"The tragic reality is that very few sustainable systems are designed or applied by those who hold power, and the reason for this is obvious and simple: to let people arrange their own food, energy and shelter is to lose economic and political control over them. We should cease to look to power structures, hierarchical systems, or governments to help us, and devise ways to help ourselves." - Bill Mollison

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Spilanthes, the Toothache Plant

Another one of the new herbs we are growing this year is called Spilanthes, a warm weather perennial also known as the toothache plant. The leaves and flowers contain natural pain relief agents that numb the gums when chewed helping to relieve toothaches and mouth sores. The herb is also reported to have significant anti-inflammatory properties, may help prevent Lyme disease, work as an immune system enhancer, and can be used as topical treatment for wounds and skin irritations. The list goes on. The more I look into this interesting little herb the more useful properties I uncover.

Keeping in mind that it seems like every herb has a massive list of highly questionable benefits, I must say that having chewed one of the leaves it does numb one's mouth, the cone shaped flowers are especially ...uh, let's just say interesting. I would describe the feeling as that of consuming the children's fizzy Zotz candy with a numbing effect, and then you start to drool...green. Apparently the flower head is a little more potent than the leaves. The dried flower is supposed to remain effective for over a year. I think I will dry a few of the flowers and test them on the next victim of a sore throat I come across...that would most likely be my grandson. Oh William! I have something that could cure that right up.:)

On a side note, this herb was easily grown from seed and transplanted into the garden. Sometimes you order these herbs and they can be a real chore to get started, stevia is always that way for me. Spilanthes seems to enjoy the same growing medium as basil and I've read it can easily be propagated from cuttings, I may give that a whirl next season. Yes, it's worth growing again as I can really appreciate an herb that actually lives up to some of the magical ballyhoo that has been proclaimed about it.


Anonymous said...

Interesting. I've not only never heard of it, I've never seen that before. You're turning into an herbalist!

Re: stevia, I've grown it but then not really known what to do with it in the leaf form. Do you know how to make it into the powdery stuff we buy in the store? Or, alternatively, how to get the sweetness into my morning 'cuppa' when in the leaf form?



Silke said...

Wow - another herb neither Daniel or I had heard of. Sounds like it can be mighty useful. The flower sure looks interesting! Learned something new. Thank you!! :) Silke

LynnS said...

Okay, you got me curious, so I had to do some research on this one. It seems this plant is used regularly in other countries -- one of the better herbs, for infections. Most of the studies and abstracts I found were from the S.A. countries. Did your seed come from the US or elsewhere?

Interesting plant and lovely leaf structure. The flower looks so much like a cotton swab with a tincture of iodine staining it!

Stefaneener said...

I love the green drool story. You might want to have towels handy before you cure someone's sore throat! I wonder if you could make infusions or pastilles that would retain that numbing effect, for sore throats. I'd sure use them.

Mr. H. said...


We experiment with a few new herbs every year and are starting to get quite a variety of different useful herbs in our collection. In another 40 or 50 years we may have enough real knowledge to be considered herbalists.

The trick to stevia is to keep the flower heads cut off in order to promote leaf growth. We pull the whole plant in late summer, cut the roots off and hang it on our porch to dry. Once dried, the brittle leaves are removed and crushed into a green powder.

The powder can then be used in place of sugar, keeping in mind it is much sweeter than sugar, in various recipes. It is definitely an acquired taste though, I still much prefer the taste of honey as a wholesome replacement for sugar.

Keeping in mind that the finer the powder the easier it dissolves, which it does not do very well. The issue with using it in coffee is keeping the green powder from floating on the top of your cup. I would try adding the stevia to the coffee grains so that all but the sweetness is filtered out. I have not tried this as we are black coffee people...really black.:)

Mr. H. said...


I think that my wife and I have not heard of most herbs, there are so many. The medicinal and health possibilities seem to be endless and hopefully we will run across more useful herbs in the future and be able to share our findings on them as well.

Mr. H. said...


Spilanthes really does have a most interesting flower head. Apparently it has similar immune system boosting properties as that of it's relative echinacea...another cone headed flower,herb from the aster family.

We were fortunate to run across splilanthes in this years Fedco seed catalogue. It does not seem to be very well known in the U.S.

Mr. H. said...


I can tell you that it really does stimulate the flow of saliva. Towels may be a good idea, especially when administering to small children.:)

I will have to experiment with the dried flowers this winter. My thoughts were to somehow mix it with ground flax to use on sore throats. Ground Flax gets really gummy or jell like when mixed with water. We sometimes use it as a thickener when cooking.

Hey, it's starting to rain out! We need it. Have a most excellent day, I know I will.

SuburbanGardener said...

Just looked through your garden photos. My wonderment rose with each photo. I thought our little 30 foot row was so terrific, and it is. But looking through your garden is such a treat. So glad it is growing so well. The long days and warm weather sure does make the plants happy and grow tall. How is the tomato experiment going with the non-irrigated plants? I remember you planted with some fresh clippings under the plant. Just curious. Keep up the garden-- it's awesome!!

Jenni said...

This post made me giggle:) I'll have to try this herb. Thanks!

Naomi said...

I really enjoy reading your blog- I learn something new everytime! Herbs are some of my favourite plants :) I have left an award for you at my blog, feel free to drop by and collect!

Cheers, Naomi

Mr. H. said...


What is really wonderful is the fact that your children get a chance to learn about growing real food. You are to be applauded for that my friend.

The no-water cherry tomatoes are doing great, even though it has been in the 90's for a couple weeks now. One of them has an almost ready to pick tomato on it. I am looking forward to not only eating it but saving a few of the seeds for the next generation of drought tolerant tomatoes.

Thanks for your comments.

Mr. H. said...


Having made someone giggle I now know I have accomplished something good today.:) It really is amusing to watch someone try the herb for the first time.

Mr. H. said...


I'm glad to hear you enjoy the blog, I look forward to stopping by and taking a look at yours. I don't participate in awards but truly appreciate the thought.

bird hunter said...

I am chewing on a piece right now to alleviate a toothache I woke up with. I think this plant is one of my best friends. Growing it in a pot on my kitchen windowsill.

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