Spilanthes Plant Flower (Eyeball Plant) – Photo Courtesy: Thomas Knox
Preventative measures are all well and good, but what do you do when you’re already plagued with a throbbing, uncomfortable toothache?
If clove oil is not your bag, and you still want to go the herbal route, call on Acmella oleracea, better known by its other names, spilanthes and paracress, to calm that pain. Spilanthes is widely available in extract form, and is also often labeled as “jambu oleoresin.”
A Member of the Asteraceae Plant Family
Spilanthes is a member of the Asteraceae plant family, which also includes asters, daisies, and sunflowers; spilanthes itself doesn’t produce a spectacular, star-shaped bloom, though it does send up red and yellow flowers when it’s maturing. Overall, it is a fairly unremarkable-looking herb, with a flower similar to that of echinacea that grows well in temperate climates and in herb gardens, though it is sensitive to frost.
Spilanthes thrives in moist soil and is not susceptible to common diseases; to promote bushy growth, herbalist Lynn Smythe recommends that you wait until the fourth set of leaves appears, then pinch back the plant to the second set of true leaves. Spilanthes is easy to take care of and a valuable addition to your herbarium – especially if you suffer from sensitive teeth.
What makes Spilanthes work?
The active ingredient in spilanthes is found in its leaves and blooms, and is one of the most potent natural analgesics around: spilanthol. Spilanthol is a strong numbing agent – so strong, in fact, that if you chew the blooms or leaves, you will experience not only numbness but also increased saliva production. This can be comical if unexpected, so you should experiment with only a small amount to find out exactly how you react, but it is a harmless effect and it’s actually good for you in a number of ways.
First, saliva production starts the digestive process; second, increased saliva production can help to overcome nausea, and third, saliva also cleanses the mouth and discourages flow of bacteria. Spilanthes promotes a naturally occurring process, so it can help you eat while simultaneously numbing gums to irritating tooth pain.
Chew it, Brew it, Rinse with it
If simply chewing the plant sounds strangely herbivorous to you, no worries – it is easy to enjoy spilanthes in other ways, such as in a tea. Due to its mild, peppery flavor, it combines well with other flavors such as chamomile, ginger, and mint. You could add several dried spilanthes blooms to any normal portion of loose-leaf tea, brew for the recommended 5-10 minutes, and enjoy it with a bit of honey.
Spilanthes extract is perhaps the quickest and most effective method for combating tooth pain, though it is not as enjoyable as a nice cup of herbal tea. To use spilanthes extract, mix several drops of the extract with water and use as a mouth rinse.
With pain relieving herbs as effective as clove oil and splianthes, we should never be forced to settle for something like Orajel again and take care of a tooth pain naturally!
Maria (Niina) Pollari is a poet, editor, writer and translator. She wrote two chapbooks, Fabulous Essential (2009) and Book Four (2011). Pollari’s writing has been featured in numerous literary journals as well as the Brooklyn Rail and Jezebel.com. She has received her Master’s in Creative Writing from Sarah Lawrence College.