Jack-in-the-Pulpit: Arisaema triphyllum, Indian Turnip, Marsh Pepper, Bog Onion

Botany:

Jack-in-the-Pulpit is a woodland perennial, regrowing from its roots each spring, though it can also be propagated from seed. Prefers moist soils in shaded wooded areas. The plant grows 1 to 3 feet tall and produces one or two leaves each with three leaflets and a single flower. The green flower is often streaked with brown and forms a conical spathe with a hood around the pointed spadix. This characteristic flower is though to resemble a preacher at the pulpit giving the plant its common name. The flower blooms from April to June and produces a foul odor that attracts flies as the main pollinators. Toward the end of the summer, the flower gives way to a cluster of red berries containing seeds.

Chemistry:

The primary active chemical in Jack-in-the-Pulpit is oxalic acid. Several parts of the plant, most notably the root, contain calcium oxalate crystals.

Fun Fact:

Several of the Jack-in-the-Pulpit’s common names come from the fact that it was a common root vegetable among many Native American tribes and the peppery taste that the raw root possesses. Jack-in-the-Pulpit was not only a common root vegetable of several Native American tribes, but it was common in Native American medicine. It was used by Native Americans to treat soar throats and as an expectorant and diaphoretic. Legend also claims that some tribes used the powdered roots as a contraceptive.

Uses/Pharmacology:

Jack-in-the-Pulpit can be used as an antiseptic, diaphoretic, expectorant, irritant and stimulant. It has been used for hundreds of years to treat various skin infections and relieve general soreness including sore eyes and headaches. Much of the research into Arisaema medicinal value has been done on Asian species such as Arisaema japonica, but some of the findings of these studies could apply to its American cousin.

Dosing/Recipes:

A poultice or ointment of the ground root can be used to treat ringworm and other topical fungal infections. Applying a poultice to the forehead may also help combat headaches. A tonic of the dried root can be used to alleviate cold symptoms.

Contraindications/Interactions/Adverse Reactions:

Ingesting raw plant can cause burning of the mouth and throat, diarrhea, nausea and vomiting, slurred speech, swelling of mouth and tongue (can close airway if severe), and watery eyes.

References Cited:

1) USDA, NRCS. 2009. The PLANTS Database <http://plants.usda.gov/java/profile?symbol=ARTR>

2) Karen Bergeron, Alternative Nature Online. <http://www.altnature.com/gallery/Jackinpulpit.htm>

3) Henn, RL. Wildflowers of Ohio. Indiana University Press, Bloomington, IN 2008

4) Propagation Protocol for Jack-in-the-pulpit ( Arisaema triphyllum ). Native Plants Journal, Volume 6, issue 2 (August 01, 2005), p. 108-110

5) University of Texas Wildflower Center <http://www.wildflower.org/plants/result.php?id_plant=ARTR>

6) University of Illinois Veterinary Medicine Library <http://www.library.illinois.edu/vex/toxic/jackpulp/jckpulp.htm>

<7) Medline Plus. Jack-in-the-Pulpit Poisoning <http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/002870.htm>

Researched By: Andy Schenkel