Toothache Plant Uses Through Time

By Bonnie Grant | September 28, 2017
by Bonnie Grant
September 28, 2017

If you have ever had a painful toothache, it may be helpful to know there is a natural remedy for relief that can tide you over before you get into that dreaded dentist’s chair. There is a long and storied Spilanthes plant history as an effective pain damper when leaves or flowers of this “Peek-a-boo” plant are chewed. Also known as Toothache plant (Spilanthes oleracea syn. Acmella oleracea), this tropical native can be grown in many regions but only as an annual in colder regions. Added to its fabulous numbing properties is the plant’s extraordinary appearance. Spilanthes is sure to be a conversation starter and a possible God’s send when oral discomfort is driving you to distraction.

What is a Toothache Plant?

Spilanthes is a synonym for Acmella, which means “little point or tip.” As plant taxonomy grows with genetic advances, many plants are being reclassified or even placed in completely different genera or families. Thankfully, the family Asteraceae retains its status as Spilanthes or Acmella origin.

Toothache plant is also called Eyeball Plant due to its startling orb-like flowers in vibrant greenish yellow blooms with a deep red center. Eyeball, Toothache, Peek-a-Boo, whatever the name, Spilanthes is a worthy addition to any garden with unique flora.

A word of caution! There is reference to some toxicity in Toothache Plant. In spite of this, historically natives in the plant’s originating country used the leaves as a urinary antiseptic and to help prevent malaria. It has also been cultivated to reduce pain and swelling orally. The active ingredient in the plant is Spilanthol, an antiseptic alkaloid which is found at its highest concentration in the flowers.

It is classified as an antibiotic, analgesic, and anesthetic to name but a few of Toothache Plant uses. In large doses, it can be toxic, so seek the advice of a professional herbalist if you wish to harness the plant’s medicinal properties for yourself.

Growing Spilanthes Plants

Toothache Plant prefers well-draining, fertile soil in either sun or partial sun. The plant responds best to consistently moist soil but be cautious about boggy sites, which do not sit well with the plant. Many northern gardeners treat them as annuals because even a light frost will kill the roots. In spite of this, their ray-less brightly colored flowers appear in mid-June and consistently bloom through September in most regions.

Opposite, oval, 2- to 4-inch long leaves produce a bush-like form, which can be 12 to 18 inches tall. Consider using the eye-popping plants in containers, mass plantings or mixed with colorful foliage plants to showcase the eye-like blooms. Their distinctive form and coloring is like planting a sea of watching orbs in the garden.

This is a fascinating, quirky and charming little plant with flowers to match its character. Even if you don’t require an oral sedative, the funny flowers will delight you for an entire growing season and, as an added bonus, it produces copious seeds which can be saved and started for more baby eyeball plants next year.

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