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The blog formerly known as    Fake Plastic Fish

June 28, 2011

Verdict on Neem Chew Stick Toothbrushes

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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.

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?

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This entry was posted in oral hygiene on by Beth Terry.

Leave a Reply

59 Comments on "Verdict on Neem Chew Stick Toothbrushes"

Sort by:   newest | oldestNarendra Singh

Hello everyone
I m Narendra Singh from India ( Agra), if anyone want neem twig/stick then i can send to you.
plz revert on 9837022884

Reply1 year 3 months agoBabbit

If salvadora persica contains sodium bicarbonate, doesn’t miswak ruin your teeth? Doesn’t anyone know if neem contains it too?

Reply2 years 1 month agoDatwan

This is an old thread, but for anyone googling it, I thought it important to note that there has actually been a scientific study of this. The study found neem sticks to be just as good at reducing gingivitis, and significantly better at reducing plaque, than toothbrushes:

Reply2 years 1 month agoAmor

I started using Miswak sticks this year (2015) and I am really happy with them. It takes a while to get used to them but I’m amazed at how much they have whiten my teeth.

Reply2 years 2 months agorubinianbalagan8

wat is the cost of each packet

Reply2 years 6 months agomsoliman64

Good afternoon
I have a neem tree at my villa. I brush my teeth using neem sticks regularly between 5-7 times a day for the last 6 months. I stopped chemical brushing. I found it an excellent solution for my teeth, gums and mouth smell.
Dr. Soliman

Reply2 years 9 months agoAiloraBlueHi, I read about doing this years ago and always wanted to try it but until recently I mistakingly thought the miswak twigs were the only twigs that could be used. Once I found out that there’s many north American varieties that could be used, I went into my own back yard and got a sassafras twig and began gnawing away on it. I find this process very satisfying and beneficial. I’ve never liked traditional synthetic plastic toothbrushes, they never seem to get my back teeth smooth. And I’m an avid brusher. I take my time and really get to… Read more » Reply2 years 11 months agoBeth Terry

Interesting. Do sassafras twigs taste like root beer?

Reply2 years 11 months agoKathy7187g-na, I found this on the “Sea Pearl” website: Sea Pearls are natural sea sponges. Sponges are plant-like creatures growing in colonies on the ocean floor. There are over five thousand known varieties, the softest of which are the Atlantic and Mediterranean Silks. As sponges are harvested, millions of egg and sperm cells are released into the surrounding water, making the sponge an ideal renewable resource that provides an ecologically sound product for menstrual use Sea Pearls sea sponges come from Tarpon Springs, Florida on the Gulf of Mexico. Sponge diving was started there in 1905 by the Cocoris brothers.… Read more » Reply3 years 3 months agoHabibOne

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 for more on miswak.

Reply3 years 7 months agodostana2013

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 .

Reply4 years 5 months agofrhassimhi 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… Read more » Reply4 years 6 months agoseanthomasbrooks

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

Reply4 years 10 months agoBeth Terry

@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. “

Reply4 years 10 months agoseanthomasbrooks

@Beth Terry @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.

Reply4 years 10 months agoBeth Terry

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

Reply4 years 10 months agolmyers-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.

Reply6 years 3 months agoJodie

The problem is plastic! Duh.

Reply2 years 4 months agoEleanor 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.

Reply6 years 4 months agoDmarie

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!

Reply6 years 4 months agoNubby 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?

Reply6 years 4 months agoPanyaAfter I wash my face with a cotton washcloth, or use witch hazel on a cotton ball/pad to tone my face, I rub my teeth with it. My teeth feel smoother/cleaner when I do this than they do with a toothbrush, and I don’t have to use any toothpaste [which I not only don’t like spending money on, I hate that I’d have to time my brushing so that the minty taste would be gone before I could eat anything else]. With flossing and mouthwash use [I’ve a weakened immune system and have been prone to oral infections/tonsillitis since childhood,… Read more » Reply1 year 10 months agoJaclynActually now that you mentioned it, I started using cloth to wipe my baby’s teeth when they first started to come out. Couldn’t we also use that as adults?? :) Thanks for the reminder! I’ve started to use just a toothbrush and water to brush my teeth twice a day. But it never seems as satisfying as when I used to use toothpaste. Any tips? I also do have a tiny concern of how my baby will cope in school when the dentist sees her and she tells her that she doesn’t know how to use a toothbrush and instead… Read more » Reply1 year 10 months agoPanyaA toothpick and floss take care of that. ;-) Very occasionally [usually when I’m sick and need to be absolutely certain my mouth is clean] I’ll still use an old toothbrush, either with just water, or baking soda, or peroxide, or some mixture of those — but not often because it can be too harsh. Before we were married my husband used mouthwash instead of toothpaste to brush his teeth [just stuck his toothbrush straight into the mouthwash bottle]. As long as a person’s teeth are clean and their mouth is healthy, I don’t think a dentist should care how… Read more » Reply1 year 10 months agoAnita

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

Reply6 years 4 months agoRosa

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.

Reply6 years 4 months agoMary

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.

Reply6 years 4 months agoJodie

How is a stick not plastic free??

Reply2 years 4 months agoBeth Terry

She’s referring to Preserve toothbrushes, not neem sticks.

Reply2 years 4 months agoBeth Terry

Hi, Mary. You are referring to Preserve toothbrushes made from recycled yogurt containers and other number 5 plastic products. They are actually the first toothbrush I reviewed in my original toothbrush review post here:

Reply6 years 4 months agoLuke

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

Reply6 years 4 months agoRodoseeA 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… Read more » Reply6 years 4 months agoDhrupad guptahi 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… Read more » Reply4 years 10 months agoPurviHello 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… Read more » Reply6 years 4 months agoKarli

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.

Reply6 years 4 months agoSakeenahI 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… Read more » Reply6 years 4 months agoErika

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

Reply6 years 4 months agoNatalie Diebolt

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

Reply6 years 4 months agoReenie R

I have been searching for more natural toothpaste sold in a glass jar and this came up. Has anyone used Uncle Harry’s peppermint toothpaste?

Reply6 years 4 months agoReenie 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.

Reply6 years 4 months agoPassion 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.

Reply6 years 4 months agoDhrupad 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 … 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…….

Food Allergy

Gideon Lack, M.D.

N Engl J Med 2008; 359:1252-1260September 18, 2008DOI: 10.1056/NEJMcp0800871

A 3-year-old boy is admitted to the hospital with hives and wheezing after eating chocolate mousse. At 18 months of age, contact urticaria developed after he put his hand into a cake mix containing egg. He also has a history of chronic rhinitis, nocturnal cough, severe eczema, and a previous hospitalization for recurrent wheezing. How should this child be evaluated and treated?

Dr. Lack reports receiving consulting or lecture fees from Novartis, Synovate, Nutricia, ALK-Abelló, and Nestlé and serving as an expert witness for several medical cases involving food allergy. No other potential conflict of interest relevant to this article was reported.

An audio version of this article is available at

I thank Drs. L.G. Du Toit, A.T. Fox, and S. Chan for critical review of an earlier version of the manuscript.

Source Information

From the Department of Paediatric Allergy, King's College London, and the Children's Allergy Service, Guy's and St. Thomas' National Health Service Foundation Trust — both in London.

Address reprint requests to Dr. Lack at the Children's Allergy Service, 2nd Fl., South Wing, St. Thomas' Hospital, Westminster Bridge Rd., London SE1 7EH, United Kingdom, or at

Access this article: Subscribe to NEJM | Purchase this article

Media in This Article

Figure 1A 10-Year-Old Child with Food-Induced Anaphylaxis.The endotracheal tube and angioedema of the lip are shown.
Figure 2Diagnostic Algorithm for Egg Allergy.This treatment algorithm can be used for other food allergies if the test result associated with a positive predictive value (PPV) of 95% or higher is known for the population and if the likelihood ratio is known for a given test result. A double-blind, placebo-controlled food challenge should not be performed if the patient has a history of severe anaphylaxis. In the skin-prick test, the mean wheal diameter obtained depends in part on the age of the patient, the extract used, the method of performing the test, and the site on the body where the test is performed. Values for specific types of tree nuts have not been validated. See Figure 1 of the Supplementary Appendix for a nomogram.

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