Download: Miswak: A cultural Heritage PDF
The miswak (miswaak, siwak, sewak, Arabic: سواك or مسواك) is a teeth cleaning twig made from the Salvadora persica tree (known as arak in Arabic). A traditional and natural alternative to the modern toothbrush, it has a long, well-documented history and is reputed for its medicinal benefits. It is reputed to have been used over 7000 years ago. The miswak’s properties have been described thus: “Apart from their antibacterial activity which may help control the formation and activity of dental plaque, they can be used effectively as a natural toothbrush for teeth cleaning. Such sticks are effective, inexpensive, common, available, and contain many medical properties”. It also features prominently in Islamic hygienical jurisprudence.
The miswak is predominant in Muslim-inhabited areas. It is commonly used in the Arabian peninsula, the Horn of Africa, North Africa, parts of the Sahel, the Indian subcontinent, Central Asia and Southeast Asia. In Malaysia, miswak is known as Kayu Sugi (Malay for ‘chewing stick’).
WHAT TREES ARE MISWAK MADE FROM?
suitable wood for miswak come from various trees in different parts of the world for example:
Salvadora Persica (the toothbrush tree) buy in oz
http://www.allthingsislam.com.au (this site is now closed)
Common Names: Salt bush, Mustard tree, The tooth brush tree.
Internationally known as: Arak, Siwak, Peelu, Miswak.
Scientific Name: Salvadora Persica
Potential Dental Benefits with Regular Use:
Research shows that the bark of the “Toothbrush Tree” contains on antibiotic which suppresses the growth of bacteria and the formation of plaque in the mouth. Research also suggests that the regular use of Miswak significantly reduces plaque, gingivitis, and the growth of cariogenic bacteria. No toothpaste required! Miswak, naturally contains many components such as fluoride, astringents, detergents, resins (a possible enamel protectant) and abrasives.
How to use:
Simply scrape off bark from the tip (1/2″), then chew the tip gently until brush like and the fiber becomes soft. Brush teeth horizontally and frequently. When the bristles are worn and the flavor has subsided, cut them off & repeat instruction.
Miswak is also spelled as Miswaak, Meswak, Miswaq or Meswaq. In Arabic, its also known as sewak. Some people prefer spelling it as sewak, siwak, siwaak and with such small variations.
Different Kind of Miswak … Peelu, Olive, Bitam Tree Miswak
It is permissible to take for a Miswak all kinds of tree twigs provided these aren’t hazardous or poisonous. It is prohibited to utilize a Miswak from a poisonous tree. Our Holy Prophet (Peace Be upon Him) Forbade the Usage of Raihaan as Miswak as it leads to the disease, Juz-zaam.
Miswaks from the following trees aren’t permissible:
Pomegranate; Bambo; Raihaan; Chambelie
Listed below are the kinds of Miswak recommended:
Zaitoon or Olive tree
Any bitter tree
Miswak of the Peelo Tree
“And, the finest of Miswaks is the Peelo, then the Olive.”
The ideal kind of Miswak is that which is obtained from the Peelo tree. The miswak of the Peelo tree is incredible for getting the sparkle or glitters of the teeth. Our Holy Prophet (Peace Be upon Him) likewise lauded and endorsed the Peelo tree for Miswak usage. Apart from recommending the Peelo tree, Holy Prophet (Peace Be upon Him) together with the Companion (May Allah be Pleased with them) utilized Miswaks of this tree. Companions of Imam Shafi (R) have shown Agreement of Opinion among them on the point that the usage of the Peelo Miswak is Mustahab.
Miswak of the Olive Tree
Our Holy Prophet (Peace Be upon Him) has voiced highly of the Miswak of this tree as well. The following Hadith reveals the importance of the Olive tree Miswak:
“Use the Miswak of the Olive tree. It’s the Miswak of an auspicious tree. It cleans and makes wholesome the mouth. It erases the yellowishness of the teeth. It is my (i.e. Rasulullah’s) Miswak and the Miswak of the Prophets who arrived before me.”
Miswak of the Bitam Tree
In another Hadith it’s stated that in the absence of the Peelo tree the Olive tree could be utilized, and in the absence of the Olive Miswak, the Bitam tree Miswak could be utilized.
Miswak of some bitter tree
If none of the three aforementioned kinds of Miswak is obtainable, a Miswak of any bitter tree can be taken.
” . . Afterwards it is recommended to utilize a Miswak of a sour tree since the Miswak of a sour tree takes off odor of the mouth to a greater extent.”
People in Middle East, Pakistan and India often prefer old-fashioned way to brush their teeth. They use Miswak, a stick made of Salvadora persica tree that cleans teeth even better than a toothbrush. Traditionally, you need to bite off the top of the stick, which exposes natural bristles that work similar to the toothbrush.
Leen Sadder, a design student at The School of Visual Arts decided to give the traditional Miswak stick a new modern look. She called her natural toothbrush THIS and in order to promote the idea of this twig she decided to create a suitable package for it. Many people would not welcome the idea of biting the stick to clean their teeth. So the graduate student designed a cigar-cutter-like cap to make this job for you.
Keep in mind that THIS toothbrush is eco-friendly: natural and biodegradable and works just as well or even better than traditional toothbrush.
UPDATE dec 2015
from MY Plastic-Free Life
A few points from India, where this method is still used, though not as widely as it was 30 years ago.
(1) Were the sticks really very dry? Here, we use young twigs off the plants because they are easiest to chew. they’re a bit more slender than what you seem to have there. Also because you don’t mention the taste, which should have been quite a notable thing had you had young, fresh sap in the twigs
(2) No, it’s not something used centuries ago. It’s in use in living memory, though — like I was saying, rarer than 30 years ago, when it seemed ubiquitous in my child’s eyes. Lots of long-lived people around here with all their teeth — can’t recall more than two of my 15-odd grandparents, great-grandparents and great-uncles and aunts having ever had caries of any sort (and no, dentist’s visits as prevention are STILL not the norm, so that’s not regular professional cleaning doing the trick).
(3) I’m guessing the pregnancy warning is statutory for any herbal product that hasn’t expressly been studied for safety in pregnancy. Neem does nothing terrible to your hormones that regular food doesn’t (there are enough phytoestrogens in food even without soy coming into the picture; there are other foods that cause migraines, relieve aches and whatnot… all food has ‘side effects’, if you look really hard for them). In India, or at least the eastern part of the country, we eat neem leaves all the time as a delicacy. No one stops using neem twigs or eating the leaves because they are pregnant. (And it’s not our of ignorance — there ARE proscribed foods, such as raw poppy seed paste.) We do stop when breastfeeding, but only because some children (supertasters, i guess) can taste the difference in mother’s milk.
(4) It shouldn’t take very long to brush with these — in fact, we try to peel the bark with the front teeth, then actively chew on the end to soften it and use alternate sides to do that, because the very act of chewing cleans the teeth for the most part. After that, a quick once-over. But yeah, nowhere near as fast as toothpaste… though like someone’s already said, the idea isn’t to do this at ‘brushing time’. We do it between tasks or while doing other stuff — on your morning walk, while walking the dog, reading the paper, watching an after-dinner movie, waiting for the bath to fill are all good ideas!
But what came before that? Answer: The miswak.
I have only been aware of the miswak for a year or so, and it took me this long to finally break down and buy one. Of all the areas in my life I’ve tried to switch to more traditional roots, an alternative to my toothbrush wasn’t a high priority. In fact I liked how my teeth cleaner worked.
And then, like everything else, I researched.
This natural stick, which is actually a length of root from the Peelu tree, is a natural and more effective toothbrush than your typical plastic and nylon kind.
Beyond the miswak not being synthetic, which is enough reason for me to try it, it actually kills bacteria and fights plaque. On it’s own. With no toothpaste. This of course leads to fewer cavities and fresher breath.
What Does Science Say?
I admit I was skeptical. To hear of a natural toothbrush to not only replace my plastic one, but to not even need toothpaste (or floss?) – and then to learn that it kills bacteria and whitens teeth? Sounded too good to be true.
Then I came across this clinical study. The purpose of this study was to “compare the effect of the chewing stick (miswak), and toothbrushing on plaque removal and gingival health.” The results? “Compared to toothbrushing, the use of the miswak resulted in significant reductions in plaque.”
The study concluded the miswak is more effective than toothbrushing for reducing plaque and gingivitis.
Nothing holding me back, I marched right over to amazon where I bought a miswak.
It was fun when the package came and I asked my family (and friends) what this stick-looking thing actually was. They were all surprised it was a toothbrush. Just another thing to add to the list of what Lea does that is not normal!
You do have to use a peeler (or knife if you’re handy that way) to scrape off about 1/2 inch of the bark away. Then you chew on it until the fibers separate, and you can get right to work. At first some of the outer fibers will break off in your mouth – but then you’re pretty much all set.
The flavor is a natural one, and to describe it I would have to say it reminds me of horseradish on a much much milder level with no spice. And the more you use it, the more mild it gets.
Do I Like It?
When I first used my miswak I was afraid my teeth wouldn’t feel clean enough and I’d have to brush with toothpaste after. I was afraid I’d resort to using my plastic toothbrush at least before leaving the house…
I was wrong.
My teeth do actually feel cleaner. Even without my favorite toothpaste.
I always found a regular toothbrush to be ineffective at fully removing plaque, which is why I floss. However, using the miswak I was surprised to find I really didn’t need to floss anymore, since the properties of the miswak are so effective at removing the plaque.
My teeth are shinier. I almost think they are whiter…could it really be true?
The most pleasant surprise of all is how easy the miswak is to use. I can “brush my teeth” in the car on the way to…anywhere. I find the miswak to be handier than a regular toothbrush, probably due to the fact I don’t need to be near a sink to use it. In fact tonight I used it while playing Yahtzee with my daughter.