Miswak: The Saudi Natural Toothpaste

          Miswak 3

The other day I was chatting with a female Saudi friend when a Saudi man in traditional dress walked by us.  I immediately noticed as he passed by that he had a twig in his mouth which he appeared to be chewing.  I was mystified and asked my friend if she saw him.  Although she did not notice him when I described the long skinny twig in his mouth she readily remarked, “oh, that’s miswak.”  Of course I looked at her dumbfounded asking “mis…what?”

 She explained to me that miswak is a natural way using a special twig from certain kind of trees to keep the teeth clean and mouth smelling fresh.  She further added that many especially prefer to use this option of cleaning ones teeth and refreshing the breath during Ramadan.  The reason for this is that with fasting all day, the breath may inevitably take on a foul odor due to the lack of water for an extended period of time.

 Miswak 1

 Naturally I was even more curious after seeing the gentleman with the twig in his mouth and hearing my friend’s explanation.  I decided to do some additional research on my own and learned the following via wikipedia:

 Miswak 2

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Miswak 

Miswak

This article is about Hygiene in Islam.

The miswak (miswaak, siwak) is a natural toothbrush made from the twigs of the Salvadora persica tree, also known as the arak tree or the peelu tree. Other tree types that are used are the olive, walnut, and other trees with bitter roots.

  // [edit] History

The miswak is predominant in Muslim areas but its use predates the inception of Islam. It is also known as ‘Kayu Sugi’ (‘chewing stick’). It is often mentioned that prophet Muhammad himself recommended its use.

[edit] Scientific studies

In 2007, Researchers at the Wrigley Company carried out tests on nine volunteers. Writing in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, they found mints laced with Magnolia (Miswak is Salvadora persica, which belongs to the Magnoliophyta Division of the Plant Kingdom) killed 20 times more bacteria than mints without. After half an hour, the magnolia mint had killed more than 60% of the bacteria, compared to just 3.6% among those who had consumed a normal mint. “Magnolia bark extract demonstrated a significant anti-bacterial activity against organisms responsible for oral malodour and can be incorporated into mints and chewing gum for improved breath freshening benefits.”Advocates of magnolia have long praised its properties, claiming it can alleviate the symptoms of conditions ranging from rheumatism to asthma. [1]A 2003 scientific study comparing the use of miswaak with ordinary toothbrushing concluded that the results clearly were in favor of the users who had been using the miswaak provided they had been given proper instruction in how to brush using the miswaak[1]. The WHO recommended the use of the miswaak in 1986 and in 2000 an international consensus report on oral hygiene concluded that further research was needed to document the effect of the miswak[2]. Recent research by Dr Otaybi from Saudi [2] opened a new area for research on the systemic effects of Miswak ( Sewak ) after discovering its great positive effect on the immunity system. Dr.Rami Mohammed Diabi [3]who spent more than 17 years researching on Miswak effects on health and especially its anti-addiction effects [4] on smokers ( curative & Preventive sides ) had opened a great field of science and researches by his last research : “Miswak Medicine theory ” or Sewak Puncture medicine [5] which led him to what is so called Beyond Sewak: World of Science and Research)[6] Miswak also is contributing in the fight against desertification (See effects of Salvadora Persica “Miswak tree” on stopping deserts and fixing the soil [7]), thereby affecting our environment and global climate.

[edit] “Miswak extract” compared to other oral disinfectants

Studies indicate that Salvadora persica extract is somewhat comparable to other oral disinfectants and anti-plaque agents like Triclosan and Chlorhexidine Gluconate if used at a very high concentration.[3][4].

[edit] Religious prescriptions

An important benefit to Muslims is also that the reward of prayer (salaah) is multiplied 70 times if miswak is used before it. Although not mentioned in the Qur’an use of the miswak is frequently advocated in the Hadith (the traditions relating to the life of Muhammad). Situations where the miswak is recommended to be used include before religious practice, before entering one’s house, before and after going on a journey, on Fridays, before and after sleeping, when experiencing hunger or thirst and before entering any good gathering.In addition to strengthening the gums, preventing tooth decay and eliminating toothaches it is also said to halt further increase in decay that has already set in. Furthermore it is claimed to create a fragrance in the mouth, eliminate bad odour, improve the sense of taste and cause the teeth to glow and shine.Supposed benefits not related to teeth and gum include sharpening memory, curing headaches, creating a lustre on the face of the one who continually uses it, strengthening the eyesight, assisting in digestion and clearing the voice. However, none of these claims have been researched scientifically.

[edit] Examples of Hadith concerning the Miswak

From Sahih Bukhari:Narrated Abu Huraira: The Prophet said, “If somebody eats or drinks forgetfully then he should complete his fast, for what he has eaten or drunk, has been given to him by God.” Narrated ‘Amir bin Rabi’a, “I saw the Prophet cleaning his teeth with Siwak while he was fasting so many times as I can’t count.” And narrated Abu Huraira, “The Prophet said, ‘But for my fear that it would be hard for my followers, I would have ordered them to clean their teeth with Siwak on every performance of ablution.” The same is narrated by Jabir and Zaid bin Khalid from the Prophet who did not differentiate between a fasting and a nonfasting person in this respect (using Siwak). Aisha said, “The Prophet said, “It (i.e. Siwak) is a purification for the mouth and it is a way of seeking God’s pleasures.” Ata’ and Qatada said, “There is no harm in swallowing the resultant saliva.” Narrated Abu Burda: My father said, “I came to the Prophet and saw him carrying a Siwak in his hand and cleansing his teeth, saying, ‘U’ U’,” as if he was retching while the Siwak was in his mouth.”
From Sahih Muslim
‘Abd al-Rahman son of Abu Sa’id al-Khudri reported on the authority of his father that the Messenger of God said: Bathing on Friday for every adult, using of Miswak and applying some perfume, that is available-these are essential. So far as the perfume is concerned, it may be that used by a lady.

[edit] Maintenance

A miswak should be one hand span in length when selected. If it becomes dry, it should be soaked in rose water to ensure the end is soft. The end should be cut afresh to ensure hygiene, and should never be stored near a toilet or sink. It can be used by cutting the branches instead of roots ( like people of Sudan’s habit ) keeping in mind that the roots can keep the humidity of Miswak more than the branches ( longer time usage).

[edit] References

  1. ^ Al-Otaibi M, Al-Harthy M, Soder B, Gustafsson A, Angmar-Mansson B. (2003). “Comparative effect of chewing sticks and toothbrushing on plaque removal and gingival health.“. Oral Health Prev Dent 1 (4): 301-7. Retrieved on 200612-07. 
  2. ^ http://www.uib.no/info/dr_grad/2003/darout.htm in Norwegian
  3. ^ Almas, K. (Aug 2002). “The effect of Salvadora persica extract (miswak) and chlorhexidine gluconate on human dentin: a SEM study.“. J Contemp Dent Pract. 3 (3): 27-35. Retrieved on 200608-12. 
  4. ^ Almas, K; Skaug, N; Ahmad, I. (Feb 2005). “An in vitro antimicrobial comparison of miswak extract with commercially available non-alcohol mouthrinses.“. Int J Dent Hyg. 3 (1): 18-24. Retrieved on 200608-12. 
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