According to the Veterinary Medicine Library at the University of Illinois, the Jack-in-the-pulpit is poisonous to animals. The corm (i.e. the underground plant stem that looks like a tuber and stores starches/energy for the plant) of the plant contains calcium oxalate crystals, possibly an alkaloid, and volatile acrid compounds. Apparently, it is "gathered, dried and sold by drug collectors". Some of the lovely side effects:
- intense burning and biting sensation in the mouth, throat, and stomach (probably from the calcium oxalate crystals)
- inflammation of the stomach and intestine
- difficulty of breathing due to swelling of mouth and throat
BUT...as with many plants, even though part of it is poisonous, if done differently, it's edible...very tricky! IF the plant root/corm is properly dried or cooked it can be eaten. Native Americans used it to treat sore eyes, rheumatism, bronchitis, and snakebites. Oh, and something else fun that Native Americans used it for - to induce sterility.
According to one website - "It is reported that they also used it diagnostically by dropping a seed in a cup of water and if the seed went around four times clockwise the patient would recover and if less the patient would die." - I think that's really cool! What a great way to diagnose people. Plus the seeds (which are out in Fall) are a beautiful red color, so this would be a very suspenseful tradition!