Toothpaste is a fairly modern invention. Toothpaste in the modern sense of the word is only a century old. True, the ancient Egyptians began to brush their teeth with a paste around 5000 B.C., which was before the toothbrush was invented, but it was a mixture of mint, crushed rock salt, iris flowers, and pepper. Nothing like what we think of as toothpaste. Throughout human history, people have used different toothpaste formulas to clean their teeth. The Romans and Greeks used a combination of crushed bone and oyster shells, for example, and the Chinese used herbal mints, ginseng, and salt. People have also experimented with ashes, brick dust, burnt eggshells, chalk, pulverized charcoal and pumice. In other words, for much of human history, people have cleaned their teeth with toothpaste formulas very different from what we use today, and often, the results were very good.
In the Indian subcontinent, Middle East and North Africa, the neem tree has been used for at least 5,000 years, to make toothpastes and mouthwashes, and its young twigs are often used as toothbrushes in rural areas. For this, it has been called the toothbrush tree. So important was the neem tree to traditional Indian medicine, that in the Vedas, it is referred to as “sarva roga nivaarani”, or, “one that cures all ailments and diseases”.
According to research conducted by the College of Dentistry at the Imam Abdulrahman Bin Faisal University in Saudi Arabia, neem sticks have antibacterial, anticavity, and antiplaque, qualities.
Obviously, you are not going to pick up a neem toothbrush at the drugstore, you have to make your own. The first step is to get a young, flexible twig from a neem tree. Peel off the skin. You want to chew one end of the twig until it resembles a regular toothbrush’ bristles. Chewing has medicinal benefits, releasing chemicals that kill bacteria, reduce your teeth’s tenderness, and stop bacteria and plaque from sticking to your teeth. This is because the neem tree has a combination of ingredients that are very good for your oral health:
- Quercetin, which is an antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and antiprotozoal
- Gedunin, a vasodilator, antifungal and antimalarial
- Sodium nimbinate, an antiarthritic, diuretic, and spermicidal
- Nimbidim, an analgesic, antibacterial, antifungal and antiulcer
- Nimbin, an antifungal and anti-inflammatory
- Azadirachtin, a repellant, antifeedant, and anti-hormonal
When you have rubbed the brush against the sides of your teeth, split the twig in half and form a U-shape. This will serve as a tongue cleaner. Obviously you cannot reuse this toothbrush, but as you can see, it is very easy to make, especially if there is a neem tree nearby.
These are not the only benefits of the neem tree. Its bark is often used to treat gum disease and its leaves have been used, as said, for thousands of years to treat an array of ailments.
Its oil, formed by pressing its seeds, is used as an insect repellent and to cure various skin diseases and fevers.
So, if you are environmentally conscious and have to consult a tree services company to remove a tree, you may want to replace it with a neem tree to ensure that your net effect on the environment is zero.