Arak tree: Source of the iconic miswak
سهول تهامة موطن خصب لشجرة الأراك المنتجة للسواك
06 NOV 2020
Source: Nadeen Al-Wazani
The Tihama plains are a fertile habitat for the Arak tree, from which the popular miswak used to clean teeth is produced and sold in local markets across the Kingdom. Also known as siwak, the miswak is in high demand, in line with the Prophet’s (peace be upon him) practices. The south of the Kingdom, especially the Jazan and Al-Baha regions, are the most common areas where Arak trees are grown. You may buy your Siwak from any local souq like Bab Makkah in Jeddah, get the chance also to chat with local buyers who can tell you stories from the past.
The perennial Arak tree, also known by its scientific name Salvadora persica, is an evergreen and fragrant tree no more than four meters high. Its leaves are green, oval-shaped, and devoid of thorns. The tree produces yellow-green flowers and red fruits, while its branches hang down and intertwine with each other. The roots are deep and extend for great distances underground.
Arak tree uses
Not only does the Arak tree provides fragrant miswak toothpicks, it is also an essential source for livestock grazing in the region, especially camels. It was a source for building wooden homes, as well as for food and medicine. The people of Jazan used bark from the fragrant tree to create incense and perfume their clothes and body.
The miswak is sourced from the roots of Arak trees that are only two or three years old. What can make manufacture difficult is the need to constantly dig in order to extract the right part of the tree in the fertile valleys of Tihama. These dense and soft fibers that resemble a brush are then cut into small sticks. The heads of the miswak are cut, with the outer shell removed, and then moistened a little so they can be easily used as a natural and practical toothbrush.
Medical experts have outlined the benefits of brushing using miswak for oral and dental health, as they contain natural compounds that eliminate germs and bacteria in the mouth and prevent tooth decay. Miswak keeps the mouth refreshed, tighten loose gum tissue, and treat mouth ulcers.