Miswak: First toothbrush in history

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Updated 12 August 2013

Miswak: First toothbrush in history

Miswak is a twig used for cleaning one’s mouth and teeth. It’s said the practice was used thousands of years ago by ancient empires from the Babylonians, the Greek to the Romans and the Egyptian civilization.
The miswak twig can be extracted from many trees except for those that are poisonous or harmful, such as pomegranate tree and the myrtle tree.
But it’s preferred to get miswak from bitter tree branches as Palm trees, olive trees or the roots and branches of desert trees preferably from Arak trees, Arabic for Salvadora persica.
Dr. Majed Almadani, a dentist, said that Miswak is a perfect natural toothbrush that provides many health and beauty benefits.
“It contains an extraction like toothpaste, and I recommend one uses it aside of normal toothbrush,” Almadani said. “This extraction has natural anti-bacteria that help prevent tooth decay and gum diseases. Extracting it prevents the gum from bleeding and reduces the treat of Oral Cancer.”
Using miswak has the same effect as using.
“It contains fluoride that is important to the oral health and it contains other ingredients that help protecting the tooth enamel layer, removing/fighting plaque and teeth coloring,” Almadani said. “Miswak contains ‘silica,’ which is an ingredient that helps teeth bleach.”
Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) recommended the Arak miswak and he used this kind specifically which made it famous among Muslims.
Arak is an evergreen small tree that has several therapeutic functions and the best way to benefit from it. One should clean the leaves, boil them and use the water when cooled as mouthwash.
Boiling the Arak roots can help with respiratory and digestive disorders. It’s extraction is used to treat ulcers, but soaking arak twigs in water can help healing uterus cirrhosis, reduce tumors and delay menstrual cycle.
Miswak purifies the mouth, inhibits dry mouth and increases salivation, help healing oral tissue, kills build up bacteria in the mouth and clear the throat aside with protecting teeth from germs and strengthening the gum.
Hussain Abdullah Al-Abdali is a street peddler who can always be found at Al-Nada gold market in Al-Balad in Jeddah. He has been selling miswak for over 40 years.
“I used to work with my father ever since I was four years old, he taught me everything I need to know today about the business of miswak,” Al-Abdali said. “My father used to extract miswak himself from different locations in the Kingdom he also used to clean it, dry it under the sun then cut it. He uses to gather around 3,000 miswak and put it in canvas bags to sell it in Makah in place called Haraj Al-Masaweek.”
Al-Abdali said that miswak coming from sandy soil trees are better that miswaks coming from the valleys.
“Extracting miswak from Arak roots is better than taking it from the branches, green miswak has the least benefits of them all,” he said. “The best miswak is brought from Al-Laith west Saudi Arabia, and especially the spicy kind called Abo-Hanash. But that kind of miswak is decreasing in the market and vendors are bringing less quality miswak from Yemen
And you can store fresh miswak, each two in aluminum foil in the fridge, to preserve its components.”
The miswak seller demands authority to monitor unprofessional miswak sellers who display fake and unreal products.
“This kind of business is fading with time and you cannot see many Saudis practicing it,” Al-Abdali said. “It is sad to see this product being sold by factories and not Saudis who know about it the best,” said Al-Abdali. “I also ask the authorities to give us a better opportunity and support us by shedding the light on this business and market it as a national humble job.”
However, there may be one drawback to using miswak.
Dr. Harb Al-Harfi, allergy, asthma and immunology consultant at King Faisal Specialist Hospital, said he came across his first case of miswak allergy in his clinic.
A 52-year-old man who lived with rhinitis disease for 20 years, and had allergies for three years complained about gums sensitivity and swollen skin in the area where he put his miswak in his upper pocket. After several allergy tests, results confirm a rare case of miswak allergy. The patient’s gums and skin has healed after stopping using miswak. The patient had a reaction from Arak roots but not twigs.
Miswak allergy can be easily detected, within the few minutes of using it. Consult with your doctor if you had itchy gum or throat, nasal allergies and sneezing, redness and rashness (Eczema) when Miswak is rubbed on skin.

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At 90, Alaska Native woman is 1st counted in US Census

In this Monday, Jan. 20, 2020 image, Lizzie Chimiugak looks on at her home in Toksook Bay, Alaska. (AP)
Updated 22 January 2020

At 90, Alaska Native woman is 1st counted in US Census

  • The decennial US census has started in rural Alaska, out of tradition and necessity, ever since the US purchased the territory from Russia in 1867

TOKSOOK BAY, Alaska: Lizzie Chimiugak has lived for 90 years in the windswept western wilds of Alaska, born to a nomadic family who lived in mud homes and followed where the good hunting and fishing led.
Her home now is an outpost on the Bering Sea, Toksook Bay, and on Tuesday she became the first person counted in the US Census, taken every 10 years to apportion representation in Congress and federal money.
“Elders that were before me, if they didn’t die too early, I wouldn’t have been the first person counted,” Lizzie Chimiugak said, speaking Yup’ik language of Yugtun, with family members serving as interpreters. “Right now, they’re considering me as an elder, and they’re asking me questions I’m trying my best to give answers to, or to talk about what it means to be an elder.”
The decennial US census has started in rural Alaska, out of tradition and necessity, ever since the US purchased the territory from Russia in 1867. The ground is still frozen, which allows easier access before the spring melt makes many areas inaccessible to travel and residents scatter to subsistence hunting and fishing grounds. The mail service is spotty in rural Alaska and the Internet connectivity unreliable, which makes door-to-door surveying important.
The rest of the nation, including more urban areas of Alaska, begin the census in mid-March.
On Tuesday, Steven Dillingham, director of the census bureau, conducted the first interview after riding on the back of a snowmobile from the airport to Chimiugak’s home.
“The 2020 Census has begun,” he told reporters after conducting the first interview with Chimiugak, a process that lasted about five minutes. “Toksook Bay isn’t the easiest place to get to, and the temperature is cold. And while people are in the village, we want to make sure everyone is counted.”
Dillingham was hours late getting to Toksook Bay because weather delayed his flight from the hub community of Bethel, about 115 miles (185 kilometers) away. Conditions didn’t improve, and he spent only about an hour in the community before being rushed back to the airport.
After the count, a celebration took place at Nelson Island School and included the Nelson Island High School Dancers, an Alaska Native drum and dance group. Later, the community took over the commons area of the high school with a potluck of Alaska Native foods, including seal, moose and goose soups, herring roe served with seal oil and baked salmon.
Robert Pitka, tribal administrator for Nunakauyak Traditional Council, hopes the takeaway message for the rest of the nation is of Yup’ik pride.
“We are Yup’ik people and that the world will see that we are very strong in our culture and our traditions and that our Yup’ik language is very strong,” he said.
For Chimiugak, she has concerns about climate change and what it might do to future generations of subsistence hunters and fishers in the community, and what it will do to the fish and animals. She talked about it with others at the celebration.
“She’s sad about the future,” he eldest son Paul said.
Chimiugak was born just after the start of the Great Depression in the middle of nowhere in western Alaska, her daughter Katie Schwartz of Springfield, Missouri, said. Lizzie was one of 10 siblings born to her parents, who lived a nomadic lifestyle and traveled with two or three other families that would migrate together, her son said.
Lizzie and her 101-year-old sister from Nightmute, Alaska, survive.
In 1947 Lizzie married George Chimiugak, and they eventually settled in Toksook Bay after the town was founded in 1964 by residents of nearby Nightmute. There are five surviving children.
He worked maintenance at the airport. She did janitorial work at the old medical clinic and babysat.
Like other wives, she cleaned fish, tanned hides and even rendered seal oil after her husband came home from fishing or hunting. Her husband died about 30 years ago.
She is also a woman of strong Catholic faith, and told her son that she saved his life by praying over him after he contracted polio.
For her own hobbies, she weaved baskets from grass and remains a member of the Alaska Native dance group that performed Tuesday. She dances in her wheelchair.
She taught children manners and responsibility and continued the oral tradition of telling them stories with a storyknife.
Chimiugak used a knife in the mud to illustrate her stories to schoolchildren. She drew figures for people or homes. At the end of the story, she’d use the knife to wipe away the pictures and start the next story with a clean slate of mud.
“She’s a great teacher, you know, giving us reminders of how we’re supposed to be, taking care of subsistence and taking care of our family and respecting our parents,” her granddaughter Alice Tulik said. “That’s how she would give us advice.”