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Natural Alternative To Toothbrushes & Toothpaste

>9 February 2011
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Have you ever watched a documentary on tv about tribes living in the bush, and wondered to yourself how in the world these people keep such healthy white teeth? I’m sure I’m not the only one out there thinking these things, right?! Have you ever seen them chewing on sticks? Chances are, they may be using something called a Miswak (also known as Siwak), or “chewing sticks”.

I first learned about Miswak sticks from a friend of mine who’s from Egypt. After looking them up online, I was quickly impressed with the oral health benefits this natural toothbrush boasts. Study after study has shown that those who use the Miswak chewing sticks vs. those who use traditional toothbrushes and toothpaste, have significantly healthier gums, less plaque and gingivitis, and have overall better oral health.

I don’t know about you, but I think this is awesome! No chemicals, no toothpaste, just a stick! How good is God that He would provide us with such an amazing little thing to keep our mouths healthy?

So where does this twig come from, anyways? Well, the Miswak traditionally comes from either the branches or the roots of the Peelu Tree (or Arak tree). Although this is the most recommended source for making Miswaks, you can also make them from Olive trees, and Walnut trees. I have also read that over 300 species of trees and shrubs are used in East Africa for making chewing sticks, so it isn’t necessarily variety specific. (Though, you do have to be careful not to use a poisonous plant!)

Here are a few proven benefits of using a Miswak:

  • It kills the bacteria which causes gum disease
  • Fights plaque better than traditional toothpaste
  • Leads to fewer cavities
  • Freshens breath; kills odor causing bacteria
  • Whitens teeth naturally
  • Effectively cleans between teeth better than regular toothbrushes
  • Contains natural flouride
  • Also great for those who want to stop smoking!
  • Safe for toddlers; safe to swallow

How to use a Miswak:

First, peel or chew the bark off of about 1/2 inch from the end of the stick. Chew the wood on the end until the fibers begin to separate. Then brush your teeth with this fibrous end as you would a regular toothbrush. As the end gets dirty or begins coming apart, break off or cut the end and start with a fresh tip. No need for water, though you should wash the end of the brush when finished if possible. You can also soak it in rosewater to cleanse.

Supposedly it has a licorice flavor.

Not only is it healthier, natural, and better for the environment, Miswak sticks can save you money too! This simple twig can replace your toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, mouth wash, and teeth whitening products!!

Where can you find your own Miswak? Unfortunately, they aren’t easy to find here in the US. But you can order them online. Amazon carries them, though after shipping they can be pricey. I’m gonna keep an eye out for a good deal on them though, ’cause I’d LOVE to try these. If you have an Arabic store in your area, you might see if they carry them. Many muslims use a Miswak as a part of their religion, so I’m sure you can find them locally if you know where to look, without having to pay the shipping.

Now… if only I could grow my own Miswak tree, along with the soap berry tree I’d still love to plant! We do have a few black walnut trees on our land… hmmmm, think that would work?

Here are a couple of scientific studies on the effects of using these chewing sticks, for those of you who are interested:

Comparative Effect Of Chewing Sticks & Toothbrushing

Journal of Periodontal Research

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  • Heidi said:

    That is so great; I would love to try it!

  • Valencia said:

    Ohh my kids would LOVE this!!!!

  • Rebecca said:

    My husband is into bushcraft (camping with only a knife and the clothes on your back, basically) He recommended (in order of taste preference) Black Birch, Cherry, White Birch. The birch tastes like wintergreen, and cherry is sweet.
    Enjoy! This is how he keeps his teeth and gums healthy while he’s out camping.

  • kattmaxx said:

    Black walnut is not recommended for use when pregnant.Google search will give you more info.

  • Kendra at New Life On A Homestead (author) said:

    Thanks, kattmaxx and Rebecca!

  • Robin said:

    I can remember my grandmother showing me this with a tree in our backyard when I was about 5 years old. She has been gone over 20 years. I look back on my memories of her lifestyle because she did everything the old fashioned way.

  • Tiffani said:

    One of my herbal books says you can do this with flowering Dogwood, white or pink varieties.

  • Jacque said:

    This is perfect! I’ve been working on recipes for homemade toothpaste for a while, and have really been disappointed. This is so simple and natural.

  • Jessica said:

    I always wondered how they keep their teeth so white too! That is some great info.

  • Kendra at New Life On A Homestead (author) said:


    That’s interesting!! We have Dogwoods all around here, I’ll have to check into that :)

  • Shaye @ The Elliott Homestead said:

    You are a rock star :) Let me know how it goes once you try it!

  • April said:

    I wonder if their “good teeth” is all because of the stick, or if their diet also comes into play. I would bet their diet has something to do with it also. Our society uses too much sugar, candy, gum and such.

  • Lanna said:

    Yeah, I was going to mention that the indigenous likely eat more whole foods and much less (if at all!) processed sugars and starches.

  • Kendra at New Life On A Homestead (author) said:

    Yeah, that’s definitely true April! And surely plays a factor in their oral health. Nevertheless, one of the studies I’ve looked at was done on a group of young Arabic men, and though they probably ate a similar diet altogether, the men who brushed with the Miswak had significantly better gums and teeth than those who used a traditional toothbrush and toothpaste. I thought that was interesting.

  • lilly said:

    I would like to know how can we purchase this stick in the United States?

  • Kendra at New Life On A Homestead (author) said:

    Hi Lilly,

    Like I said, you can order it online (Amazon and other places), but you’ll have to pay a pretty nice shipping price. You can also see if you have an Arabic store in your nearest city. ;)

  • Lisa said:

    I have been using the miswak stick for 2 weeks and my teeth are so white. My husband is using it too and he drinks tea so his teeth have been stained and his are getting whiter. I have combined the miswak stick with tooth soap and so far have enjoyed the results. I just miss scrubing my tongue with a toothbrush and paste so I do that in the mornings and evenings but I only use the miswak stick with tooth soap on my teeth.

  • Kendra at New Life On A Homestead (author) said:


    That’s awesome! Did you order yours online or find it locally? I’d LOVE to get my hands on one, but just can’t pay the high shipping expenses.

  • Renee said:

    I have read that you are looking into your Hebrew Roots and becoming more torah observant. If you buy these from an Arab store, they MAY be “hallal”, which means they have been prayed over and committed to Allah. Most of the meat at Walmart, etc. is mixed with Hallal meat, rendering it inedible to anyone keeping torah.
    Just thought you might want to know.

  • Kendra at New Life On A Homestead (author) said:

    Thank you Renee!!! Actually, my husband was just telling me about this the other day. I had NO idea that the meat we buy at the store could have been dedicated to Allah. Sheesh!!! They outta tell people these things!! I just learned about the little “U” and “K” on foods indicating that they are Kosher too. Thank you for sharing this!!

  • Sam said:

    If you are into eating Kosher and having a stricter diet you shouldn’t even be eating from Walmart. Walmart does not have Halal or Kosher meat. Plus there is nothing wrong with Halal meat, it isn’t blessed or dedicated to Allah, it’s just killed under God’s name, but it does not change the meat or make it any different from non Halal meat & anyone can eat it without any problems, infact it’s quite similar to Kosher meat by how they slaughter the animal so Muslims can eat Kosher meat as well without any religious problems. So if you are into Kosher meat, you really shouldn’t eat regular meat found in regular stores anyway. You should go to specific Kosher stores that sell Kosher meat and Kosher products and make sure you don’t mix dairy with meat products.

  • Tina S. said:

    Hello Kendra,
    I thought it was so great that you have a posting on this subject! I’m an American living in Senegal (West Africa) and most local people here use these sticks (looking just like the one you described) to brush their teeth and prefer it to a regular toothbrush! I have yet to try it out, but know many Senegalese who use it and noticed, that while dentists in this part of the world are rarely affordable for most locals, they nevertheless have surprising few problems with dental health than we do, and much whiter teeth!! I will have to check from which kind of tree the chewing sticks comes here, but I decided now that I have got to try it out!! :)
    I stumbled on your page a few hours ago by the way (I still have a lot of reading to do!) and simply love it! We are moving soon back to the US and might be buying our own house. I have been thinking for a while of changing and “simplifying” our lifestyle. Your tips and info will come in very handy and I’m enjoying reading about your learning adventures as well and it is nice to connect with people with a similar idea in mind!
    (Sorry that my post got longer than intended!)
    Thank you for sharing your life and experiences with all of us!
    Best from Senegal,

  • Kendra at New Life On A Homestead (author) said:

    Hi Tina!

    I’m so glad you stumbled upon my humble site :) I’m so jealous that you have access to these toothbrushes! You have GOT to try it, for me, lol! I have a friend who is trying to get me one from Egypt when her family member comes to visit, but until then I’m outta luck. Let me know what you think if you do try it out :) I wish you the best in your future endeavors!

  • Tina S. said:

    Kendra! I’m hooked to your page! :) -I’ve been reading already all night! Lol, I gotta go to bed now.
    Just wanted to say that I will definately try out the stick tooth brush, and I will let you guys know here how it goes! :) Let’s first see what it does to my teeth, lol, but if you feel comfortable sending me your mailing address, I will try to send you some “brushes” if you like! :)
    Good night! Don’t forget to brush your teeth everyone! :)

  • Tina S. said:

    Ok, so I tried the African tooth sticks today! Verdict: It is no tooth brush to me, lol, but they are surprisingly good, considering that they are made from a tree and seem to do the job well!! My senegalese friend, with whom I bought the sticks, told me that this specific kind comes from the “Nep-Nep tree.” I did a little research afterwards and found out that this is a kind of Acacia tree. Appearently they use the sticks to treat Scorbut with it as well(as it contains Vitamin C), cancers and other kind of diseases. When you go out on the street here in Senegal, you see countless of people chewing on these twigs- they work like a toothpick, with the tiny little bristles cleaning their teeth without any tooth paste, and they seem to keep their gums and teeth surprisingly healthy. This is very difficult here as there aren’t many dentists around. Most people here never ever used a toothbrush! To use the stick, you just break it in half or chew one end of- and voila: you have your natural toothbrush. They come in different sizes and there are some other varieties as well. One of them is called “Sum” (a more yellowish stick.) I think I will try it soon too, but that one is more used to whiten your teeth rather than cleaning them. I bought about 20 of the Nep-Nep kind for a total of $2,- so they are pretty affordable too. (Even my 2 year old tried a few “chews’ lol!)
    Kendra, let me know if you want them, I would be glad to send you some for free, so you can try them out. :)
    Bye for now, Tina

  • Severeine said:

    I came across this page when I was reading about miswaak. I find the comment about halal meat kind of funny. Wal-Mart halal?! Okay, you want the truth? We have purchased halal meat “on the hoof” and you know who killed it? A Hispanic guy. No prayers, nada. The rules for killing animals for food are pretty similar between Jews and Muslims. I am Native American, raised Jewish, now Muslim, all of whom have traditions regarding slaughtering animals. Look, no matter how an animal died it’s when you say your prayers before feeding it to your family that you truly dedicate it to God. What does it matter if you call him God, Allah, or Creator? It is food. No matter what faith you are, God doesn’t want you eating questionable meat or going hungry. He does want you healthy so seek *quality*. I just can’t see God saying “How DARE you!” every time I eat gefilte fish or chinese take out chicken. Like he doesn’t have other stuff to worry about? BTW, I chew licorice root. A lot cheaper. ;)

  • Nicole said:

    Kendra, my grandmother (the oldest of 8 children and grew up on a farm in southwest Virginia during the Great Depression — amazing woman!) showed me this when I was younger. She taught me to use Sassafras, and I’m sure you can probably find those trees near you.

  • Natural Toothbrush said:

    Hi Kendra,

    Would you like to actually try one out – we can send you one to review on your blog?

    We’ve been using these and selling them online for only $1.95 a piece at Natural alternative to Toothbrush

    Natural Toothbrush Team

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