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Spilanthes is a creeping tropical plant native to parts of Africa and South America. With attractive bronze-green leaves and yellow and red cone-shaped flowers, it is quite a sight to behold. In fact, many people have come to like the plant so much they often grow it as an ornamental in the garden. Also known as the toothache plant (S. acmella syn. Acmella oleracea), it’s notable for its medicinal properties as well.
Used fresh or dried, both the leaves and flowerheads, or buds, of Spilanthes contain natural analgesic and antibiotic qualities. As a result, it is often prescribed as an herbal remedy for toothache pain, numbing the mouth when chewed. In addition, it helps stimulate the production of saliva, making it suitable for gum and oral health as well. Generally, this is accomplished by swishing daily with mouth rinse made from the plant’s extract.
The infusion remedy can also be ingested for treating other conditions. For instance, Spilanthes is often recommended for digestive problems. It can help improve digestion, increase appetite, and relieve gas. Remedies may also be prescribed for easing symptoms of nausea and vomiting. The alkaloid spilanthol, which is found in the plant, is an effective anti-parasitic too.
Taken in low concentrations, Spilanthes can be used for treating blood parasites. It has even been used for combating malaria and Lyme disease with favorable results. The plant also has antibacterial and antifungal properties. The extract can be useful for strengthening the immune system. In fact, research has suggested the possibility of effective use against E. coli, Salmonella, white Staphylococcus, and other common infections.
Both bacterial and fungal infections of the skin can be successfully treated with the use of Spilanthes remedies. Some of these include ringworm, athlete’s foot, and nail infections. The remedies have also been linked to the treatment of yeast infections. Additionally, the topical remedies are helpful for minor cuts and wounds. As a natural anti-inflammatory, it has been used externally to relieve pain and swelling associated with the joints.
In many places, the Spilanthes plant is used as a flavoring agent, having a slight peppery taste. It is often used as a pepper substitute in many prepared dishes. In India the buds are commonly used as flavoring for chewing tobacco. The leaves are often used in salads as well. They can also be cooked and treated like greens but generally lose their flavoring during this process.