Got a toothache? Get yourself the toothache plant! When chewed, the leaves and flower heads contain an analgesic called spilanthol, which is used to numb toothaches. The flowers tend to have a stronger numbing effect than the leaves.
The toothache plant, known scientifically as acmella oleracea (formerly Spilanthes oleracea and Spilanthes acmella) is a small flowering herb native to the tropics of Brazil. The plant produces striking yellow and red pompom-like flowers. They will bloom from mid summer to early fall. It can grow to be 1-1.5ft tall.
This would be a fun plant to grow, especially for kids! The toothache plant is considered a perennial in zones 10-12 and can be grown as an annual in cooler climates. It is very easy to grow and low maintenance. It prefers full sun or partial shade. Plant in rich, fertile, well drained soil. Water regularly, but do not over water, as it can be prone to mildew and mold. This plant can also be grown in containers.
The leaves can be picked at any time. To promote a bushy plant, wait until the fourth set of leaves to appear, then pink back the plant to the second set of true leaves.
Fun Flower Facts about the Toothache Plant:
- The toothache plant is sometimes called the “eyeball plant” because the flowers look like eyeballs
- The leaves can be used to flavour soups, stews and curries
- The leaves are edible and can be eaten raw. They add an unique flavour to salads. They can also be cooked, but the leaves will lose much of the flavour.
- The plant also has anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties and enhances the immune system.
- Eating the flower will cause a strong tingling or numbing sensation in the mouth, followed by excessive saliva and a cooling sensation in the mouth
- In India, the buds are used as an ingredient in chewing tobacco
- In traditional herbal medicine, the toothache plant can be used to relieve toothache and throat irritation
- It can also help people suffering from dry mouth by enhancing saliva production
- The plant is an ingredient in pesticides and is effective in killing mosquitoes