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.
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!
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.
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?