Helicobacter pylori: Mastic Gum as a Treatment option

mastic gum helicobacter pylori treatment options byron bay herbalist herbal medicine gut health specialist naturopath

Mastic gum is harvested from the bark of Pistacia lentiscus var. Chi (aka mastic tree) and has been used in herbal medicine for thousands of years.

Use of mastic gum dates back to the bronze age Egyptians that apparently used it for medicinal purposes. The Egyptians were not the only civilisation to take advantage of the small evergreen tree. Ancient Greek physicians as well as Persian and Arabic physicians prescribed the resin for health issues including abdominal pain, heartburn, gastric and intestinal ulcers (1).

Since a publication in The New England Journal of Medicine in 1998 mastic gum has been sought after for it’s herbal antimicrobial actions against Helicobacter pylori. Helicobacter pylori is an extremely common gut bug that causes many health issues ranging from gastric and peptic ulcers to gastric cancer. I have written about this bacterium before including symptoms of infection, testing and possible treatment options. Unfortunately the study was only looking at in vitro aspects of mastic gums effect on Helicobacter pylori. At the time it seemed promising but a follow up study done in 2003 found that in vitro mastic gum had “no effect on Helicobacter pylori” (3).

Since then many papers have been published looking at the effect of mastic gum and its constituent properties on eliminating Helicobacter pylori infections with varying results.

Mastic Gum For H. Pylori Infections

The most promising paper I have come across, published in 2007, looked into the mastic gum resin that all of the previous studies had used. It found mastic gum, as a whole unrefined substance, “contained a high percentage (30%) of an insoluble and sticky polymer that obviously hinders its oral administration and reduces the bioavailability of the contained active compounds.”

Many renowned herbalists advocate using the whole plant. A different approach is to use the medicine that does the greatest good while creating the least amount of harm. If an active constituent in mastic gum resin proves to be useful in eradicating chronic Helicobacter pylori infections then I would like to explore it. Especially considering that many Helicobacter pylori strains are becoming antibiotic resistant (5, 6, 7, 8).

After proposing that the insoluble polymer within mastic gum could be the issue the same research scientists began testing mastic extract (without the polymer) on Helicobacter pylori infected mice. The results showed the polymer-less mastic gum, called TMEWP for short (total mastic extract without polymer) to have moderate anti H. pylori action. Nothing to get too excited about yet (4).

Here’s where it gets interesting. The researchers then took the TMEWP and ran it through the chemical process to obtain both acidic and neutral fractions. Both of these fractions, plus the original TMEWP, were tested in vitro (ie: test tube/petri dish). As it turns out the acidic fraction had the highest activity. Taking it a step further they isolated each of the acidic compounds and found them all to be active against Helicobacter pylori, but not as effective as the whole acidic fraction (4).

Studies Supporting Mastic Gum Use For Helicobacter pylori

Quite an interesting study, and one that brings the idea of mastic gum back into the game for Helicobacter pylori treatments. There are a few points that I think it’s important to make.

  1. None of the studies/trials that I have read to date administered mastic gum for any prolonged period of time. As anyone familiar with herbal/botanical protocols knows, many involve 30, 60 and even 90 day protocols.
  2. Though they have shown that the acidic fraction of mastic gum was very active against all Helicobacter pylori strains tested it was still only an in vitro study. Many times in vitro studies are used to argue a case for or against a treatment. It is well known that in vitro studies are one of the lowest levels of science. They are important, but only to support the next stages of research (ie: in vivo animal studies then onto in vivo human studies then onto systematic review with a meta analysis)
  3. In Functional Medicine the ‘killing’ or ‘weeding’ phase often involves a few different botanicals, or even a combination of botanicals and pharmaceuticals. Perhaps mastic gum works synergistically with other plant extracts?

If you’ve had any experience with mastic gum or Helicobacter pylori treatments let me know in the comments below!   

References and Resources

  1. Fractionation of Mastic Gum in Relation to Antimicrobial Activity
  2. Mastic Gum Kills Helicobacter Pylori
  3. Mastic gum has no effect on Helicobacter pylori load in vivo
  4. In Vitro and In Vivo Activities of Chios Mastic Gum Extracts and Constituents against Helicobacter pylori
  5. The challenge of Helicobacter pylori resistance to antibiotics: the comeback of bismuth-based quadruple therapy
  6. Antibiotic-resistant H. pylori infection and its treatment.
  7. H pylori antibiotic resistance: prevalence, importance, and advances in testing
  8. Prevalence of antibiotic resistance in Helicobacter pylori: A recent literature review
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  1. Good morning Todd,
    I have terrible burping problem that I cant seem to get rid of. I have recently been taking “Love Your Gut” Capsules which are Diatomaceous Earth(Food Grade).They don’t seem to have made much difference. I’m not sure. Its hard to say. I also wasn’t sure how many to take and when exactly to take them for best results. My sister Alice Jamieson “sees” you or perhaps someone that may work for you …I’m not 100% sure. I think she may have asked you and you mentioned to her that it may be HELICOBACTER PYLORI. I’m just wondering where I go to from here.
    Many thanks for your help.

    Kind regards,

    1. Hi Esther, you can get a work up for H. pylori with your local GP. The test should be free. I recommend breath testing when screening for H. pylori but a stool test is a good option too.

  2. Hello,
    I am masticing once a day a gum of chios for eliminating H. Pylori. But should I mastic more than once a day? Or shoukd I eat it without masticing?

    Thanks for your help,


  3. I took antibiotics for H pylori in 2014, symptoms were coming back. I have had lifelong Gerd problem. I started taking mastic gum two weeks ago. Finding it soothing, No side effects. It seems like nutrient rich essential oils packed into small tears as oil secretes in to mouth as we chew. If I feel like chewing it, I chew it otherwise just swallow it. I will finish the 40 grams I got from Amazon and maybe order more because, antibiotics for H pylori and very strong and ruin the gut balance. it also seems to balance the stomach acid reducing heartburn.

  4. I had tested positive for H pylori two years ago at a naturopath’s office and she decided to not treat it and have me focus on reducing stress. I wasn’t necessary having symptoms but had growing food sensitivities, constipation and chronic pain. I have since tested positive for methane SIBO. I now see a conventional medicine practitioner who immediately tested me for H pylori upon learning I have been having upper GI symptoms for a while and that I have a history of testing positive. She said if H pylori is present along with symptoms, they always treat it. I really don’t want to take the antibiotics for it. I have been mastic gum 350mg TID and GDL 1 tab, 1 hr before meals, for a day and have already seen HUGE improvement in gastritis symptoms and bowel activity (fullness, burning, and pain gone). The literature seems controversial about whether or not mastic gum alone can eradicate H pylori, but I’m thinking I will continue to take it for a few weeks, add the antibiotics and then focus on reestablishing flora. Double the chances of killing the bug, hopefully. Will update.

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