A species of the largest plant family Asteraceae, toothache plant is native to Brazil, naturally grown in the tropical regions. Previously, it was known by the botanical names, Spilanthes acmella and Spilanthes oleracea. Today the accepted scientific name of this herbaceous flowering plant is Acmella oleracea. Owing to its medicinal importance and attractive head inflorescence, toothache plant is a popular choice for growing in herb gardens and as flower garden ornaments.
Toothache Plant Description
Toothache plants grow at a fast rate and exhibit perennial growth pattern under favorable conditions. The slender stems are erect and shoot upwards within a short time. Similar to other members of the Asteraceae family (e.g., sunflower, daisy, gerbera, etc.), the flowers of this plant are borne in head inflorescence. These attractive blooms are a blend of vibrant yellow and red colors. At one glance, the shape of these flower heads look like human eyeball. Thus, this herb is colloquially known as eyeball plant.
The interesting plant name is given with respect to its typical use as an age-old remedy for relieving toothache. The leaves and flower heads of this plant contain spilanthol, an active component that imparts analgesic property to these plant parts. Thus, simply chewing the leaf or flower provides a numbing effect and reduces toothache. Apart from this toothache plant benefit, it is also appreciated for culinary applications. Fresh shredded leaves are sprinkled for garnishing salads, while whole leaves can also be cooked like other leafy veggies.
Tips for Growing Toothache Plant
A characteristic feature of this medicinal plant belonging to aster flower family is tolerance to frost and cold climatic conditions. It can be propagated easily from viable seeds. So, you don't need to spend much for buying plantlets from nursery stores. However, the choice for starting from seeds or young plants is up to you. If you don't like the hassles of sowing seeds, inducing them to germinate and transplanting them, then purchase healthy plantlets from a trusted supplier.
Here's how to grow toothache plants from seeds.
- First of all, select the plantation area of this tropical plant. It performs best in full sun to partial shaded condition, hence select a plantation site that meets this light requirement. Also, the selected area should have enough room to support optimal growth of this ornamental cum medicinal plant.
- Loosen soil and remove unwanted plants from the planting site, which otherwise will compete with seedlings as they germinate. For poor garden soil, supplementing a decent amount of farmyard compost is a good idea. Then, sow the seeds sparingly in the prepared soil.
- Water the area frequently to ensure quick sprouting of toothache plant seeds. If the area is exposed to full sun, soil will dry out soon and delay germination. So, you need to monitor the soil regularly and make it moist at all times until sprouts develop. As the seedlings develop a couple of leaves, consider transplanting them.
- In case there are less seedlings, just thin out the weaker ones, making sure that the spacing between two young plants is 18 inch. Or else, uproot them gently without injuring the fragile roots. To make your task easier, uproot healthy seedlings with an appropriate garden tool and retain some soil along with the roots.
- Grow this plant seedlings in the same region by making planting holes (size should be sufficient enough to hold root balls). The ideal space between two plants is 18 inches. Lesser than this will cause crowdedness to the plants as they grow and attain full size. Also, providing enough room allows proper light penetration and aeration to the plants.
- Water the newly transplanted toothache plant seedlings regularly to keep the soil moist (not soggy). Make sure you check for signs of weakness, withering and alike problems. After the plants get established to the soil, they become more tolerant to dryness and you can minimize the watering frequency.
- Let the plants grow undisturbed for the first few weeks. When you notice development of lustrous green foliage, you can train them to induce bushy growth habit. Just pinch off the top parts (a few inches) of the plants and follow the same care level to enjoy large blooms.
By growing toothache plants in your garden, you can enjoy the benefits of these priceless medicinal herbs and enjoy their beautiful blooms too. Also, it is observed that extracts prepared from fresh blooms of a toothache plant using specific solutions are effectual for killing pests. Thus, these beautiful medicinal plants can be used as natural, eco-friendly pesticides.