14

The miswak is a traditional Middle-Eastern toothbrush (so to speak) make from a twig of a particular branch, that is claimed to be especially effective. The dental efficacy has been studied, but frankly isn't very interesting - it is, essentially, just another form of abrasion for removing debris and plaque.

What is more interesting is that Islamic culture claims a myriad of other benefits, beyond dental. This is due to a sunnah on the subject, with the consequence that this is believed by a lot of Muslims.

I'll ignore the religious aspects (i.e. apparently Allah greatly magnifies his rewards for people using the miswak), as I believe such is beyond this site's remit; however, any Google search for "miswak benefits" will reveal the other claims, including:

Many of these seem quite extraordinary claims (for a toothbrush), but also feel like they should be pretty easy to investigate. While extraordinary, some are also not entirely beyond plausibility - for example, the headache/willow/salicylic-acid/aspirin connection.

So: has any research even been done into the non-dental, non-religious aspects of these claims? Or more simply: does the miswak help with digestion, eyesight, headache, memory or illness?

  • I hadn't read your last paragraph correctly: it was already enough to make this large, but not list. – Sklivvz Sep 2 '12 at 8:31
  • I didn't understand either of the comments above, but edited in what I hope is an acceptable solution. The scope of this question remains rather broad which will make it difficult to answer. – Oddthinking Sep 2 '12 at 9:35
  • @odd: the question was already acceptable, but thanks for improving it! – Sklivvz Sep 2 '12 at 12:52
  • I think the fact is Miswak may not provide the same cleanliness as toothbrush with tooth paste. Remember that miswak does not need a tooth paste. – Believer Sep 2 '12 at 15:17
  • 1
    @Believer I deliberately side-lined the dental claims; that has been studied. The question directly addresses the non-dental, non-religious claims. Also - when studied, the effect of the active ingredient was only observed at high concentration (i.e. far above what miswak may provide), so the anti-bacterial effect from an active agent is also wildly exaggerated commonly. But that is off-topic to this question. – Marc Gravell Sep 2 '12 at 15:52
9
+50

The search for "miswak" returns 72 hits on PubMed, which is one of the most comprehensive databases of references and abstracts on life sciences and biomedical topics. I have briefly reviewed the abstracts of each, and none support anything but claims related to oral hygiene.

Having said that, there are numerous studies supporting the link between oral hygiene and general health. See, for example, "Periodontitis as risk factor for acute myocardial infarction: A case control study" in Heart Views, 2013 Jan;14(1):5-11.

So, in a sense, the claims have some truth to them in so far as taking care of your teeth and mouth, whether by miswak or with a toothbrush, is better than doing nothing.

Please note that this answer does not constitute medical advice. It is only meant to summarize published research related to the topic and limited to the cited sources. Consult your physician about what these results may mean for your health.

  • For the curious: ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=miswak – Marc Gravell Nov 10 '13 at 21:25
  • Personally, I'm content to say that this answers it, and the answer is "no, there are no such studies" (note: I'm not the "bounty" person, so while I can accept this answer, my accepting it is unrelated to the bounty) – Marc Gravell Nov 10 '13 at 21:30

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .