Acmella oleracea / Spilanthes

Spilanthes acmella is the more common name for the plant Acmella oleracea (and also has another name of Spilanthes oleracea; used less frequently). It belongs to the plant family of Asteraceae, and has been used in Ayurveda.[1]

Common terms used to refer to the plant include Jambu, toothache plant, or Paracress. It derives the name of 'toothache' plant from the compound 'spilanthol' which is sometimes used to reduce the pain associated with toothaches and can induce saliva secretions,[2] alongside the other compound Acmellonate.[3] Other traditional uses of this herb according to Indian medicine are the treatment of rheumatism and inflammation, a sialagogue for stammering, tongue paralysis, stomatitis, toothache and a treatment for fever, sore throat, and gum infections.[1] Beyond these health effects, it has been used as an Aphrodisiac and sexual tonic.[1]

Spilanthes Acmella does appear to have anti-malarial and antilarvicidal properties,[4][5] once demonstrated as a tea (hot water extract).[6]

Inflammation and Immunology

Hexane and Chloroform extracts of Spilanthes Acmella appear to suppress Nitric Oxide production in stimulated macrophages at 80mcg/mL by 72% and 85% respectively, and isolated Spilanthol appears to dose-dependently prevent macrophage activation (assessed by nitric oxide and morphology after LPS stimulation) with 90uM reducing Nitric Oxide production to 60% and 360uM nearing 20% production.[18] These inhibitory properties were accompanied by less iNOS and COX2 mRNA and protein content, less cytokine production from macrophages, and less nF-kB activation in the nucleus (90uM and 180uM reducing activation to 57% and 38% of control); these were thought to all be secondary to general anti-oxidant properties.[18]

Possible anti-inflammatory effects, otherwise unexplored in animal models

Male Sexuality

Spilanthes Acmella confers aphrodisiac effects in male rats dose-dependently improving mount latency and frequency, intromission latency and frequency, and improvements in ejaculation frequency and decreasing the post-ejaculatory interval (remission).[1] Although exact quantification of these improvements was not given, estimates derived from graphs suggest that after 28 days of 150mg/kg, the improvements were reductions in mount latency (51%), intromission latency (47%), post-ejaculatory latency (48%) and increases in mount frequency (110%), intromission frequency (amount of entries into female within 30 minutes of observation; 350% increase, from 2 to 9), ejaculation frequency (amount of ejaculations in 30 minutes; 66% improvement) . These benefits were more significant 28 days after supplementation relative to 14 days, suggesting a build-up effect.[1]

In regards to pro-erectile properties, one study which established a 293% increase in the penile erection index (PEI) to Viagra (5mg/kg) noted a 202% increase with Spilanthes Acmella[1] and appears to still exist up to 2 weeks after supplement cessation; suggesting long elimination rates of the active compounds, as when measured 14 days after cessation the Viagra group normalized and the highest dose of 150mg/kg Spilanthes remained 177% above baseline.[1] These effects were dose-dependent in nature, built up over 28 days (more potency on day 28 of supplementation relative to day 14), and a subsequent in vitro test in DS-1 cells noted that the increase in Nitric Oxide was 52% as potent as Viagra at the same dose.[1]

Appears to beneficially influence all parameters of male sexuality to a degree more than Viagra except for pro-erectile properties, of which Viagra outperformed. Preliminary evidence suggests that it is fairly potent

Interactions with Hormones


With controls at 1.73 ± 0.11 ng/mL testosterone, supplementation increased testosterone levels by 20%, 68%, and 115% at 50mg/kg bodyweight, 100mg/kg and 150mg/kg respectively after 28 days of supplementation.[1]

At least one study suggesting increases in testosterone after supplementation

Follicle Stimulating Hormone

With control at 1.41 ± 0.09 mIU/mL Follicle-Stimulating Hormone (FSH), FSH increased 23%, 79%, and 120% at doses of 50mg/kg bodyweight, 100mg/kg and 150mg/kg respectively of the ethanolic extract.[1]

Luteinizing Hormone

With control at 4.63 ± 0.11 mIU/mL for luteinizing hormone (LH), it increased by 5%, 13%, and 48% at following consumption of 50, 100, or 150mg/kg of th ethnaolic extract of Spilanthese Acmella.[1]

  1. Sharma V, et al. Spilanthes acmella ethanolic flower extract: LC-MS alkylamide profiling and its effects on sexual behavior in male rats. Phytomedicine. (2011)

  2. Ramsewak RS, Erickson AJ, Nair MG. Bioactive N-isobutylamides from the flower buds of Spilanthes acmella. Phytochemistry. (1999)

  3. Ley JP, et al. Isolation and synthesis of acmellonate, a new unsaturated long chain 2-ketol ester from Spilanthes acmella. Nat Prod Res. (2006)

  4. Pandey V, et al. Strong larvicidal activity of three species of Spilanthes (Akarkara) against malaria (Anopheles stephensi Liston, Anopheles culicifacies, species C) and filaria vector (Culex quinquefasciatus Say). Parasitol Res. (2007)

  5. Pandey V, Chopra M, Agrawal V. In vitro isolation and characterization of biolarvicidal compounds from micropropagated plants of Spilanthes acmella. Parasitol Res. (2011)

  6. Spelman K, et al. The traditional medicine Spilanthes acmella, and the alkylamides spilanthol and undeca-2E-ene-8,10-diynoic acid isobutylamide, demonstrate in vitro and in vivo antimalarial activity. Phytother Res. (2011)

  7. Mbeunkui F, et al. Isolation and identification of antiplasmodial N-alkylamides from Spilanthes acmella flowers using centrifugal partition chromatography and ESI-IT-TOF-MS. J Chromatogr B Analyt Technol Biomed Life Sci. (2011)

  8. Prachayasittikul S, et al. Bioactive metabolites from Spilanthes acmella Murr. Molecules. (2009)

  9. Cicero AF, Bandieri E, Arletti R. Lepidium meyenii Walp. improves sexual behaviour in male rats independently from its action on spontaneous locomotor activity. J Ethnopharmacol. (2001)

  10. Sharma V, et al. Effects of petroleum ether extract of Anacyclus pyrethrum DC. on sexual behavior in male rats. Zhong Xi Yi Jie He Xue Bao. (2010)

  11. Boonen J, et al. LC-MS profiling of N-alkylamides in Spilanthes acmella extract and the transmucosal behaviour of its main bio-active spilanthol. J Pharm Biomed Anal. (2010)

  12. Raner GM, et al. Effects of herbal products and their constituents on human cytochrome P450(2E1) activity. Food Chem Toxicol. (2007)

  13. Chakraborty A, et al. Preliminary studies on local anesthetic and antipyretic activities of Spilanthes acmella Murr. in experimental animal models. Indian J Pharmacol. (2010)

  14. Boonen J, et al. Transdermal behaviour of the N-alkylamide spilanthol (affinin) from Spilanthes acmella (Compositae) extracts. J Ethnopharmacol. (2010)

  15. Ekanem AP, et al. Antiobesity properties of two African plants (Afromomum meleguetta and Spilanthes acmella) by pancreatic lipase inhibition. Phytother Res. (2007)

  16. Wongsawatkul O, et al. Vasorelaxant and antioxidant activities of Spilanthes acmella Murr. Int J Mol Sci. (2008)

  17. Iizuka T, et al. Vasorelaxant effects of Acer nikoense extract and isolated coumarinolignans on rat aortic rings. Biol Pharm Bull. (2007)

  18. Wu LC, et al. Anti-inflammatory effect of spilanthol from Spilanthes acmella on murine macrophage by down-regulating LPS-induced inflammatory mediators. J Agric Food Chem. (2008) Ratnasooriya WD,

Amazon plant yields miracle cure for dental pain

The world may soon benefit from a plant long-used by indigenous people in the Peruvian Amazon for toothaches, eliminating the need for local injections in some cases. Researchers have created a medicinal gel from a plant known commonly as spilanthes extract (Acmella Oleracea), which could become a fully natural alternative to current anesthetics and may even have a wide-range of applications beyond dental care.

"We could be looking at the end of some injections in the dentist’s surgery. We've had really clear result from the tests so far, particularly for peridodontological procedures such as root scaling and planing, and there are many other potential applications. The native forest people described to me exactly how the medicine could and should work and they were absolutely right," Cambridge University anthropologist, Françoise Barbira Freedman, said in a press release.

Acmella oleracea has led to a possible new treatment for dental pain. Freedman was the first westerner to live with the Keshwa Lamas indigenous tribe in Peru; they introduced her to the power of spilanthes extract, which is grown ornamentally around the world but native to the Amazon. In 1975 one of the tribe alleviated pain in Freedman's wisdom teeth by having her bite into the plant.

"During the time I have spent with the Keshwa Lamas I’ve learnt all about the different plants and leaves they use for everyday illnesses and ailments. I first went to Peru as a young researcher hoping to learn more about what was a secretive community who were experts in shamanism. Along the way I’ve learnt a great deal about natural medicines and remedies; everything from toothache to childbirth," Freedman says.

Freedman has now founded pharmaceutical company Ampika Ltd., which is linked to Cambridge University's commercial arm. A portion of proceeds from the company will also be shared among the Keshwa Lamas people, who Freedman still visits.

Beyond dental operations, the gel may also alleviate infant pain during teething.

"There are a range of mucous tissue applications it could benefit, and may even help bowel complaints such as IBS (irritable bowel syndrome)," says Freedman.

The medicinal gel is currently in trials, but Freedman says she expects it to be on the market by 2014 or 2015.

Although the world's tropical rainforests are under assault by logging, agriculture, monocultures, cattle, and fossil fuel industries, scientists believe the forests contain an untapped medicine cabinet that could provides cures for many of the world's ailments. Currently less than 5 percent of the world's tropical forest plants and less than 0.1 percent of its animals have been tested for medicinal properties.

Read more: