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Acmella oleracea (syn. Spilanthes oleracea, S. acmella) is a species of flowering herb in the family Asteraceae. Common names include toothache plant and paracress. In Brazil it is called jambú. Its native distribution is unclear, but it is likely derived from a Brazilian Acmella species. It is grown as an ornamental and it is used as a medicinal remedy in various parts of the world. A small, erect plant, it grows quickly and bears gold and red inflorescences. It is frost-sensitive but perennial in warmer climates.
For culinary purposes, small amounts of shredded fresh leaves are said to add a unique flavour to salads. Cooked leaves lose their strong flavour and may be used as leafy greens. Both fresh and cooked leaves are used in dishes such as stews in northern Brazil, especially in the state of Pará. They are combined with chilis and garlic to add flavor and vitamins to other foods.
The flower bud has a grassy taste followed by a strong tingling or numbing sensation and often excessive salivation, with a cooling sensation in the throat. The buds are known as "buzz buttons", "Szechuan buttons", "sansho buttons", and "electric buttons". In India, they are used as flavoring in chewing tobacco.
The most important taste-active molecules present are fatty acid amides such as spilanthol, which is responsible for the trigeminal and saliva-inducing effects of products such as jambú oleoresin, a concentrated extract of the plant. It also contains stigmasteryl-3-O-b-D-glucopyranoside and a number of triterpenes. The isolation and total synthesis of the active ingredients have been reported.
Biological pest control
Extracts were bioassayed against yellow fever mosquito (Aedes aegypti) and corn earworm moth (Helicoverpa zea) larvae. The spilanthol proved effective at killing mosquitoes, with a 24-hour LD100 of 12.5 µg/mL, and 50% mortality at 6.25 µg/mL. The mixture of spilanthol isomers produced a 66% weight reduction of corn earworm larvae at 250 µg/mL after 6 days.
- Acmella oleracea. PROTA.
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- It's Shocking, But You Eat It. All Things Considered. NPR. February 28, 2009.
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