Herb: Jack In The Pulpit

Latin name: Arisaema triphyllum

Synonyms: Arisaema atrorubens, Arisaema stewardsonii, Arum triphyllum

Family: Araceae (Arum Family)

Medicinal use of Jack In The Pulpit:

The root is acrid, antiseptic, diaphoretic, expectorant, irritant and stimulant. It is harvested in early spring and dried for later use. The fresh root is considered to be too dangerous and intensely acrid to use, whilst the dried roots become inactive, so fresh, partially dried roots are used. Due to the potentially toxic nature of this plant, it should only be used internally under the supervision of a qualified practitioner. The root was applied as a poultice on headaches, scrofulous sores, rheumatism, boils, abscesses and ringworm. A decoction of the root has been used as a wash for sore eyes. The root was used as a contraceptive by the N. American Indians. One teaspoonful of the dried powdered root in cold water was said to prevent conception for a week whilst two teaspoonfuls in hot water was said to induce permanent sterility.

Description of the plant:


60 cm
(2 feet)

to July

Habitat of the herb:

Wet woods, bogs and swamps.

Edible parts of Jack In The Pulpit:

Tuber - it must be thoroughly dried or cooked before being eaten. The roots can be cut into very thin slices and allowed to dry for several months, after which they are eaten like potato chips, crumbled to make a cereal or ground into a cocoa-flavoured powder for making biscuits, cakes etc. They can also be pounded into a powder, this is thern left to dry for several weeks when it becomes safe to use. The root is up to 5cm long and 2cm wide. Caution is advised, see the notes above on toxicity.

Other uses of the herb:

A starch obtained from the roots is used as a stiffener for clothes. It is very harsh to the hands, causing blisters and swellings. The seeds have been used in rattles.

Propagation of Jack In The Pulpit:

Seed - best sown as soon as it is ripe in a shady position in a cold frame. Stored seed remains viable for at least a year and can be sown in spring in the greenhouse but it will probably require a period of cold stratification. Germination usually takes place in 1 - 6 months at 15C. When large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in light shade in the greenhouse for at least a coupe of years until the corms are more than 20mm in diameter. Plant out into their permanent positions whilst they are dormant. Division of tubers when the plant dies down in late summer.

Cultivation of the herb:

Wet woods, bogs and swamps.

Known hazards of Arisaema triphyllum:

The plant contains calcium oxylate crystals. These cause an extremely unpleasant sensation similar to needles being stuck into the mouth and tongue if they are eaten but they are easily neutralized by thoroughly drying or cooking the plant or by steeping it in water.

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.