For example, we are the first in the world to make mastic soaps and refreshments with mastic. However, apart from new creations, we also revive traditional products, like tiritoba (petit beurre biscuit filled with mastic loukoumi). Our effort is to combine the beneficial qualities of mastic with other ingredients and create products that can really make the difference. Also we want to create products with the purest ingredients, without any allergens or preservatives.

Where can people find your products?

As we don't have our own stores, we give our products to exclusively-biological stores and some pharmacies. Also through the Internet.

Over the last years, people have turned to biological products. How do you see this trend?

Indeed biological products have raised sales in Greece the last decade, although they are more popular in other countries. The main problem is the increased price and as a result not all people can buy them. However, when we refer to complex products, for example cosmetic creams, it is very difficult, almost impossible, to achieve the perfect result using only biological first material. What we do as a company is that we use pure first material (they are not necessarily all biological) and we enrich these products with effective biological components.