Spilanthes acmella

Common Names

  • Jambu
  • Toothache plant
  • Electric daisy
  • Paracress

For Patients & Caregivers

Spilanthes, also known as the “toothache plant”, may have numbing and pain-relieving effects, but human data are lacking.

Spilanthes is an herbaceous plant that belongs to the daisy family. It is well-known in traditional systems of medicine throughout Asia and South America. The leaves are used as food sources. The flowers of Spilanthes have earned it the name “toothache plant” for their numbing and pain-relieving effects. Spilanthes has also been noted to stimulate taste and improve saliva flow. Therefore, whether it could help side effects from cancer treatments such as dry mouth, mouth sores and inflammation, or changes in taste sensations, may be of interest to researchers. However, very few studies have been conducted and none of them have yet been done in humans.

Toothache or gum infections
Studies in the lab suggest that Spilanthes may protect against certain bacterial and dental infections, but there are no human data.

Sore throat or sore mouth
Studies in the lab suggest that Spilanthes may have a numbing effect and reduce inflammation, but studies have not yet been conducted in humans.

Inflammation and wound healing
Animal studies suggest that compounds in Spilanthes may protect against or possibly heal ulcers.

  • You are using a diuretic (water pill) for blood pressure or for swelling: Animal studies show Spilanthes can promote urination and may increase the risk of adverse effects.
  • You have prostate cancer: Animal studies show that Spilanthes stimulates male hormone production. This may affect the actions of the drugs used to treat prostate cancer.

There are no reported side effects with the use of Spilanthes in humans.

Spilanthes, an herbaceous plant that grows in tropic and subtropic regions, should not be confused with jambu madu or wax jambu, which are names for the wax apple fruit tree that is widely cultivated in Southeast Asia. 

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For Healthcare Professionals

Spilanthes acmella, Spilanthes oleracea, Acmella oleracea, Acmella uliginosa

Spilanthes acmella is an herbaceous plant that belongs to the family Asteraceae. It is well-known in traditional systems of medicine throughout Asia and South America, where it is known as Jambu. The leaves are used for culinary purposes, and the flowers have been used for their numbing and pain-relieving properties, earning the plant such common names as the toothache plant. It has also been noted to relieve stomatitis, have taste-activating properties, and to induce a salivary response. Spilanthes is used to help relieve side effects from cancer treatments such as dry mouth, gum irritation, loss or changes in taste sensation, and to stimulate appetite.

Spilanthol and acmellonate, compounds derived from this plant, are associated with reduced toothache pain and increased saliva secretion (1). In vitro and in vivo studies of S. acmella confirm antimalarial (2), antimicrobial, antifungal (3), and taste-activating (4) properties. Animal models suggest aphrodisiac (5), anti-inflammatory (6), diuretic (7), anesthetic, and antipyretic (8) activities. Acmella uliginosa has demonstrated antinociceptive (9), antifungal, antibacterial, and antioxidant activities (10). Compounds from A. oleracea have also suggested antinociceptive (11), gastroprotective (12) (13), insecticidal (14), and acaricidal (15) effects.

In vitro, a hydroethanolic extract of S. acmella produced cytotoxic effects in tumor cell cytoskeletons (16). However, human data are lacking.

  • Gum infections
  • Inflammation
  • Sore throat
  • Stomatitis
  • Toothache
  • Wound healing

Antinociceptive effects of the various plant species have been attributed to their anti-inflammatory properties (11) and engagement of opioid receptors (9). Compounds that induce the tingling sensation associated with topical application or chewing of jambu include spilanthol, and to a lesser degree acmellonate (4). Taste-activating alkamide compounds that induce a salivary response have also been identified (4). Spilanthol is among the most active alkamides isolated from aerial parts of A. oleracea to demonstrate insecticidal (14) and acaricidal (15) activity. It was also found to significantly inhibit cytochrome P4502E1, but the physiological significance of this inhibition is not clear (17).

In animal models, spilanthol isolated from S. acmella reduced inflammatory responses via nuclear factor kappa-B inactivation (6). Potential mechanisms for gastroprotective effects with rhamnogalacturonan, a polysaccharide isolated from A. oleracea, include protectively binding to the mucosal surface, increasing mucus synthesis, scavenging radicals, and diminishing secretions of acid and pepsin (12). Other research suggests that rhamnogalacturonan promotes the restoration of epithelial continuity via epithelial cell proliferation and enhances mucin production to promote gastric ulcer healing (13).

An animal study found that an S. acmella ethanolic flower extract, rich in alkylamides, affected male sexual functioning by increasing levels of testosterone, follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), and luteinizing hormone (LH) (5).

Patients with androgen-sensitive prostate cancer: In an animal study, an alkylamide-rich S. acmella ethanolic flower extract increased levels of testosterone, follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), and luteinizing hormone (LH) (5).

Spilanthes has diuretic activity in animals (7), but there are no documented adverse effects with its use in humans.

  • Cytochrome P4502E1 (CYP2E1) substrates: Spilanthol significantly inhibits CYP2E1 (17), and may increase adverse effects of substrate drugs, including those used in general anesthesia such as isoflurane and sevoflurane.
  • Antiandrogen drugs (bicalutamide, flutamide, abiraterone): S. acmella may increase testosterone levels (5) and counter the effects of these drugs.
  • Diuretics: S. acmella has loop diuretic activity (7), and may have additive effects with other diuretic drugs.

  1. Dubey S, Maity S, Singh M, et al. Phytochemistry, Pharmacology and Toxicology of Spilanthes acmella: A Review. Adv Pharmacol Sci. 2013;2013:423750.

  2. Ley JP, Blings M, Krammer G, et al. Isolation and synthesis of acmellonate, a new unsaturated long chain 2-ketol ester from Spilanthes acmella. Nat Prod Res. Jul 20 2006;20(9):798-804.

  3. Sharma V, Boonen J, Chauhan NS, et al. Spilanthes acmella ethanolic flower extract: LC-MS alkylamide profiling and its effects on sexual behavior in male rats. Phytomedicine. Oct 15 2011;18(13):1161-1169.

  4. Ratnasooriya WD, Pieris KP, Samaratunga U, et al. Diuretic activity of Spilanthes acmella flowers in rats. J Ethnopharmacol. Apr 2004;91(2-3):317-320.

  5. Chakraborty A, Devi BR, Sanjebam R, et al. Preliminary studies on local anesthetic and antipyretic activities of Spilanthes acmella Murr. in experimental animal models. Indian J Pharmacol. Oct 2010;42(5):277-279.

  6. Ong HM, Mohamad AS, Makhtar N, et al. Antinociceptive activity of methanolic extract of Acmella uliginosa (Sw.) Cass. J Ethnopharmacol. Jan 7 2011;133(1):227-233.

  7. Nomura EC, Rodrigues MR, da Silva CF, et al. Antinociceptive effects of ethanolic extract from the flowers of Acmella oleracea (L.) R.K. Jansen in mice. J Ethnopharmacol. Nov 25 2013;150(2):583-589.

  8. Nascimento AM, de Souza LM, Baggio CH, et al. Gastroprotective effect and structure of a rhamnogalacturonan from Acmella oleracea. Phytochemistry. Jan 2013;85:137-142.

  9. Maria-Ferreira D, da Silva LM, Mendes DA, et al. Rhamnogalacturonan from Acmella oleracea (L.) R.K. Jansen: gastroprotective and ulcer healing properties in rats. PLoS One. 2014;9(1):e84762.

  10. Castro KN, Lima DF, Vasconcelos LC, et al. Acaricide activity in vitro of Acmella oleracea against Rhipicephalus microplus. Parasitol Res. Oct 2014;113(10):3697-3701.

  11. Pacheco Soares C, Lemos VR, da Silva AG, et al. Effect of Spilanthes acmella hydroethanolic extract activity on tumour cell actin cytoskeleton. Cell Biol Int. Jan 2014;38(1):131-135.

  12. Raner GM, Cornelious S, Moulick K, et al. Effects of herbal products and their constituents on human cytochrome P450(2E1) activity. Food Chem Toxicol. Dec 2007;45(12):2359-2365.

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