How to Use Spilanthes for Health Benefits

Spilanthes, also known as the toothache plant or paracress, is an herb that has been used for centuries in traditional medicine systems. The most common species used are Spilanthes acmella and Spilanthes oleracea. Spilanthes contains compounds called alkylamides that produce a tingling, numbing sensation when ingested.

This unique property makes spilanthes helpful for:

  • Alleviating toothaches
  • Soothing sore throats
  • Acting as a natural anti-inflammatory
  • Providing immune support against infections
  • Boosting energy and stamina

Spilanthes can be taken in several ways to harness its health benefits. Read on to learn more about this versatile herb and how to incorporate it into your routine.

Growing Spilanthes

If you want a steady supply of spilanthes on hand, consider growing it yourself. Spilanthes is easy to grow and makes an attractive addition to an herb or flower garden. Here are some tips for cultivating spilanthes at home:

Choose a Sunny Spot

Spilanthes needs full sun exposure to thrive. Choose a location that gets at least 6 hours of direct sunlight per day. Good options include a sunny flowerbed or a spot in a vegetable garden that gets plenty of light. Container gardening works too, just position the pots in a bright, sunny area.

Prepare the Soil

Spilanthes grows best in light, well-draining soil. Before planting, mix in compost or other organic matter to enrich the soil. This will provide nutrients for growth. Make sure the soil drains readily and is not overly moist.

Start Spilanthes from Seed

It’s easiest to start spilanthes from seed. You can find spilanthes seed packets at garden stores or online. Start seeds indoors 4-6 weeks before your last expected frost date.

Fill starter pots or trays with seed starting mix. Sprinkle the tiny spilanthes seeds on top and lightly cover with about 1/4 inch more mix. Water gently to moisten.

Place the pots in a sunny spot or under grow lights. Keep the soil moist until sprouts emerge in 1-2 weeks.

Transplant Outdoors

Once the weather has warmed up and there is no danger of frost, transplant the seedlings outdoors. Look for a spot with full sun and fertile soil. Space the plants 12-15 inches apart.

Water the new transplants regularly until they become established. Add a general purpose fertilizer once a month during the growing season for healthy growth.

Grow as an Annual or Bring Indoors

In warmer climates, spilanthes will self-seed and return each year. In colder areas, grow it as an annual and start new plants each spring.

You can also dig up a few plants in fall and transplant them into containers. Keep them in a sunny window over winter. The following season, move them back outside once the weather warms up again.

Harvesting Spilanthes

The most common parts used are the flowers and leaves. Harvest spilanthes throughout the growing season as needed.

Pick the Flowers

The flowers will be ready to harvest about 60-70 days after planting. Look for flower heads that have fully opened. Pick individual flowers as they mature. Use scissors for a clean cut.

Try to harvest in the early morning after the dew has dried but before the hot afternoon sun. The flowers are at their peak oil concentration during this time.

Gather the Leaves

You can also pluck spilanthes leaves anytime during the growing season. Choose young, tender leaves for the best flavor. Cut just above the leaf node on the stem.

Dry for Storage

After harvesting, lay the flowers and leaves out in a single layer on racks or baking sheets. Place them in a warm, dry spot out of direct sunlight.

Allow 1-2 weeks for the plant material to fully dry. To test for dryness, make sure the leaves crumble easily.

Store dried spilanthes in airtight glass jars in a cool, dark place. Properly dried herbs will keep for up to a year.

Using Spilanthes

Thanks to its diversity, spilanthes can be used in many forms. The dried herb is commonly made into teas, tinctures, and infused oils. The fresh herb can also be eaten. Here are some of the most popular ways to use spilanthes:

Spilanthes Tea

Tea is one of the simplest ways to use spilanthes. To make a basic infusion:

  • Add 1-2 teaspoons dried flowers and leaves to a tea ball or infuser
  • Steep in 8 ounces just-boiled water for 5-10 minutes
  • Strain out plant material and enjoy

This flower-power tea has an herbal, slightly bitter taste. Drink it as-is or sweeten it with honey or lemon. Sip spilanthes tea a few times per day to get its immune-boosting benefits.

Spilanthes Tincture

Alcohol extracts or tinctures are a very effective way to capture spilanthes’ beneficial compounds. Follow these steps:

Materials:

  • 1 cup dried spilanthes (chopped)
  • Vodka or other clear liquor (80-100 proof)
  • Quart jar with tight-fitting lid

Instructions:

  1. Fill the jar with the dried herb, packing it down lightly.
  2. Pour vodka over the herbs until they are completely covered. Put the lid on tightly.
  3. Store the jar in a cool, dark place and shake daily for 4-6 weeks.
  4. Strain out the herbs by pouring the liquid through cheesecloth.
  5. Store finished tincture in dropper bottles in a cool spot.

For immune support, take 30-60 drops of spilanthes tincture mixed in water or juice up to 3 times per day.

Spilanthes-Infused Honey

Combining spilanthes with honey makes a natural sore throat remedy. Follow this recipe:

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup dried spilanthes
  • 1 cup raw honey
  • Small jar with lid

Instructions:

  1. Lightly crush the dried flowers and leaves.
  2. Place the herbs in the jar and pour honey over top until covered.
  3. Stir until fully mixed then put the lid on tightly.
  4. Set aside for 1-2 weeks to infuse, shaking the jar daily.
  5. After infusion, strain out the herbs by pouring through a mesh strainer.
  6. Store the spilanthes honey in the jar, applying the lid tightly.

Take 1-2 teaspoons of the honey as needed to coat and soothe an irritated throat.

Spilanthes Mouthwash

Harness the numbing effects of spilanthes to make a homemade mouthwash for oral pain:

Ingredients:

  • 2 teaspoons dried spilanthes
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • Essential oils like peppermint or clove (optional)

Instructions:

  1. Simmer the spilanthes in water for 15 minutes until infusion is strong. Allow to cool.
  2. Strain out herbs and add baking soda.
  3. Mix in a few drops of essential oils for extra soothing and antimicrobial properties.
  4. Swish 1-2 tablespoons around the mouth for 30 seconds and spit.

Use as needed for toothaches, canker sores, or sore gums.

Chew Fresh Spilanthes

For quick relief of mouth pain, simply chew on a fresh spilanthes flower. The tingling sensation will help numb discomfort. Hold it in the mouth near the affected area. Discard after chewing.

Spilanthes Skin Salve

The anti-inflammatory powers of spilanthes can also be used topically. Whip up this herbal skin salve:

Ingredients:

  • 1⁄2 cup spilanthes-infused olive oil
  • 1⁄4 cup beeswax pellets
  • Essential oils like lavender or tea tree for scent (optional)

Instructions:

  1. Gently heat the olive oil and beeswax in a double boiler until melted and combined.
  2. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly. Stir in essential oils if using.
  3. Pour into an ointment jar or tin containers.
  4. Apply a small amount to skin as needed to soothe insect bites, sores, or mild burns.

The infused oil extracts the herbal properties, while the beeswax gives the salve a thick, balm-like texture for easy topical application.

Wellness Benefits of Spilanthes

Thanks to its immune-enhancing and anti-inflammatory actions, spilanthes has many potential wellness benefits. Here is an overview of the top uses:

Natural Toothache Relief

The traditional use of spilanthes is for alleviating oral pain. When applied topically or chewed, the alkylamides produce a temporary numbing sensation. This helps relieve pain from issues like toothaches, canker sores, and gum inflammation.

For tooth pain, chew on a fresh spilanthes flower bud directly over the affected area. The numbing action brings quick relief. Using a spilanthes mouth rinse can also ease overall mouth soreness and discomfort.

Soothes Sore Throats

Spilanthes makes an excellent remedy for sore throat symptoms. It has demonstrated antibacterial effects against some strep throat and staph bacteria. The numbing quality also reduces throat pain and irritation.

Gargling spilanthes tea or infused honey coats the throat for soothing relief. Drinking spilanthes tea provides internal immune support against bacteria or viruses that cause sore throats.

Eases Coughs and Congestion

Spilanthes’ diaphoretic property helps stimulate sweating. This makes it useful for breaking fevers during illness. The decongestant effects can also help clear up chest and sinus congestion.

Drink spilanthes tea or use the tincture to ease coughs, loosen phlegm, and promote sweating out a fever. The antimicrobial properties fight infection while the herbs soothe respiratory inflammation.

Boosts Immunity

Studies indicate spilanthes may increase immune activity in the body. The flowers especially contain alkylamide compounds linked to immune stimulation and protection against disease.

Consuming spilanthes tea, tinctures, or infused honey on a regular basis gives immune cells a boost. This helps defend against pathogens and prevents infection.

Anti-inflammatory Actions

The alkylamides in spilanthes demonstrate natural anti-inflammatory abilities. The herb inhibits pro-inflammatory cytokines involved in inflammation and pain.

Using spilanthes skin creams, salves, or oils topically eases swelling, redness, and pain from issues like insect bites, joint pain, sprains, and skin conditions. Drinking spilanthes tea also reduces internal inflammation.

Antimicrobial Properties

In vitro testing reveals spilanthes has antimicrobial activity against some disease-causing pathogens. It shows effectiveness against strains of staph, strep, E. coli, and Candida.

The antimicrobial effects make spilanthes helpful for preventing and treating various types of infections. Both topical and internal uses combat bacterial overgrowth and related symptoms.

May Support Oral Health

Early research indicates spilanthes may have benefits for improving oral hygiene and health. Extracts demonstrate antimicrobial actions against periodontal disease pathogens.

Use spilanthes mouthwash to prevent gum infections. Chewing the herb seems to increase saliva flow, which helps neutralize cavity-causing bacteria. More studies are still needed on spilanthes’ effects on oral health.

Possible Adaptogenic Properties

Traditionally called an “immortality herb”, spilanthes is considered an adaptogen in Ayurvedic medicine. This means it may help regulate processes and bring the body into balance.

Some emerging research shows spilanthes may have potential as an adaptogen. However, most studies have been in animals so more clinical trials are needed. The plants’ effects on managing stress and fatigue require further evaluation.

Is Spilanthes Safe?

When used appropriately, spilanthes has a long history of safe traditional use. There are a few potential side effects to keep in mind:

  • May cause mouth numbness or tingling when chewing the raw herb
  • Can sometimes cause sweating or increased urination due to diuretic effects
  • Rarely associated with contact skin sensitivity or dermatitis

Women who are pregnant or nursing should exercise caution with spilanthes, as there is not enough research on safety during these periods.

Do not exceed recommended servings or take spilanthes for extended periods without consulting your doctor. Discontinue use if any irritation or discomfort occurs.

Overall, spilanthes is well-tolerated with minimal adverse effects for most people. However, it is always best to use herbals under the supervision of a qualified practitioner.

An Herb with Many Uses

As you can see, spilanthes is an extremely versatile plant. It has much to offer both for home herbal use and natural health remedies. Consider growing your own toothache plant and exploring all the ways to benefit from spilanthes. With its immune-boosting powers and antimicrobial actions, it is a great herb to add to your botanical medicine cabinet.