Chewstick, White Root

by Green Deane

in Alcohol, Miscellaneous, Plants, Trees/Shrubs

Gouania lupuloides: How to Get Chewed Out


Gouania lupuloides, the chewstick

The modern toothbrush was unknown in Europe until 1498, the year it came from China. Before that people used chewsticks, and have done so for 7,000 years according to a Babylonian record. They’ve been used for at least a few hundred years in the Americas.

While the Sassafras became the stick of choice of mainland Indians (followed by Sweet Gum) they were introduce to the practice by Caribbean Indians who used the Chewstick. In fact, dental care products in the Caribbean contain powdered Chewstick. It is also used like hops in brewing Jamaican beer. Perhaps it cleans your teeth while you enjoy the suds.

Chewstick blossoms

Botanically the Chewstick is Gouania lupuloides (go-AH-nee-ah  lou-pin-EE-deez.) Gouania honors French botanist Antoine Gouan, 1733-1821, professor of Botany at Montpellier. Lupuloides means resembling Lupin. That from the word for wolf as the ancients thought Lupin robbed the soil of nutrients.  Incidentally, the Brits say lou-pin-oh-EYE-deez, American prefer lou-pin-OY-deez. But the “oides” ending is Greek, thus I prefer lou-pin-EE-deez.


Green Deane’s “Itemized” Plant Profile

IDENTIFICATION: A shrub or woody vine, climbing by hooked tendrils, to 30 feet long. Leaves alternate, oval or elliptic to ovate, pointed, toothed, one to three and a half inches long, thin with hair stems. Flowers greenish yellow or white with five clawed petals, on slender spikes. Fruit a three-winged capsule.

TIME OF YEAR: Year round

ENVIRONMENT: Common in hammocks

METHOD OF PREPARATION: Use pencil sized twig for tooth brush, chewing one end. It will get frothy. Dried stems powdered can be used as a tooth powder. Stems can also be used like hops in brewing.

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Nikolaus August 23, 2014 at 22:25

Out of curiosity, is there anything in Maine (Augusta or further north) that could, or has been, used as a chew stick? I seem to be to far north for either sassafras or gums, though I’ve heard rumours of sweet birch (that I’ve yet to come across here) – I’d love yet another reason to quest about in the forest for a day.


Green Deane August 25, 2014 at 12:41

thanks… I meant the US Constitution not the Declaration of Independence.


joselo melo August 21, 2013 at 22:13

Hello, I would like to know where can I buy Gouania lupuloides chewstick in the u.s.a., thank you I will really be greaful for this.


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