by Daisy on 08/06/2010

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Spil what?

It’s a real thing.

I’ve got some growing in my vegetable garden, right at one end of the pepper patch, not to confuse you–it’s not  in the capsicum family.

It’s its own thing, a medicinal herb I selected because the seed catalog said it was useful for mouth sores, and as I have some extended family with a mouth ulcer problem I popped it onto the seed list this past spring because I wanted to try some medicinals this year.  It is traditionally used for toothache relief and throat and stomach pain.

The catalog didn’t mention it has another distinct quality, as well.

Hoo boy.  It was already mature, flowering, and expanding rapidly when I decided to do a little more research on it and learned it has some interesting nicknames:

Uh, Buzz Buttons?  Electric Buttons?  Szechuan Buttons?  What was going on here?  Apparently it has a numbing, tingling effect as well.

I went out to the garden and stared at it.

I was supposed to chew on one of these flower buds.

I was game.  I tried it.

Nothing much at first.  I was ready to pack it in, and then, wow.  It was like I’d put an Alka-Seltzer tablet in my mouth.  It was the sensation of foaming, without any actual foaming.  Lots of salivating, though.  It was unlike anything else.

The taste isn’t very distinctive, but it’s the sensation that rocks you.  Sort of an icy/salty numb experience, plus the ‘foaming’ I mentioned.  It lasts several minutes.  If you were to use it for toothache pain you’d have to keep popping them every so often.  I can’t speak to its effectiveness for other complaints.  For me it’s more of a novelty.  The leaves produce the same effect, perhaps a bit milder.

Reading more on the subject, I learned they’re used to jazz up salads (and how!), and as a curious additive to fanciful cocktails.  Very easy to grow, bring some to your next party.  There will be a lot of wow’s and whoa’s and raised eyebrows.

{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

KeLLy Ann August 6, 2010 at 8:08 am

interesting, verrrry interesting!
I’ve always wanted a dyers garden…

Linda August 6, 2010 at 9:51 am

Hummm I wonder if it would grow here in my Zone 5 garden. I would like to try some.


Victoria Williams August 6, 2010 at 1:02 pm

It looks quite interesting. I think you’re rather brave.

Elizabeth August 6, 2010 at 2:18 pm

I read on another blog about someone who experimented with whole cloves in his mouth (you suck on it or hold it in your cheek for awhile) for your cold. As a side effect, that part of his mouth went numb for awhile – clove extract is actually used for this purpose as well. If you have a lot of mouth issues, I thought maybe you’d enjoy this tidbit of info as well… here’s the link to his experiment. 🙂


Tomato Lady August 6, 2010 at 5:30 pm

Elizabeth–Neat! Thanks for the link. I’ll pass this along.

Chick Hatchers August 6, 2010 at 7:28 pm

You had me laughing out loud this evening. I could totally use this in some good pranks!

portia August 6, 2010 at 7:44 pm

Great story! I was also curious and I found this article about it http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/10/02/AR2007100200464.html

Tomato Lady August 6, 2010 at 8:28 pm

Portia–Yes! Did you watch the video? Such great reactions!

Elsa August 6, 2010 at 9:50 pm

Where can I get the seeds for this interesting plant?

Elsa August 6, 2010 at 9:52 pm

Where can I get the seeds for this interesting plant? here is another link

Corinne August 7, 2010 at 5:18 am

I super-duper LOVE hearing about these kind of oddities. Keep ’em coming! Now I can hardly wait for my next spring and my next big party!

Ginny August 8, 2010 at 4:07 pm

I’ve got to try growing these! The possibilities for fun look to be endless. 😀

Tanya Walton August 10, 2010 at 1:27 am

this sounds great…I have a herb patch in the garden and the kids are always chewing at it so for next year i will have to try to get hold of some of this just to see there faces…lol

Kellie Dobbie August 10, 2010 at 6:49 pm

Its nice to know that some plants and herbs we grow in our garden have medicinal value for common illnesses. Soon, we will be going to the garden instead of reaching for the medicine cabinet when we are not feeling well. Thanks for the information.

Jason November 25, 2012 at 2:52 am

How many “buttons” did you get per seed do you think? I cannot find that answer anywhere!

Daisy November 25, 2012 at 7:06 am

Jason–Boy, I don’t know. One seed produces one plant, of course, and each plant produces dozens of them over the course of a season.

alex June 3, 2014 at 2:43 pm

this is medicine for everyones garden! its a tropical perennial with lovely annual growth in any sunny spot and as soon as it sprouts the magic and medicine happens. chewing a flower bud every early morning for a summer healed my fungal feet, a bunch of intestinal issues and I havent had a cold sore on my mouth since. Oral herpes aside, my friends daughter described the sensation best. “Its like.. like Angels. Angels dancing and sparkling in y0ur mouth!” this doesn’t only work as an analgesic, it systemically rids the body of infections while zapping the senses with a potent prana charge! Grow spilanthese everywhere my friends and keep dancing!

Daisy June 8, 2014 at 3:06 am

alex–Amazing. I’m going to have to nibble on this stuff more often after your testimony. Plus, once you grow it, it self seeds and you’ll always have plenty to share, which is one more reason to love spilanthes.

alex June 8, 2014 at 6:28 pm

True though it may be that spilanthes self seeds, its a tropical perennial and often if the seeds spend too much time in the cold and damp, they die. Much better to save a few of the finest flower heads to dry on the plant and bag them to sow and share come spring time.!!

Daisy June 9, 2014 at 6:55 am

alex–Yes, don’t take a chance, definitely save some seeds just in case.

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