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physalis alkekengi L.
The name of Physalis is derived from the Greek phusa (a bladder)
Syn.: Solanum vesicarum
English: Bladder Herb, Strawberry-
tomato,Cape-Gooseberry, Chinese Lantern
Plantae; Spermatophyta, Angiospermae - Flowering Plants; Dicotyledonae; Lamiidae / Tubiflorae; Scrophulariales; Solanaceae - Tomato / Potato Family
Description of the substance
The name of Physalis is derived from the Greek phusa (a bladder), for the five-cleft calyx greatly increases in size after the corolla falls off, thus enclosing the fruit in a large, leafy bladder. The plant bears smooth, dark-green leaves and yellowish-white flowers. The fruit is a round, red berry, about the size of a cherry, containing numerous flat seeds, kidney-shaped. It will grow freely in any garden, but sufficient is found growing wild for medicinal purposes.
The leaves and capsules are the most bitter parts of the plant. The epicarp and calyx include a yellow colouring matter which has been used for butter.
The berries are very juicy, with a rather acrid and bitter flavour. In Germany, Spain and Switzerland they are eaten freely, as are other edible fruits. By drying they shrink, and fade to a brownish-red.
---Constituents---Physalin, a yellowish, bitter principle, has been isolated by extracting an infusion of the plant with chloroform. Lithal is sold as an extract of the berries to which lithium salt has been added. The fruit contains citric acid.
It is a popular ornamental plant, though can be invasive with its wide-spreading root system sending up new shoots some distance from where it was originally planted.
P. viscosa (Ground Cherry or Yellow Henbane) can be used in a similar manner.
P. somnifera is a narcotic. The leaves are used in India, steeped in warm castoroil, as an application to carbuncles and other inflammatory swellings. The seeds are used to coagulate milk. Kunth states that the leaves have been found with Egyptian mummies.
The plant sold in pots as Winter Cherry is Solanum pseudo-capsicum.