Lentiscus oil; a treasure of the Mediterranean Sea

Lentiscus oil; a treasure of the Mediterranean Sea

The mastic tree (scientific name Pistacia lentiscus) is a typical evergreen bushy shrub of the Mediterranean Sea. It is an easy species to cultivate and can reach 3-5 m of height.
Its flowering takes place at the end of spring and its fruits, the drupes, are subject to change its color during the ripening: at the beginning they are greenish, in autumn they appear red, while at the end of ripening, in late winter, they assume the typical blackish color.
The harvest of the drupes normally takes place between November and January. This type of plant is characterized by the presence of separate female and male flowers, i.e. they are found on different shrubs.

The existence and especially the use of this plant are documented since ancient times thanks to its multiple properties: as food, as a natural drug, as a source of light, etc...
During the twentieth century, the production of lentiscus oil has decreased more and more due to intensive agriculture. Later, thanks to the growing interest of the market towards vegetable oils, the lentisk has been gradually rediscovered and many studies have begun for a better understanding of its characteristics, potential and, why not, perhaps discover new molecules contained within it that can also benefit our health.

The traditional method of extraction of lentisk, practiced to obtain oil, has survived only in some areas including, in Italy, Sardinia.
From the distillation of the whole lentisk plant it is possible to obtain the essential oil; the wood is used to produce activated charcoal. From the drupes it was obtained, instead, an oil that in the past was particularly used as a substitute for olive oil because it was cheaper and therefore available for everybody. The resin that is extracted from the trunk of the shrubIt is also very important for the food industry.

This oil has a very strong taste, in fact it reminds the typical smells of the Mediterranean scrub. It has a balsamic aroma, an intense and herbaceous scent.

The characteristic of its drupes is that they contain a very high quantity of oil, around 40% (this percentage varies depending on climatic conditions, genetics, and of course the maturation stage).

Lentiscus oil has a very high content of unsaturated fatty acids and this explains many of its beneficial virtues, given the importance of this type of nutrients within a proper diet.

The lentisk is also important from an environmental point of view: easy growing, resistant to aridity and its ability to improve the soil in which it is found, make it an excellent candidate to recover even those areas characterized by degradation and unsuitable soil for other types of cultivation.

Lentiscus oil: properties

The health properties of this oil are various, in particular:

  • The resin is also very useful as anti-inflammatory in the stomach and antibacterial in the oral cavity;
  • The oil has soothing and rebalancingproperties: it is suitable in case of insect bites, psoriasis and dermatitis. Promotes healing;
  • The lentisk also has antioxidant properties and therefore is very useful to combat free radicals;
  • The lentiscus oil, together with the essential oil, are suitable to treat mouth ulcers, gingival inflammation and, in general, airways.

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