SAQQEZ, a semifluid resin obtained from cuts and cracks of the wild pistachio trees, Pistacia mutica Fisch and C. A. Mey, and Pistacia lentiscus L., of the Anacardiaceae family, found in its natural habitats in Iran, more abundantly in the western region (Karimi, p. 581; Van). These small trees are called bana, van, or saqqez tree in Persian, boṭm in Arabic, and čātlanquš in Turkish (Dehḵodā, Loḡat-nāma, s.v.; Ḥakim Moʾmen, pp. 164, 271). A good deal of evidence supports the assumption that the city of Saqqez in western Iran is so called due to the local abundance of this plant and its product (Abrišami, passim).
Guillaume Olivier, a French traveler who visited Iran in 1796, wrote: “On May 30, we passed through Kerand Valley … reached a big village, Māhidašt. The villagers for a very long time have obtained good edible oil from the fruits of saqqez tree. They also make cuts in the trunk to collect saqqez” (tr., p. 29; on him, see FRANCE viii. TRAVELOGUES OF THE 18TH-20TH CENTURIES). Jakob Polak, visiting Iran in the 1850s, wrote that saqqez was produced by the ban tree, Pistacia mutica, found between Isfahan and Shiraz. He noted that saqqez-e kordi from Kurdistan sold more than other types (Polak, p. 458). A traveler visiting the south of Iran in 1256/1840, in the village of Fāruq, 25 km northeast of Persepolis, wrote: “this whole area is woods, mostly bana trees from which every year the inhabitants obtain the resin saqqez and sell it” (Safar-nāma, p. 23). In Kurdistan, the 20th-century agriculturalist Taqi Bahrāmi (p. 257) noted: “In Kurdistan, bana or wild pistachio, upon one making cuts on its bark, yields an important product called saqqez.” It is a longtime tradition in Kurdistan that villagers, in early to mid-June, take tools such as adze, sieve, sacks, and rope, and go up the hills in groups to collect saqqez (Ṭabāṭabāʾi and Qaṣriāni, p. 538).
Saqqez, known as qandarun in Isfahan Province was used as chewing gum in Iran long before manufactured products came on the market. This resin is called ʿelk or ʿelk al-boṭm in Arabic (Dehḵodā, Loḡat-nāma, s.v.; Ḥakīm Moʾmen, pp. 164-65, 271). ʿElk is mentioned in classical Persian literature. For instance, the poet Masʿud-e Saʿd-e Salmān (d. 515/1121) writes (Divān, p. 103):
Āb-am ka marā har ḵas-i beyābad.
ʿElk-am ka marā har kas-i beḵāyad
I am (like) water that any straw can find me;
(Like) ʿelk that anyone can chew me
The historian and poet ʿAwfī (late 6th/12th-early 7th/13th cent.; p. 97) has: “I saw a man chewing something and followed him for a milepost, hoping he would give me a part of what he was eating. Then, I found he was chewing ʿelk”; and from the poet ʿObayd Zākāni (d. 771/1370; p. 259): “When someone is chewing ʿelk, his stomach says: who is knocking at the door but doesn’t come in?” The poet Ḵāqāni (d. 595/1198; p. 55) also mentions maṣṭaki, the obsolete name for saqqez in Persian, along with almond, pistacio, and jujube.
Saqqez is an antibacterial agent and removes Helicobacter pylori bacteria, the main factor for peptic ulcer. Ebn Sinā (d. 428/1037) mentions saqqez for the treatment of digestive complications (Ebn Sinā, p. 163). Today, a low dose of it, one gram per day for two weeks, is perscribed to cure peptic ulcers (Huwez, et al., p. 1946). It is also effective in the treatment of benign gastric and duodenal ulcers.
A saqqez manufacturing company (Šerkat-e saqqez-sāzi Van) was established in 1990 in Kurdistan, near Sanandaj, and its main product, van natural chewing gum, came on the market in 1994. Most of its production is exported to more than fifteen countries (see Van). In addition to the trees in the wild, there are also successful productive plantations of this species.
The species of Pistacia are dioecious, and both male and female trees should be present for fruit production. The oil content of fruits and leaves of Pistacia mutica, in samples from Kerman Province, have been measured as 1.25 percent and 0.75 percent, respectively (Moghtader, p. 292). The oil from resin and seed are referred to as turpentine, and the tree as terebinth, because of its resemblance to the oil and resin from pine trees. A by-product in the process of natural chewing gum, alpha pinene, commercially known as terebinthine, is used as raw material in pharmaceutical, cosmetic, and foodstuff industries.
Moḥammad-Ḥasan Abrišami, “Ḵāstgāh-e nām-e Saqqez wa naqšhā-ye sini-e Zivia, naqd-i bar naẓarhā-ye Giršman,” Majalla-ye bāstān-šenāsi wa tāriḵ, 2012, pp. 15-28.
Sadid-al-Din Moḥammad Awfi, Jawāmeʿ al-ḥekāyāt wa lawāmʿ al-rewāyāt, ed. Bānu Moṣaffā Karimi, Tehran, 1973, p. 97.
Taqi Bahrāmi, Farhang-e rustāʾi yā dāyerat al-maʿāref-e falāḥati, 3 vols., Tehran, 1937-38.
Ebn Sinā, Ketāb al-qānun fi’l-ṭebb, tr. ʿAbd-al-Raḥmān Šarafkandi, as Qānun dar ṭeb, Tehran, 1967.
Ḥakim Moʾmen (Moḥammad-Moʾmen Ḥosayni Tonokāboni), Toḥfat al-moʾmenīn (Toḥfa-ye Ḥakim Moʾmen), Tehran, 1981.
Farhad U. Huwez et al., “Mastic Gum Kills Helicobacter pylori,” The New England Journal of Medicine, 339, 1998, p. 1946.
Afżal-al-Din Ḵāqāni Šarvāni, Divān-e Ḵāqāni, ed. Żiāʾ-al-Din Sajjādi, 5th ed., Tehran, 1995.
Hādi Karimi, Farhang-e rostanihā-ye Irān, Tehran, 2002.
Masʿud-e Saʿd-e Salmān, Divān, ed. Rašid Yāsami, Tehran, 1938, p. 103.
M. Moghtader, “Comparative Survey on the Essential Oil Composition from the Leaves and Fruits of Pistacia mutica Fisch. [in] Kerman Province,” Middle-East Journal of Scientific Research 5/4, 2010, pp 291-97.
ʿObayd Zākāni, Kolliyāt-e ʿObayd-e Zākāni: Resāla-ye delgošā, ed. Moḥammad-Jaʿfar Maḥjub, New York, 1999.
Guillaume Antoine Olivier, Voyage dans l’empire Othoman, l’Égypte et la Perse, 3 vols., Paris, 1801-07; tr. Moḥammad-Ṭāher Mirzā, as Safar-nāma-ye Olivia, repr., ed. Ḡolām-Reżā Varahrām, Tehran, 1992.
Jakob Eduard Polak, Persien: Das Land und seine Bewohner – Ethnographische Schilderungen, 2 vols., Leipzig, 1865; tr. Keykāvus Jahāndāri as Safar-nāma-ye Pulāk: Irān wa Irāniān, Tehran, 1982.
Safar-nāma-ye banāder wa jazāyer-e Ḵalij-e Fārs, written in 1256 (1848-49), ed. Manučehr Setuda, Tehran, 1988.
Moḥammad Ṭabāṭabāʾi and Farhang Qaṣriāni, Manābeʿ-e ṭabiʿi-e Kordestān: Jangalhā wa marāteʿ, bahra-bardāri-e saqqez ba raveš-e sonnati, Tehran, 1992.
[Van] Šerkat-e saqqaz-sāzi-ye Kordestān (Van), at www.van.ir.
Originally Published: September 4, 2015
Last Updated: October 28, 2015Cite this entry:
Bahram Grami, "SAQQEZ," Encyclopædia Iranica, online edition, 2015, available at http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/saqqez (accessed on 04 September 2015).