The blog formerly known as   Fake Plastic Fish
June 28, 2011

Verdict on Neem Chew Stick Toothbrushes

After last month’s comprehensive review of eco-friendly toothbrushes, I tried another alternative: neem chew sticks from Neem Tree Farms. Chewing on various kinds of sticks for tooth cleaning has been a routine part of life in India, Africa, and the Middle East for centuries. So I ordered a bunch to try. The neem sticks from Neem Tree Farms are grown in North America and are shipped fresh from the farm the day they are harvested. Other than growing my own neem plant, this option seemed to be the lowest impact, plastic-free tooth brushing solution, assuming it worked for me.

I asked the company to send me my neem sticks without any plastic packaging. They arrived in a plain brown paper bag inside a cardboard mailer. So far so good.

Neem chew stick toothbrushes

Neem chew stick toothbrushes

Storage: The Neem Tree Farms web site instructs, “For best results, refrigerate or freeze until you’re ready to use them but keep them in paper not plastic.” I stored mine in a glass jar. WRONG THING TO DO!

Neem chew stick toothbrushes

Sadly, they grew fuzzy white mold. What an expensive waste! This is the second time this month I have created a disaster after failing to follow instructions. (The first being my attempt to carbonate red wine in a Soda Stream soda maker. There’s a reason they say to only carbonate water. But I digress.) I’m sad not just because of the waste but because I planned to give away the rest to one of you guys. Why? Well, they just didn’t work so well for me.

How they work: Before the mold took over, I experimented with brushing my teeth with the sticks. The simple explanation is that you put one stick in your mouth and nibble off the bark with your teeth. Then, you chew on the inside fibers until they separate like bristles. The sticks are hard, and this process takes a while. I think it took me about 10 minutes to have something I could actually brush with.

Neem chew stick toothbrushes

Neem chew stick toothbrushes

And the brushing itself? For me, unsatisfying. Maybe I didn’t give the sticks enough of a try, but with the length of time it took to make the brush and knowing that I would have to repeat the same procedure each morning (you are supposed to cut off the end and start fresh each time), I just didn’t have the will to get better at it. And that’s ironic because one of the values of the sustainability movement is getting people to slow down and be mindful. I can see how chewing on neem could be a kind of meditation. But honestly, I have a hard enough time forcing myself to brush my teeth twice a day. Anything that makes it harder is not a good idea for me.

Want to try it? Here’s a funny video I found on Youtube explaining how to use a miswak stick, which is a different kind of wood but similar procedure. (Note that miswak is part of the Muslim religion, so this video has a quote from the Koran at the beginning. I couldn’t find a secular video showing the procedure.)

I really wish this solution had worked for me. If you’re interested, don’t let my failure stop you from having a go at it. Have you tried it already? What do you think?

53 comments
Kathy7187
Kathy7187

I used neem sticks while traveling in India. In the early morning, you look down from your hotel window and see hotel employees, drivers, rickshaw or chai wallahs on the street, or just about anybody, chewing on neem sticks. Perhaps they are leaning against a building, or sitting on a curb, enjoying the morning and chewing their neem sticks. When staying in an Indian home, we walked outside to the backyard and broke twigs off a neem tree and chewed those. You don't actually "brush" with them, just chew them and they will do their work. Many street vendors sold neem sticks, a bundle for a few rupees, perhaps. The vendor sat down on a little mat on the street, unrolled a cloth, and laid out the neem sticks. By the way, many people I saw in India, including the poor which is the majority, had brilliant white teeth. It's such an intense flavor, you can just feel that it has many benefits.   Kathy

Kathy7187
Kathy7187

I used neem sticks while traveling in India. In the early morning, you look down from your hotel window and see hotel employees, drivers, rickshaw or chai wallahs on the street, or just about anybody, chewing on neem sticks. Perhaps they are leaning against a building, or sitting on a curb, enjoying the morning and chewing their neem sticks. When staying in an Indian home, we walked outside to the backyard and broke twigs off a neem tree and chewed those. You don't actually "brush" with them, just chew them and they will do their work. Many street vendors sold neem sticks, a bundle for a few rupees, perhaps. The vendor sat down on a little mat on the street, unrolled a cloth, and laid out the neem sticks. By the way, many people I saw in India, including the poor which is the majority, had brilliant white teeth. It's such an intense flavor, you can just feel that it has many benefits.   Kathy

HabibOne
HabibOne

Natural teeth care fixes are the option for oral hygiene for some who wish to stop the toxins and preservatives in common dental products. The chemicals in mouthwash can incorporate alcohol and fluoride as well preservatives and chemical foaming agents. It's totally possible to receive the same results using natural solutions from around your home. Check out http://www.sewakalbadr.com for more on miswak.

lalitaf93
lalitaf93

Can you please help me get the neem sticks mail to me?Lalita

dostana2013
dostana2013

the most effictive miswak "siwak"  is brought from from the " Arak tree" roots   not the twigs .

muslims use miswak from the  roots of " Arak tree "  it is amazing .

dostana2013
dostana2013

the most effictive miswak "siwak"  is brought from from the " Arak tree" roots   not the twigs .

muslims use miswak from the  roots of " Arak tree "  it is amazing .

frhassim
frhassim

hi its good to hear but really you should have soak those twigs overnite in some water then chew it a bit makes it much easier also once you got the brush ready as in your pic you dont have to cut it off u can use it like that until you see it looks finish about 2  or 3 weeks  by then the next part will only need a bit of chewing and itll be ready .also this stick doesnt have to be used twice you can just keep it in your pocket n brush wheneva u feel like it will keep you fresh all day. it will strenthen ur brain,etc theres over100 benefits for using the toothstick

frhassim
frhassim

hi its good to hear but really you should have soak those twigs overnite in some water then chew it a bit makes it much easier also once you got the brush ready as in your pic you dont have to cut it off u can use it like that until you see it looks finish about 2  or 3 weeks  by then the next part will only need a bit of chewing and itll be ready .also this stick doesnt have to be used twice you can just keep it in your pocket n brush wheneva u feel like it will keep you fresh all day. it will strenthen ur brain,etc theres over100 benefits for using the toothstick

Dhrupad gupta
Dhrupad gupta

its not time consuming i again say but try it i don't

 change any tooth brush any more just pluck stick and dont go for dentist for enamelbut it do'sent mean you don't ever go to dentist....i go for tooth aliment...hahaha

Dhrupad gupta
Dhrupad gupta

why to go evey month to store WHY? pluck it nearby tree......what the problem.....are you sick of store-eopath.......

Dhrupad gupta
Dhrupad gupta

neem sticks are better to deal with un-accessible portion of teeth where fingre and past dont goes better

Dhrupad gupta
Dhrupad gupta

they say that about neem tea because when neem tea's bitterness dissolve with your milk for nourishing and the food while you are pregnant .....it taste bad to children......while it occur 1 from 25 baby that causes baby get less food that's all but there is never ever hormones disturbance.......

Dhrupad gupta
Dhrupad gupta

hi there i m regular user of it and feel refresh more than normal tooth brushing......its my experience but my grand father experience he is above 80 year they say they never ever go to dentist(dant vedhya)  actually i see in his mouth....they have all the teeth actually there........i feel very bad that i started neem brushing very late.....yeah you say it correctly i do my brushing with my daily works like walking, doing work some time i do it while i was on bed....i don't thing that ugly foam getting out of my teeth....its taste is bit bitter but actually its refreshing....

seanthomasbrooks
seanthomasbrooks

Uhhh those sticks used in the video are not NEEM STICKS... Get you info in order before posting all over the place..

seanthomasbrooks
seanthomasbrooks

Uhhh those sticks used in the video are not NEEM STICKS... Get you info in order before posting all over the place..

lmyers-tothemax
lmyers-tothemax

i really dont see the problem with a normal toothbrush i think its a clever idea but to work 10 minutes on something i can do in 2 is not worth it.

Eleanor K. Sommer
Eleanor K. Sommer

Well, those neem sticks look pretty thick to me. I use dogwood twigs, in my area that's Cornus florida. I have also used neem twigs when I visit south Florida where the tree can survive--it's too cold in north Florida. Fraying the end really does not take that long if it is a twig. As for fresh plant material in a glass jar--always an herbalist's nightmare in hot and humid climates. Rosita Arviga learned this right off during her apprenticeship in Belize. Paper bags are the way to go.

Dmarie
Dmarie

hmnn...if I were walking the Appalachian trail and a wild boar ate my toothbrush, a stick might seem like a good idea. you get major points for trying this, and thanks for reminding me of the importance of checking out sustainable options for EVERY product. must remember this!

Nubby Tongue
Nubby Tongue

Blehh.... that doesn't look fun at all. How much less effective would it be to use a cloth wrapped around a finger and some floss?

Anita
Anita

I'm interested in starting using this, but i wonder how do you use it effectively on the back side of the teeth ?

Rosa
Rosa

Beth, do you have a good nonplastic commercial toothpaste recommendation? Tom's of Maine just went to all plastic tubes AND discontinued the only flavor my kid has ever liked.

Mary
Mary

this is not a plastic FREE alternative - however there are toothbrushes made of recycled yogurt cups. They come in packaging that has prepaid postage so that you can mail it back to be recycled again.

Luke
Luke

Didn't worked good as a toothbrush for me but i used them when i quit smoking to keep my mouth occupied.

Rodosee
Rodosee

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!

Purvi
Purvi

Hello Beth, You and your blog are an inspiration. I try to do my bit to be caring to mother nature while not compromising the convenience since I am a working mom and shortcuts really help. My husband was all for convenience that could border onto luxury to be lazy and after seeing your TED talk and a brief visit to your blog, i see him remembering to carry the cloth bags I always have in his car to the grocery store. Great initiative! This post made me comment for the first time, because I grew up in India brushing teeth this way (only during vacations, because during school days it is time-consuming), but my grandparents never used a tooth-brush, just this or stems of a specific variety of dry-thorny-acacia like plant. We didnt even buy it, neem trees were so much in abundance on road sides, my grandparents would go out for a walk, pluck a few branches, use the fresh leaves for boiling water for bathing (neem is a great antiseptic), and use the stems for brushing! I am very fond of this method and it brings me childhood memories back, thank you so much for posting it. I was thrilled to see you explore this option!

Karli
Karli

They might not have told you this but your supposed to soak them in water overnight before you use them. It really helps soften the bark and bristles. Brushing with miswak does take longer, because the thing's so much smaller.

Sakeenah
Sakeenah

I don't use neem sticks, but miswaks. I haven't tried using them exclusively for brushing but maintenance in between. Like the poster mentioned above, I find it really irritating that I can't find them except individually wrapped in plastic. I think you are doing it wrong, we shave some of the end off with a knife and then chew to soften. I don' think you need to try to chew through the bark, it just shouldn't take that long to get it ready to go. And I don't think you need to start fresh everyday. I think rinsing it is sufficient. Sorry about the mold, I have never had that happen with a miswak stick like that. I haven't been using it long enough to give you a report back from the dentist, but it feels very good on the gums, seems to be very good for the circulation.

Erika
Erika

That is too bad about your failed SodaStream experiment, because carbonated red wine would be AWESOME!!!

Natalie Diebolt
Natalie Diebolt

Where can you order seeds or plants? Could they grow well in a pot?

Reenie R
Reenie R

I've read that licorice can provoke hypertension, so if someone has really high blood pressure, they should check with a health care person to be sure chewing on licorice sticks are okay for them.

Passion Purveyors
Passion Purveyors

I bought some Neem tea and then realized it said to be careful if you are nursing or pregnant. I wasn't nursing or pregnant, but it creeped me out. Since why not take the best care of your body at all times? I think Neem interacts with your hormones in some way. My two cents.

Jayadeep Purushothaman
Jayadeep Purushothaman

What about using your own fingers instead of anything - may be you can use some ayurvedic recipes as paste! That is also popular in this part of the world(india)

Tracey
Tracey

I found a Facebook Group recipe for licorice root.

BethTerry
BethTerry moderator

 @seanthomasbrooks I didn't say they were neem sticks.  I wrote, "Here’s a funny video I found on Youtube explaining how to use a miswak stick, which is a different kind of wood but similar procedure. "  

BethTerry
BethTerry

@seanthomasbrooks I didn't say they were neem sticks.  I wrote, "Here’s a funny video I found on Youtube explaining how to use a miswak stick, which is a different kind of wood but similar procedure. "

Dhrupad gupta
Dhrupad gupta

hi there i m regular user of it and feel refresh more than normal tooth brushing......its my experience but my grand father experience he is above 80 year they say they never ever go to dentist(dant vedhya)  actually i see in his mouth....they have all the teeth actually there........i feel very bad that i started neem brushing very late.....yeah you say it correctly i do my brushing with my daily works like walking, doing work some time i do it while i was on bed....i don't thing that ugly foam getting out of my teeth....its taste is bit bitter but actually its refreshing....

Dhrupad gupta
Dhrupad gupta

they say that about neem tea because when neem tea's bitterness dissolve with your milk for nourishing and the food while you are pregnant .....it taste bad to children......while it occur 1 from 25 baby that causes baby get less food that's all but there is never ever hormones disturbance.......

Dhrupad gupta
Dhrupad gupta

neem sticks are better to deal with un-accessible portion of teeth where fingre and past dont goes better

lalitaf93
lalitaf93

Can you please help me get the neem sticks mail to me?Lalita

Dhrupad gupta
Dhrupad gupta

why to go evey month to store WHY? pluck it nearby tree......what the problem.....are you sick of store-eopath.......

 

seanthomasbrooks
seanthomasbrooks

 @BethTerry  @seanthomasbrooks  its just a bit mis leading and could be written to explain that... as a reader if I was not informed I would not know the difference. I have used both sticks and one is way more different than the other that is all.

seanthomasbrooks
seanthomasbrooks

@BethTerry  @seanthomasbrooks  its just a bit mis leading and could be written to explain that... as a reader if I was not informed I would not know the difference. I have used both sticks and one is way more different than the other that is all.

BethTerry
BethTerry moderator

 @seanthomasbrooks I wrote that it's a different kind of wood.  I don't know how I could have been any more clear.

BethTerry
BethTerry

@seanthomasbrooks I wrote that it's a different kind of wood.  I don't know how I could have been any more clear.

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