Szechuan Buttons – Secret Ingredient of Celebrity Chefs and Master Bartenders
One of our best selling herbs is the Toothache Plant or Szechuan Buttons. Spilanthes oleracea, also known as Acmella oleracea is a low-growing plant with bronze-purple leaves hosting yellow/red “gumdrop” flowers that bloom repeatedly summer through fall. The medicinal uses of spilanthes have been around for a long time. A mouth rinse of spilanthes extract can be used daily to promote gum health. In vitro testing has shown that the plant’s extract has strong effect against E.coli, pseudomonas, salmonella, klebsiella pneumonae and staphylococcus albus, as well as inhibiting the growth of candida albicans. Improves digestion, eases flatulence, improves the appetite, and helps to overcome nausea and vomiting by its stimulating effect on the salivary glands.
We don’t sell spilanthes soleley for its medicinal properties but also for its “Rock Star” qualities. NPR has a story about using the Szechuan Buttons in high-end restaurants and bars. The Washington Post did one as well. We were very intrigued and had to grow these amazing little plants last summer to see for ourselves, had a nibble of the traditionally used leaves and it makes your mouth tingle. It is like the old pop rocks candy, a very effervescent feeling. The fresh buttons sell for somewhere around $40 for a bag of 30 buttons, but if you grow them yourself it’s around $3.50 for a packet of 30 seeds, and you’ll grow hundreds of buttons! Freezing does not hurt their buzz, so you can have them year round.
We also had to try out the buttons on a cocktail. What follows is a short photo essay of this experience. We would highly recommend growing the plant for its rock star presence but also for the beauty it adds to the garden.
Starting with this –
We selected three great specimens.
With the ingredients gathered, we were ready to start.
After the drink is made, the magic is ready to be put into play! The Buttons must be pressed into the rim of the glass firmly, as the bud needs to be slightly crushed to release the “Buzz”.
We were surprised at the strength of the tingle and how long it lasted. Any part of our mouths or tongues that touched the rim of the glass had an immediately noticeable tingling or buzzing feeling, along with some numbness of the tongue that lasted at least 20 minutes. The height of the effect easily lasted 10-12 minutes, with a slow tapering off toward the end.
Seeing how easy it is to grow these, you can be the producer of a lot of “Buzz”!