A miswak, or mishwak
is an all-natural toothbrush
millenia by Muslims
and some Jews
. Basically it is
a root taken from a bitter tree that has been whittled
to reveal the fibres within and soaked in water or more preferrably
until it is soft enough to be used to polish the teeth.
The Peelo, Peelu or Arak tree as known in Urdu and Arabic
respectively, is the most popular tree to take miswaks from and has
been shown to contain 17 different compounds that aid in maintaining
healthy white teeth and gums. Other less commonly used roots come
from the olive and walnut trees. In most countries where miswaks
are found it is illegal to sell miswaks taken from certain trees, in
particular the pomegranate, as it is known to cause illness through
use. It is also forbidden to keep a miswak in the washroom, contrary
to the way Westerners use toothbrushes. A new miswak should be
approximately one hand span in length and be perfectly straight.
Miswaks dispose of many drawbacks commonly associated with the
Western style toothbrush. No paste, rinsing, spitting or water (save
that used to soften the miswak) is required, and so many Muslim men
carry a miswak with them throughout the day to use anytime they want
a clean mouth.
The major reason to want to use a miswak is religious: if a Muslim
brushes with a miswak before any of the five daily prayers his reward
for praying with a clean mouth is multiplied many times.