- MASTIC, the shrub Pistacia lentiscus, known as "medicinal mastic." It exudes a gum which in the Midrash is called mastikhe. It has been identified by some with the lot (AV "myrrh," JPS "laudanum") mentioned among "the choice products of the land" which Jacob sent to Egypt with his sons (Gen. 43:11; Gen. R. ibid.; but see laudanum ). The Tosefta (Shab. 12:8) states that mastikhe may not be chewed on the Sabbath since it is a medicine. Dioscorides states, "Its gum serves for medicine and tooth powder. It is smeared on the skin of the face to make it shine. When chewed it sweetens the breath and contracts the gums. The best mastic comes from the island of Chios" (De materia medica 1:89). To the present day a special variety of the shrub whose gum is sold as medicinal mastic is grown on the island of Chios. It is widely distributed throughout Israel, particularly in the wadis of the Judean hills, but the medicinal properties of its sap have not yet been tested. It would appear that it is to be identified with bakha (pl. bekha'im) of the Bible (II Sam. 5:23; I Chron. 14:14–15; AV "mulberry"; RV "balsam"), the name being connected with the "weeping" (bokhim), i.e., the excretion of the sap. The valley through which the pilgrims walked to the Temple was called emek ha-bakha (Ps. 84:7) because of the shrubs of that name growing there. The phrase was however regarded as meaning "the vale of tears" and it thus became a synonym for the exile. -BIBLIOGRAPHY: H.N. and A.L. Moldenke, Plants of the Bible (1952), 177f., no. 161; J. Feliks, Olam ha-Ẓome'aḥ ha-Mikra'i (19682), 102. (Jehuda Feliks)
Encyclopedia Judaica. 1971.