TOOTHACHE PLANT Spilanthes acmella

Common name: Subang nenek,
Botanical name: Spilanthes acmella /Sthenodesme Temtanara
(S. oleacea differs from S. acmella by having a red/yellow coloured flower and darker leaves. From the Asteraceae family, native to South America.)
Family: Asteraceae (Compositae)

These plants have an interesting chemistry, containing flavenoids, sterols, sesquiterpene lactones and amides, notably spilanthol, which has anaesthetic effects. Chewing one leaf is enough to numb the mouth and cause a tingling sensation on the tongue. The flowers are the most numbing part of the plant. Spilanthol is also a potent insecticide, able to kill mosquito larvae at a concentration of 1/100,000.


Care and cultivation: Cover seeds lightly with soil and keep moist until germination. Likes a part shade to full sun position with adequate water. Plants fill up pots quickly and perform best when planted out.

Medicinal : Used for toothache.
The toothache plant or Paracress (Spilanthes acmella (L.) Murray) is one of two species known by these common names; the second is Spilanthes oleracea Jacquin. The sixty or so species of Spilanthes are scattered around the world’s tropics. They are members of the Asteraceae, the daisy family.

Toothache plants contain spilanthol which acts as an anesthetic/analgesic. The plants have also shown anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and antifungal properties. The plants have long been used in India for the treatment of gum diseases and dental caries. And it is a sialagogue, stimulating the salivary glands to increase flow of saliva and consequently promoting digestion.

The yellow and brown cone shaped flower is actually a compact inflorescence composed of numerous tiny flowers. The inflorescence begins as a disk; the center expands upward as the individual flowers develop. The yellow portion of the cone consists of those flowers which have opened and are shedding pollen. In 1763, Nikolaus Joseph von Jacquin created the generic name from the Greek spilos “spot” and anthos “flower”, an allusion to the brown spot at the top of the inflorescence.

The two toothache plants differ slightly in size and coloring. Spilanthes oleracea has a reddish tinge, grows larger, and has fewer flower heads than S. acmella. Some botanists feel the two are simply variations of the same species. In 1985, they were renamed as a single species, Acmella oleracea (L.) R.K. Jansen, based on Jansen’s extensive re-evaluation of their classification.


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