Physalis. Physalis alkekengi. Common winter cherry.
Physalis. Physalis Alkekengi L. Alkekengi. Common Winter Cherry. Alkekenge, Coqueret, Fr. Judenkirsche, Schlutte, G.—A perennial herbaceous plant, belonging to the Solanaceae, growing wild in the south of Europe, cultivated in our gardens and said to be escaping locally. The fruit is a round red berry, about as large as a cherry, enclosed in the inflated calyx, and containing numerous flat kidney-shaped seeds. All parts of the plant are bitter, especially the leaves and the capsules enveloping the fruit. The berries are very juicy, and have an acidulous, bitterish taste. By drying they shrink, and become a brownish-red color. A bitter principle, physalin, has been isolated by Dessaignes and Chautard by extracting an infusion of the plant with chloroform. It is a yellowish, bitter powder, very slightly soluble in cold water and freely soluble in alcohol and chloroform, especially with the aid of heat. Its composition is C14H16O5. (J. P. C., 3e ser., xxi, 24.) The berries are said to be aperient and diuretic, and have been recommended in suppression of urine, gravel, and other diseases of the urinary passages. Gendron recommends them very highly as a febrifuge. (A. G. M., xxiii, 536.) They also have been highly commended in gout. An extract of alkekengi berries to which lithium salt has been added is sold under the name of lithal. From six to twelve berries, or half an ounce of the expressed juice, may be taken for a dose; and much larger quantities are not injurious. They are consumed to a considerable extent in some parts of Europe as food.
The berries of Physalis viscosa L., of this country, are said by Clayton to be diuretic.