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Acmella oleracea, also known under its old names Spilanthes oleracea and Spilanthes acmella and commonly referred to as Spilanthes Extract, is a flowering herb in the plant family Asteraceae, also known as toothache plant or paracress as the leaves and flower heads contain an Analgesic agent Spilanthol used to numb toothache. It is native to the tropics of Brazil, and is grown as an ornamental (and occasionally as a medicinal) in various parts of the world. A small, erect plant, it grows quickly and sends up gold and red flower inflorescences. It is frost-sensitive but perennial in warmer climates.
For culinary purposes, small amounts ofshredded fresh leaves add a unique flavour to salads. Cooked leaves lose their strong flavour and may be used as Leafy greens. Both fresh and cooked leaves are used in dishes (such as stews) in Northern parts of Brazil, especially in the state of Pará, often combined with chillies and Garlic to add flavor and vitamins to other foods. A related species is used in several Southeast Asian dishes, such as salads. Consumption of portions or whole flowers have been reportedly used to offset the intense heat of chillies and peppers.
Eating a whole flower bud results in a grassy taste, followed by an extremely strong tingling or numbing sensation and often excessive saliva production and a cooling sensation in the throat. These buds are known as Buzz Buttons, Szechuan buttons, sansho buttons, and electric buttons. In India, the buds are used as flavoring in Chewing tobacco.
Medical uses and effects
A decoction or infusion of the leaves and flowers is a Traditional remedy for Stammering, toothache, Stomatitis, and throat complaints.
Acmella oleracea extract has been tested against various yeasts and bacteria and was essentially inactive.
Acmella oleracea has been shown to have a strong Diuretic action in rats.
Spilanthes extract has been discovered to aid in saliva stimulation for people suffering from dry mouth (xerostomia). Its properties provide relief to dry mouth by enhancing saliva production.
Acmella oleracea extract is reported to reduce muscle tension when applied topically, and as such it aids to decrease facial lines and wrinkles that are partially caused by tense or contracted facial muscles. Application of Acmella extract is reported to result in more relaxed facial muscle, and in turn in a decrease of visible wrinkles, ageing lines, "crows feet", etc. Some people compare it to Botox, but without the toxic effects and without the need to inject it under the skin; a cheap and easy to apply herbal Botox replacement.
Extracts using Hexane of freshly harvested flowers of S. acmella were bioassayed against Aedes aegypti (yellow fever mosquito) larvae and Helicoverpa zea (the corn earworm moth) neonates. Spilanthol proved effective at killing mosquitos, with an LD100 (at 24 hours) at a concentration of 12.5 µg/mL and showed 50% mortality at 6.25 µg/mL.
The mixture of Isomers of spilanthol showed a 66% weight reduction of H. zea neonate larvae at 250 µg/mL concentration after 6 days.