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Acmella oleracea - (L.) R.K.Jansen

Common Name Toothache plant, Paracress
Family Asteraceae or Compositae
USDA hardiness 9-11
Known Hazards None Known
Habitats Found only as an escape from cultivation, growing in weedy places, usually in wet localities such as lakeside marshes[299].
Range S. America - Peru. Its native distribution is unclear, but it is likely derived from a Brazilian Acmella species.
Edibility Rating    (3 of 5)
Other Uses    (2 of 5)
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating    (3 of 5)
Care (info)
Tender Moist Soil Full sun
Acmella oleracea Toothache plant, Paracress

Acmella oleracea Toothache plant, Paracress
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Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of flower
Acmella oleracea is a PERENNIAL growing to 0.4 m (1ft 4in) by 0.4 m (1ft 4in) at a fast rate.
See above for USDA hardiness. It is hardy to UK zone 10 and is frost tender.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: mildly acid and neutral soils. It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers moist soil.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map


Anacyclus pyrethraria (L.) Spreng. Bidens acmelloides Berg. Bidens fervida Lam. Bidens fixa Hook.f. Bidens fusca Lam. Bidens oleracea (L.) Cav. ex Steud. Cotula pyrethraria L. Pyrethrum spilanthus Medik. Spilanthes acmella var. oleracea (L.) C.B.Clarke. Spilanthes acmella var. oleracea (L.) C.B.Clarke ex Hook.f. Spilanthes fusca hort.par. ex Lam. Spilanthes oleracea L. [Illegitimate] Spilanthes oleracea var. fusca (Lam.) DC. Spilanthes oleracea var. oleracea. Spilanthes radicans Schrad. ex DC. [Illegitimate].

Plant Habitats

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Leaves  Oil
Edible Uses: Oil

Leaves - raw or cooked [46 , 301 ]. Adds a pungent flavour to salads that stimulates the salivary glands whilst having a numbing effect on the tongue and lips [301 , 348 ]. Eating the leaves is a memorable experience. They have a smell similar to any green leafy vegetable. The taste, however, is somewhat reminiscent of Echinacea, but lacking the bitter and sometimes nauseating element of that plant. First, a strong, spicy warmth spreads outward across one's tongue, turning into a prickling sensation. With this the salivary glands leap into action, pumping out quantities of saliva. As the prickling spreads, it mellows into an acidic (slightly metallic) sharpness accompanied by tingling, and then numbness. The numbness fades after a time (two to twenty minutes, depending on the person and amount eaten), and the pungent aftertaste may linger for an hour or more [372 ]. A very popular ingredient in Amazonian soup dishes, and has become the favourite vegetable for Europeans living in Madagascar [301 ]. A concentrated extract of the plant, sometimes called jambu oil or jambu extract, is used as a flavoring agent in foods, chewing gum, and chewing tobacco. It is described as having a citrus, herbal, tropical or musty odor, and its taste can be described as pungent, cooling, tingling, numbing, or effervescent.

References   More on Edible Uses

Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.
Analgesic  Anthelmintic  Antibacterial  Antifungal  Antiinflammatory  Antirheumatic  Dysentery  Malaria  
Sialagogue  Tonic

The most common and widespread medicinal use is to treat toothache and throat and gum infections [299 ]. Worldwide the flower heads are used either fresh or dried and powdered, but the use of roots and leaves has been recommended as well [299 ]. The plant is further recommended as a cure for dysentery and rheumatism, and to enhance the immune system. It is used against blood parasites, especially against malaria, both prophylactic and curative [299 ]. The leaves are sialagogue [348 ]. The leaves and flower heads are analgesic, anthelmintic, antibacterial and antifungal [372 ]. Some of the medicinal compounds are destroyed by desiccation or freezing [372 ]. In-vitro studies have shown strong antibacterial activity against Escherichia, Klebsiella, Proteus, Pseudomonas, Salmonella and Staphylococcus. Also Candida albicans is inhibited [299 ].

References   More on Medicinal Uses

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Other Uses

Containers  Cosmetic  Cut flowers  Insecticide  Oil

Use as an natural insecticide has proved effective against yellow fever mosquito (Aedes aegypti) and corn earworm moth (Helicoverpa zea) larvae. [299]. Used widely as an ornamental because of the attractive colourful heads[299]. Attracts fireflies when in bloom. Jambu extract can also be used in cosmetics and shampoos. Flowers are good for cutting, drying and preserving. This plant is attractive to bees, butterflies and/or birds. Suitable for growing in containers.

Special Uses

Attracts Wildlife  Food Forest

References   More on Other Uses

Cultivation details

Prefers moist, well-drained, black (high organic content) soil. Prefers a sunny position[200]. Tolerates part sun to full sun. It grows in regions with an average temperature of 26°C. The rainfall is 2,700 mm per year. The relative humidity is 85%. It is damaged by frost. Soil pH requirements: 6.1 (mildly acidic) to 7.5 (neutral). Plants have escaped from cultivation in New Caledonia, where the species is classified as 'Invasive'[305]. There is a wild form with much stronger flavoured leaves that is occasionally used in salads but is more commonly used medicinally, especially to treat toothache[301, K]. A cultivated form 'Oleracea' has milder flavoured leaves and has become very popular in Brazil both as a salad and an addition to soups[301]. [1-4]. In garden design, as well as the above-ground architecture of a plant, root structure considerations help in choosing plants that work together for their optimal soil requirements including nutrients and water. The root pattern is rhizomatous with underground stems sending roots and shoots along their length. Bloom Time: Mid Summer to Early Fall. Blooms repeatedly.

References   Carbon Farming Information and Carbon Sequestration Information

Temperature Converter

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The PFAF Bookshop

Plants For A Future have a number of books available in paperback and digital form. Book titles include Edible Plants, Edible Perennials, Edible Trees,Edible Shrubs, Woodland Gardening, and Temperate Food Forest Plants. Our new book is Food Forest Plants For Hotter Conditions (Tropical and Sub-Tropical).

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Plant Propagation

Seed - requires a temperature of 21°c to germinate[299]. Germination takes place in about 2 weeks[423]. Cuttings when the plant is not in flower[299].

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Toothache plant, paracress, Sichuan buttons, buzz buttons, tingflowers, electric daisy. An-ka-sa-kir, An-sa-te, Berro, Berro de Para, Borousni, Brede mafane, Cresson de Para, Ibouoni, Jambu, Marsang, Marshang, Motum mersh, Oubouonou, Phak khrat, Rasun sak, Tipebouoti, Toothacheplant, Yoritampobou [1-4].

Coming Soon

Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

None Known

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status : Not Listed.

Related Plants
Latin NameCommon NameHabitHeightHardinessGrowthSoilShadeMoistureEdibleMedicinalOther

Growth: S = slow M = medium F = fast. Soil: L = light (sandy) M = medium H = heavy (clay). pH: A = acid N = neutral B = basic (alkaline). Shade: F = full shade S = semi-shade N = no shade. Moisture: D = dry M = Moist We = wet Wa = water.


Expert comment


(L.) R.K.Jansen

Botanical References

Links / References

For a list of references used on this page please go here
A special thanks to Ken Fern for some of the information used on this page.

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