Nevertheless, what propelled mastiha onto the Roman market was gum chewing. Roman high society with its sybaritic predilections sought new exotic experiences, and chewing mastiha was one of them. Initially they chewed it for oral health, to clean the teeth and perfume the breath, but they gradually became addicted and chewed it simply for pleasure. Chewing, after all, is an action with subconscious associations, a regression, according to Freud, to breastfeeding.
Aetius and Oribasius
When the patrician Pelagia asked Aetius, emperor Justinianus’ personal physician, for a beauty cream, he suggested a bizarre concoction that contained among other things mastiha and deer brains! Even Oribasius, personal physician to emperor Julian the Apostate, made sunscreen preparations using mastiha.
Manual de Mugeres
In the 16th century, ladies of aristocracy fervently sought out literature with cosmetic formulas. Mastiha was present here too. The Manual de Mugeres, a 16th century Spanish medical manual for women, contains this formula for mastiha soap: two ounces white soap, one fourth mastiha, one eighth southernwood resin, and one fourth borax. The Widowes Treasure (1585), the most celebrated work of its kind (designed by John Partridge based on recipes he collected from his female acquaintances) has instructions for a lipstick that “heals lips chapped by wind and cold,” which contains rose oil, beeswax, mastiha, and frankincense.
The Italian traveler Francesco Placenca, writes: “Mastiha is stimulant, which has a mysterious virtue and power to “provide food” to the stimulations of Aphrodite and to arouse in a unique way even the most sleepy and somnolent aphrodisiac appetites”.