It’s funny how the ingredients we have cooked with for years have spiritual and magical uses as well as culinary that we didn’t know about. I think one of the most exciting moments is discovering an alternative use for herbs and spices that we have in our own kitchen cabinets.
This is why our blessed Mother Earth is the giver of all life and goodness, and why we should accept her bounties with thanks and joy.
One of the resins I love to work with is Mastic gum. This resin has been used in Greek and Arabic cooking for centuries, flavouring sweets with its gorgeous aromas.
‘Pistacia lentiscus’ (Mastic) is an evergreen shrub which produces an aromatic, ivory coloured resin, also known as mastic (or mastix), which is harvested as a spice from the cultivated mastic trees grown in the south of the Greek island of Chios in the Aegean Sea, where it is also known by the name "Chios Tears". Originally liquid, it is sun dried into drops of hard, brittle, translucent resin. When chewed, the resin softens and becomes a bright white and opaque gum.
It is the chewing part of this resin that gave it its name, Mastic. The word mastic derives either from the Greek verb mastic Hein ("to gnash the teeth", origin of the English word masticate) or massein ("to chew").
As a spice, it continues to be used in Greece and Cyprus to flavour spirits and liquors (such as Chios's native drinks of Mastichato and mastica), chewing gum and a number of cakes, pastries, spoon sweets and desserts. Sometimes it is even used in making cheese. Mastic resin is a key ingredient in Dondurma (Turkish ice cream), and Turkish puddings granting those confections its unusual texture and bright whiteness. In Lebanon and Egypt, the spice is used to flavour many sauces, ranging from soups to meats to desserts, while in Morocco smoke from the resin is used to flavour water. In Turkey, Mastic is used as a flavor of Turkish delight. Recently, a Mastic flavoured fizzy drink has also been launched.
Mastic resin is a key ingredient in Greek festival breads, for example the sweet bread ‘Tsoureki’ and in Cyprus it is used to flavour ‘Flaounes’ which are baked at Easter. Furthermore, Masticha also is essential to ‘Myron’, the holy oil used for Chrismation by the Orthodox Churches.
As well as its culinary uses, Mastic continues to be used for its gum and medicinal properties. The resin is used as a primary ingredient in the production of cosmetics such as toothpaste, lotions for the hair and skin, and perfumes.
Regarding health benefits, Mastic is chewed to alleviate stomach cramps and upsets. 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").
Regular consumption of mastic has been proven to absorb cholesterol, thus easing high blood pressure and reduce the risk of heart attacks. Mastic oil also has anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties, and as such is widely used in the preparation of ointments for skin disorders and afflictions. It is also used in the manufacture of plasters (band aids).
Magically, Mastic helps with psychic powers, manifestations and lust. During a meditation, mastic can be burnt on hot self lighting charcoal or used in any spell. Mastic corresponds with Sunday, so Sunday is a great day to burn it as incense. It can also be burnt during offerings, initiations and if you want to cleanse your home or workspace.
Perfumes: Mastic perfume corresponds with Wednesday and is a good perfume for Wednesdays.
As its astrological correspondence is the Sun, Gum mastic (as an herbal gum) may be used in as an ingredient or substitute for magic spells and formulas related to solar matters (healing, illumination, magical power, physical energy, protection, success, and putting an end to legal matters).
Mastic also corresponds with Sun Gods, Goddesses and Archangels such as Michael, Brigid, and Helios.
Thank you for reading and have a wonderful day!
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