Buzz Button™️, aka szechuan button, a small leafy plant with happy yellow flowers, is used in traditional medicine, cooking and as an ornamental plant. But what's most remarkable about it, is what happens when you eat it. It's the flower that's fizzy!
If you're looking for other interesting edibles my post on anxiety reducing plants is one you should read.
It only has one latin name, A. Oleracea , but Buzz button, goes by multiple other common names: toothache plant, electric button, Szechuan Button, electric daisy, paracress, jambu and Sichuan button.
They're all the same thing: an edible flower that gives your mouth the feeling you're licking a battery.
If you're anything like me NOW you're intrigued, right?
Table of Contents
What is it?
Buzz button (toothache plant) is a small leafy plant used in folk medicine and more recently in cooking and mixology for its incredible ability to make your mouth tingle and numb.
It's the pop rocks of the flower world.
The plant itself is about 18" across and 1' high producing a mass of small round or cone shaped flowers.
The leaves, roots and flowers of the plant contains spilanthol, an analgesic and antibacterial bioactive compound. In regular talk - it can numb and clean skin.
That tingling sensation that is felt over the entire mouth, not just the tastebuds, is what chefs and bartenders prize.
The flowers of Acmella oleracea have the ability to wake up the entire mouth and therefore enhance and elevate the taste of the dish or drink.
Buzz button is a member of the Asteraceae family which also includes daisies, dahlias, marigolds, sunflowers, zinnias, asters, chamomile and chrysanthemums.
Is it safe to eat?
Buzz button plant is completely safe to eat but it isn't known for being delicious. It's eaten for the sensory properties it produces: mouth tingling and numbing.
The most popular part of the plant to eat are the flowers which contain the most amount of spilanthol. They can be eaten whole just for the fun experience or added to drinks and food as an enhancement.
The plant has been safely used for centuries in South American folk medicine to numb toothache and sore throat pain.
In North America it's used by chefs for its ability to awake the palate and heighten the flavour of whatever dish it's put in. In drinks a whole buzz button flower is often added as a garnish.
What happens when you eat it?
Oh boy. How to describe eating a buzz button flower. Here we go.
- Your tongue starts to tingle all over
- Your salivary glands begin overproducing and your mouth starts to fill with saliva
- Your mouth feels like it's tasting salt
It's weird. It's just plain weird. The bigger the flower you eat, the stronger the effects.
Let me introduce you to this plant that I often grow and always have fun daring people to eat; which 90% of the time they do. Even after I've told them everything that will happen once they eat it.
When I first started growing this plant I thought it was just a novelty. But when I read about it more I discovered that it's actually been scientifically studied quite extensively and proven to have an insane amount of potential uses.
- The number one thing to do with Buzz Buttons is offer it to a friend and watch them eat it of course.
- topical anaesthetic (hence the term toothache plant)
- flavour enhancer (it's added to cocktails and food because it makes other flavours explode)
- In specialty boozy drinks from your favourite mixologist (This flower made the Chandelier Bar's "The Verbena" drink in Vegas famous)
- Add the petals and leaves to salads, pasta, rice and other dishes to add a buzz and pump up the flavour.
Lime Sorbet with Coconut Cream
There are two varieties of this plant available to buy. One is all yellow (like the one I'm growing) or one that's called a bullseye plant. The flower looks exactly the same as the all yellow one, but there's a dark brown centre in the middle of the flower making it look like a bullseye.
Grow your own
This plant is easy to grow from seed but it takes a while for it to sprout and when it does it's TINY. So keep an on it when you plant it to make sure the seed has consistent water to help guarantee germination.
Start seeds 6-8 weeks before your last frost date.
- Plant the seeds in a cluster in a small pot of soil. Just sprinkle seeds over the top and push them down with your finger so they're making contact with the soil.
- Very lightly sprinkle about 1 mm of dry soil over the top and press it down as well. Don't water the soil on top - it'll slosh all the tiny seeds around. The wet soil below will moisten the little bit of soil you sprinkle on top.
- Cover the pot with plastic wrap or a plate to retain moisture. Check on the pot every day. As soon as you see sprouts (which could take anywhere from 1-2 weeks) remove the plastic or plate and put under lights or on a windowsill.
- When the first true set of leaves appear, you can transplant each seedling either into the garden or into it's own small pot or cell pack.
- Plant out when danger of frost has passed.
It grows best in full sun but tolerates some shade.
If you leave the plant in the fall, and don't clean it up from the garden, it'll reseed itself by dropping dried seed heads below. By the following spring you'll have multiple sprouts shooting up that can be transplanted, left to grow where they are or given away.
If you plan to use the flowers for medicinal purposes, continue to pick the flowers as they bloom when they're fully formed and bright yellow. They can be dried by hanging them, putting them in the oven on a very low temperature or set in a dehydrator.
Once you grow these plants from seed you'll never have to buy seed again. They produce hundreds of seeds per flower if you let them dry on the plant. At the end of the season when the seed heads have dried, pluck one off and shake the seeds into a bag.
Its stems are sturdy for the size of them and are about 5" long. The flowers will last for days and days in a vase.
I've grown toothache plant (as I normally call it) for years and it's always one of my favourites. Who doesn't like thrusting a flower at someone and then demanding they eat it so you can watch their face go through myriad of changes??
Also they look super-cute in a small vase.
If bigger flowers are your thing, have a look at my favourite dahlia varieties to grow. Dahlia flowers and tubers are also edible but they don't have the effervescent zip of Buzz Buttons.
Nope, not at all. Recent studies have shown even consuming more than the recommended amount will have no ill effect. However if you're sensitive to anything in the daisy family you should avoid it.
Yes, there are. Buzz Buttons™️ have no elicit chemicals or ingredients in them, they just sound like they do.
Seeds are available on Amazon, Etsy, or from Baker Creek Seeds.
Fresh picked Buzz Button flowers on Etsy
Fresh Buzz Button flowers on Amazon US.
And for obvious reasons, this plant really doesn't have any pests that bother it.
It seems we humans are the only ones ridiculous enough to want to eat it.
Spit bugs like Spilanthes. We're using beneficials from Nature's Good Guys to control them this year.