Living in Consciousness ~ Indi(r)a’s Food and Garden Weblog

Going Green with Neem Leaves (Vepa Aaku)

Homemade Neem-Clove Tooth Powder

Dried Neem Leaves ~ For This Week’s Indian Kitchen

We worship the neem tree! For us Bharatiya, the neem tree is a sacred tree, standing along the magnificient Maamidi (Mango) and the bodhi vrukshamPeepal (Raavi). The beautiful evergreen neem tree with its numerous medicinal benefits is a precious gift from Mother Earth. Every part of the tree is utilized in some way in India. In home-based medicines and in religious ceremonies, neem plays an essential role, the protector against disease and evil eye. In the kitchen, delicate neem flowers and tender neem leaves are used in preparing the broth-like healing potions. The bark, branches and dried leaves of the neem tree are used to prepare medicinal powders in our homes.

Since olden times, dental health is one of the well-known beneficial effects of neem. I have always desired to go back to the way my grandparents used to brush their teeth with homemade powders. Dried neem, tulasi leaves, cloves, little bit of rock salt and rice bran are ground together and stored in jars, to use as tooth-powder. Rice husk ash was also added to this mixture. Dental care routine in the days of yore went as follows – about half a teaspoon of the powder is placed in the palm of one’s hand and a small pencil-sized neem twig serves as the toothbrush. We had to dip the edge of the twig in this powder and brush the teeth. The taste of the toothpowder combined with neem twig packed quite a kick, which was sort of overwhelming to my young palate at that time. But we didn’t have a choice, because the commercial white toothpaste was considered poison in those days in villages. And people like my grandparents, who were well-versed in Western culture, consciously avoided using “foren” sounding, tasting chemical-laden white toothpaste. They had sparkling, healthy teeth and warm smiles.

I wanted to resuscitate that old tradition from memories. I purchased neem powder and tulasi powder from Indian stores. Ground few cloves to fine powder. I put together a fantastic-smelling tooth powder. Here is the result.

Homemade Neem-Clove Tooth Powder


4 tablespoons – neem powder
2 tablespoons – cloves powder
1 tablespoon – tulasi powder
¼ teaspoon – rock salt
1 tablespoon – rice bran or of bran of any grain – (added to provide friction to dislodge the food particles while brushing.)

Take all of the above in a small bowl. Mix thoroughly and have a taste. Adjust cloves, salt and bran to your liking. Mix and store in a clean jar.
To use – place about half teaspoon of powder in the palm of your hand. Moisten tooth brush and dip the bristles in powder and apply to the teeth. Do like you normally brush. No foam while brushing and no artificial sweetener like after-taste. This homemade tooth powder provides a refreshing clean feel and an enticing potent after-taste that mature palates prefer.

We all know that mothers love children who take proper dental care. What’s better way to celebrate mother earth on Earth day than remembering the old wisdom and bringing those sparkling memories back? This recipe is my way of celebrating the ancient wisdom and the inspiration for it – the Mother Earth.

All about Neem Tree
Neem: India’s Miraculous Healing Plant (book)
Sacred trees of India

Posted by Indira©Copyrighted in Amma & Authentic Andhra,Indian Ingredients,Indian Kitchen,Neem (Vepa) (Sunday April 22, 2007 at 7:19 pm- permalink)
Comments (30)

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30 comments for Going Green with Neem Leaves (Vepa Aaku) »

  1. First to comment!!!!

    Indira , where did you get the neem powder from?? do you get dried neem leaves also???

    Comment by Deepika Saripalli — April 22, 2007 @ 7:21 pm

  2. Hi Deepika, No neem flowers but neem leaves were avialable for Ugadi here in Indian stores. I bought a packet and left it to dry.
    You could buy neem powder and tulasi powder from Indian grocery stores.

    Comment by Indira — April 22, 2007 @ 7:50 pm

  3. wow indira you are always one to be admired for writeup of these wonderful herbs/veges…. and the way it can be best used.


    Comment by Roopa — April 22, 2007 @ 9:01 pm

  4. do u use tooth powder?
    my grand grandparents used to make tooth powders, facial powders, bathing powders…..everything at home.
    I need to ask my grandma once
    great post though 🙂

    Comment by anusharaji — April 22, 2007 @ 11:40 pm

  5. hi ur tooth powder is grt…it is a good idea really…good use of herbs!!!!!!!!!!

    Comment by shanti — April 23, 2007 @ 1:42 am

  6. A befitting post for Earth day. Happy Earth Day, Indira!

    Comment by Mamatha — April 23, 2007 @ 3:55 am

  7. Where did you get Neem Leaves from ?????? I dearly miss Neem here because Neem plays an important role in Bengali cuisine. The baby red Neem leaves fried are served as the first course often as it is very healthy and Spring is the time when my Ma used to make us have it almost every day

    Comment by sandeepa — April 23, 2007 @ 5:44 am

  8. Did you know it is in India toothbrush/brusing teeth first orginated?

    Comment by InjiPennu — April 23, 2007 @ 6:16 am

  9. F.A.N.T.A.S.T.I.C !!! I remember back at my Grandmom’s village we used to brush teeth with Neem stems. .. bitter tasting neem stems 🙂

    Good one, Indira.

    Comment by Mythili — April 23, 2007 @ 10:01 am

  10. indira, there’s a hidden strategy behind the bitter neem sticks.

    i tried these once, just once, when i was a kid, and after that, i (the one who hated milk) ran and actually asked for milk, and gulped it down quickly, to get the bitterness out of my mouth. 😀

    the powder without the neem sticks looks like something i’ll really like, though.

    Comment by bee — April 23, 2007 @ 10:16 am

  11. That was really good note for celebrating earths day..I appreciate the time u spend on spreading such useful things.

    Happy earth day!


    Comment by Kavitha — April 23, 2007 @ 10:27 am

  12. Great post, Indira. No words are enough to describe my feelings on reading this…..

    i get neem powder often from Indian stores, but never saw neem leaves…..where did you get neem leaves from. As kids, we sometimes used neem ki daatun and also babool/kikkar (acacia) daatun. The neem fruit (nimoli, nimboli) was a favorite during spring time and onset of summer (it prevents skin problems)…..and the neem flowers…..ah! we used to collect the dried ones from the earth to pack plastic bags full and put them in the cupboards with woollen clothes and silk etc.

    i also remember that we used to get walnut bark (akhrot) daatun, which would give a nice color to the lips, very astringent, so it dried the lips too, but the color (and the smell) was wow!

    Thanks Indira… goes beyond thanks for this one, really!

    Comment by musical — April 23, 2007 @ 10:59 am

  13. Thats very nice touch going back to ones’ roots. Do you find neem tree/leaves in Seattle ?? If you can you let me know where you find fresh neem leaves ??


    Comment by Revathi — April 23, 2007 @ 11:00 am

  14. Hi Indra,
    Lovely writeup….had a question though, about rice-bran. Where do you get them? In indian stores? Do you ask for rice bran? Thanks!

    Comment by DD — April 23, 2007 @ 12:12 pm

  15. I have brushed mine using the rice husk- salt combo. And I also remember using mango leaves to brush teeth. Great times!!

    Comment by Gini — April 23, 2007 @ 1:42 pm

  16. this one was really nice to read 🙂 a nice change from always reading food recipes in blogs!

    Comment by Ranjani — April 23, 2007 @ 2:16 pm

  17. It was fun trying out all these stuffs when we were kids…lots of memories. 🙂

    Comment by RP — April 23, 2007 @ 8:30 pm

  18. You are sweet. Thanks Roopa.

    I am using it now, Anusha.:)

    Yes, it’s really great use of herbs, Santhi.

    Thanks and Happy earth day to you Mamatha.

    Sandeepa, from a store named Mayuri grocery for Ugadi festival.
    I wish we could get fresh vepa here all the time. I’d love to read Bengali vepa recipes.

    Really Inji? I didn’t know that before.

    Mythili: Thanks. Bitter tasting is right.:)

    Bee: they always had a strategy, didn’t they? 🙂

    Kavitha: Thanks and Happy earth day!

    Thanks for the affectionate note, Musical. I loved reading your commennt!
    Storing neem flowers in a closet – we used to do that.:)
    Neem is really a miracle plant.

    Revathi: There is store named Mayuri groceries in Redmond area. I purchased fresh neem leaves for Ugadi from that shop.

    Hi DD: from health food stores.

    Same here, Gini.:)

    I am glad you liked reading this post, Ranjani.

    RP: I wish there was a movie which plays our memories.:)

    Comment by Indira — April 23, 2007 @ 9:50 pm

  19. Hi Indira –

    What a way to spread a traditional toothpowder smile this Earth day – this is the ultimate Indira touch! 🙂

    thanks! during our last trip to India, we tried applying neem oil as a protection against mosquitoes – worked great!

    Comment by Desimom — April 24, 2007 @ 9:06 am

  20. Indira,

    Thanks for sharing preparation of traditional tooth powder. You are really very special person.

    Please let me know where to buy Rock salt and brand name of Rice bran . Can we get Rice bran in Whole Foods ?

    Thanking you


    Comment by Sarada — April 24, 2007 @ 10:59 am

  21. Wow! This looks amazing. I’m going to make some up this weekend. Also – I travel a lot for work, and it’s nice to have fewer liquids and gels to haul around these days – that 1 quart bag they limit you to is tiny!

    Comment by Diane — April 24, 2007 @ 3:17 pm

  22. Tooth powder. I must ask my mom about this. Very enlightening.

    Comment by Cynthia — April 24, 2007 @ 6:42 pm

  23. Indira, I am amazed to read that you actually made tooth powder. This is a wonderful post. You always come up with such innovative ideas. I have seen people using Neem stem for brushing. I used to love fruits of Neem tree which we had in school. I think we even had a chapter on Neem where it was mentioned that all parts of Neem tree are useful. I remember brushing with rice husk and something mixed in it at my aunt’s home.
    Thanks for such an amazing post.

    Comment by Reena — April 25, 2007 @ 4:12 am

  24. Hey Indira,
    Nice post and a great way to keep the dentist away. I have a question..the very first sentence of your post says we worship the neem tree. I have seen it used in some religious practices but never saw it being worshipped. could you please clarify this??


    Comment by Priya — April 26, 2007 @ 9:06 am

  25. Hi Indira,
    wonderful post. I remember my mom keeping a clove inbetween her teeth when she has pain in the tooth. She says cloves are very good for teeth. thanks for posting this recipe of tooth powder.

    Comment by Prema — April 26, 2007 @ 9:42 am

  26. Hi Indira,

    Thanks for sharing the recipe for traditional tooth powder. A innovative, natural and Organic concoction! Keep up the good work!

    I want to share some interesting recipes on your blog. Please let me know how I should proceed.

    Comment by Lalit — April 29, 2007 @ 8:25 am

  27. fantastic post! thanks for the recipe!

    Comment by praveena — July 28, 2007 @ 8:07 am

  28. Hi, Indira.

    Thank you for the recipe for tooth powder. Tooth powder, I believe, does a much better job than paste; I grew up using it, but then it became unpopular. I live in Canada, and don’t know if I can get all these ingredients, but will go to my local Indian stores and see what I can find.

    Comment by Valerie — April 18, 2008 @ 3:21 pm

  29. I was searching for my tooth picks and was thinking why they do not make it from neem tree-wood. So i am living in the west and Neemtree we know only from ayurvedic books in theoretic sentisens.
    is there anybody who can send that type of European sticks size, but with neemtree ?
    And where to find that kind of powder ?
    best regards,

    Comment by Robert — December 23, 2009 @ 1:40 pm

  30. mam, please tell me that can i use only neem leaves to brush my teeth gums and teeth are very weak.can neem leaves strengthen my teeth and gums? reply its important for me..

    Comment by gopi — April 5, 2012 @ 2:40 am

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