The secret behind Meswak Toothpaste

Pawan Kumar Nagar
Pawan Kumar Nagar

The use of miswak is a pre-Islamic custom, which was adhered to by the ancient Arabs to get their teeth white and shiny. The beneficial effects of miswak in respect of oral hygiene and dental health are partially due to its mechanical action and partially due to pharmacologic action. Miswak also referred as Meswak is a rare, potent, precious, wonder herb and is scientifically proven to help sort out dental problems. The use of miswak dates back to ancient times however its importance was highlighted by Prophet Muhammad during the early days of Islam. Islam has always stressed on the importance of maintaining good overall body as well as oral hygiene.

Socio-economic Importance 

The most commonly used plant for Meswak is Salvadora persica. Antimicrobial extracts are obtained from different parts of S. persica. It has been proven scientifically that these extracts are equally effective compared to the efficacy of oral disinfectants including chlorohexidine gluconate. There are more than 180 plant species that can be used as a natural toothbrush. These species differ from each other on the basis of appearance, scent, texture and taste. The stick is widely accepted by people around the world due to its pleasant flavor, texture and its effectiveness in maintaining oral hygiene. Recent studies have endorsed the fact that S. persica has antifungal properties. Antioxidants are substances that shield the body against free radical-induced oxidative stress. 

Hence we can say that Salvadora persica is a promising product and is useful to produce analgesia, hypolipidemic, antiulcer, antiplaque, anticonvulsant, antifertility, antimycotic, anticonvulsant, antibacterial, antimycotic, cytotoxic, deobstruent, carminative, diuretic, astringent, and also used in biliousness, and rheumatism. 

 Cosmetic Importance 

Many kinds of Salvadora persica cosmetics have been developed and tested in hospitals. It is proved that Salvadora persica beauty cream has positive therapeutic effects on melanosis, skin wrinkles, keratoderma, keratosis, senile plaque, xeroderma, facial acne, recurrent dermatitis, chemical corrosion and inchthyosis, as well as freckles. Other extracts can improve metabolism and retard skin maturation. 


Pilu (Salvadora persica Linn.), belonging to the family: Salvadoraceae, Order: 

Brassicales was commonly known as Meswak (toothbrush). It is locally called as Kharijite; BENG—Jhal; Mah—Khakhin Kickin, Miraj, Pelu, Pilva; GUJ—Kharijal, Piludi; TEL—Ghunia, Varagogu; TAM—Kalawa, kakkol, vivay; KAN—Goni-mara; and ORIYA—Kotungo, pilu. It is widely distributed in the arid regions of India and often on saline soils. It is an upright evergreen small tree or shrub, seldom more than 1 ft in diameter reaching a maximum height of 3 m. 

Botanical Description 

Salvadora persica is a small tree or shrub with a crooked trunk, seldom more than one foot in diameter. Its bark is scabrous and cracked, whitish with pendulous extremities. The root bark of the tree is similar to sand, and the inner surfaces are an even lighter shade of brown. It has a pleasant fragrance, of cress or mustard, as well as a warm and pungent taste. The leaves break with a fine crisp crackle when trodden on. The tree grows to a maximum height of three meters. In Pakistan, these ancient, majestic and sturdy trees are more closely associated with graveyards, like the cypress tree in English culture. 

Importance of Pilu 

Salvadora persica is a multipurpose fast growing perennial tree which is serving as a measure of biodiversity conservation, soil conservation, medicines, food, fodder and fuel wood. It has an extraordinary capacity to grow and survive under adverse conditions (-40 to 40º C) for the farmers living in the mountains and offers the opportunity to maintain a sustainable livelihood. Salvadora persica is very rich source of vitamins and is called treasure of bio-activity substance for these reasons; it is also called a wonderful plant. 

Chemical importance 

On phytochemical investigations, its stem yielded octacosanol, 1-triacantanol, β- sitosterol, and β-sitosterol-3-O-β-D-glucopyranoside. On thin layer chromatography examination, it was found to be a mixture of 2 compounds, which were separated by column chromatography. Compound A had a melting point (m.p.) -136-7ºC, m/z = 414 (mass) and molecular formula C29H50O (C = 83.75%, H = 12.25%). It gave positive Salkowski, Liebermann, Burchard reaction, Noller reaction, Brieskron, Tschagajew, and yellow color with tetranitro methane. Peaks in the infrared spectrum at VKBrmax3500, 1450, 1470, and 1145 cm−1showed its identity as compound β-sitosterol in white needle form. Compound B was found to be the white crystalline compound, with the molecular formula C635H60O , C =72.9%, H = 14%, m.p. 265-68ºC m/z [α]29D -36.2 gave positive test for saponin and onhydrolysis yielded β-sitosterol and a sugar glucose thereby identified it as β-sitosterol-3-O-β-D-glucopyransoside. Essential oil contained α- and β-thujones, camphor, cineole, β-cymene,limonene, β-myrcene, borneol, linalool, and bornyl acetate and nonvolatile fraction containedhumulene, caryophyllene, β-santatol, and farnesol. Farooqi et al. isolated benzyl-isothiocyanate from Salvadora persica root, and they claimed to have found saponins alongwith tannins, silica, a small amount of resin, trimethylamine, and alkaloidal constituents.Ray et al. isolated β-sitosterol, m-anisic acid, and salvadourea. Lewis and Elvin-Lewis report a high content of minerals in the root, 27.06%.  So, next time when you use Meswak toothpaste, don’t forget ‘Pilu’. 


1.Pawan Kumar Nagar
2.J. P Rathore 
3.Amit Kumar 
4.Ankita Mantri
BACA-Anand Agricultural University, Anand-388 110
2Division of Fruit Science, FOH, SKUAST-Kashmir-190 025
3ASPEE College of Horticulture and Forestry, N. A. U., Navsari (Gujrat)

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