When I was traveling throughout Rajasthan, India last year, I was the only person in my small tour group who opted not to endure chemoprophylaxis (taking preventive medicines such as mefloquine, doxycyline and malarone) to prevent malaria. Like all drugs, these come with their share of side effects, and some of these medications need to be taken for weeks either before and/or after traveling to a malaria-risk area. While I certainly didn't want to contract malaria, I didn't want to subject my body to these toxic medicines, either.
I took other precautionary measures such as wearing long sleeves and pants, and I used a natural insect repellant on exposed skin. These measures seemed to help because ordinarily, my body is a smorgasbord for every mosquito within 100 miles of me. But on this trip, I could count on one hand the number of times I was bitten during the entire two and one half weeks.
It was after the first bite that I became more concerned about the possibility of becoming infected. That's when I learned from our tour guide, Singhji, that chewing a couple of neem leaves every day reduces the risk of contracting malaria and acts as a very powerful, yet totally natural way to fight off mosquitos. After Singhji showed me what a neem tree looked like, I'd excitedly point out every one we encountered. Our driver, Inder, and I would pick a few leaves off a tree each morning. After brushing our teeth, we'd chew together. This was already a daily ritual of his, as neem is commonly used in India to clean teeth and prevent gum disease. The leaves tasted bitterly green. But I felt wonderful knowing that I'd found a natural, non-toxic way to protect myself against contracting malaria. I began to look forward to my morning "chew," and thus began my education about the many wonders of neem.
Because it contains more than 100 bio-active ingredients and a wealth of proteins, neem has long been used in Ayurdevic medicine. And because of its many healing and protective properties, the neem tree is fondly referred to as "friend and protector" and "wonder tree" throughout India.
Neem is an evergreen that is remarkably tolerant of both heat and drought, can grow up to twenty feet in three years, has pesticide, germicide, and medicinal properties, is resistant to termites, and is often used in reforestation efforts. The leaves' bitter taste comes from an array of complex compounds called "limonoids." The most important bio-active compound found in neem is azadirachtin (repellent). Oher compounds are gedunin (anti-malarial), nimbin (anti-inflammatory, anti-pyretic), nimbidin (antibacterial), nimbidol (anti-malarial, anti-pyretic), quercentin (anti-malarial), salannun (repellent), and sodium nimbinate (spermicide).
Dr. Ramesh C. Saxena, an entomologist, is head of the Neem Foundation, whose motto is Greening India with Neem. In the report, "Neem: A Tree for Solving Global Problems," written by an ad hoc panel of The Board on Science and Technology for International Development, National Research Council of India, of which Dr. Saxena is a member, it states:
"The neem tree, one of the most promising of all plants, may eventually benefit every person on the planet. Probably no other plant yields as many varied products or has as many exploitable by-products. Indeed, as foreseen by some scientists, this tree may usher in a new era in pest control; provide millions with inexpensive medicines; cut the rate of population growth; and perhaps even reduce erosion, deforestation, and the excessive temperature of an overheated globe."
A year after returning home from India, I was delighted to I discover TheraNeem products right here at a local natural foods store. The toothpaste and herbal mouthwash intrigued me, so I contacted the company, Organix South to let them know I was interested in reviewing some of their products. They were kind enough to send me quite an impressive "care package," which included the toothpaste and herbal mouthwash, as well as nail and cuticle scrub that contains lovely oils such as walnut, jojoba, and sweet orange, and samples of shampoo, conditioner, and soap. They also thoughtfully included a bottle of TheraVeda respiratory support supplement, after I had mentioned that I suffer from a chronic cough that lasts for months at a time. All of these products are vegan* and not tested on animals.
In an ongoing effort to seek out and discover bodycare products that are not only cruelty-free, but are also free of sulfates, parabens, and artificial sweeteners, colors, and flavors, I was delighted to read the ingredients list on both the Herbal Mouthwash and Toothpaste: Neem? Yes! Clove? Yes! Peppermint and Spearmint? Yes! All that other aforementioned yucky stuff? No! But how does it taste?
Well, I have a confession to make here. When I was little, I absolutely hated brushing my teeth. I think that part of it stemmed from the fact that no one had ever tried to make it seem like a fun activity. (We didn't have bubble-gum flavored toothpaste or cute little cartoon character toothbrushes back then.) Brushing my teeth felt like a chore I was being forced to do. I hated it so much, that I started pretending I had brushed my teeth by wetting my toothbrush under the faucet. I got away with that routine for years.
I was accused of being lazy, but that certainly wasn't the case. The truth was that I just detested the taste of the toothpaste we used at our house. It wasn't until I was living on my own, that I discovered there was life after Crest and Colgate. (And no, I didn't wait until I was an adult to start brushing my teeth regularly. When I hit puberty, I began to care more about my appearance than a bad taste in my mouth.) And while I did start caring more about oral hygiene, these popular toothpaste brands still made me want to gag each and every time I brushed my teeth.
I remember when I first discovered expensive brands like Marvis and Elgydium, Tasty, but not so natural, and you can shell out more than ten bucks a tube for these. Then I moved on to Tom's and Nature's Gate brands in my evolution towards products with more natural ingredients. They're satisfactory, but I never truly felt like my mouth was refreshingly clean after using any of these. In India I discovered Himalaya Herbals brand. It has all natural ingredients (like neem!) and tastes terrific, but it's almost impossible to find here. So imagine my elation when I unexpectedly came across TheraNeem here at home.
But I digress ... The question was, as I recall, how do TheraNeem Herbal Toothpaste and Mouthwash taste? In a word: Natural. Because they're not filled with artificial flavorings or sweeteners, they have a refreshingly natural taste. After brushing and rinsing, my mouth feels clean and fresh. While I never learned to enjoy the simple pleasure of oral hygiene as a child, the adult me is finally at peace with her twice daily dental care ritual. I have the folks at Organix South to thank for that, and I look forward to trying all of the other wonderful TheraNeem and TheraVeda products.
For more information about TheraNeem and TheraVeda herbal products, explore the Organix South website, and discover for yourself, the power of neem!
*The complete line of TheraNeem and TheraVeda products are vegan, except for their Neem Stick Lip Therape, which contains beeswax.