ALAINN: “BEAUTIFUL, FINE, LOVELY”. (IRISH) OLD IRISH ÁLAIND‎

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Winter Cherry (Physalis alkekengi)

Perennial
P. francheti. P. latifolia.
Common Name Latin Name Plant Family
Winter Cherry
Physalis alkekengi
Solanaceae

None known

  • Medicinal Use

    The plant has a long history of herbal use, and an interesting chemistry, but it is seldom used in modern practice[238]. The whole plant is antiphlogistic, antipyretic, antitussive and expectorant[9, 61, 147, 178, 218]. It has been used in the treatment of urinary and skin diseases[240]. Some caution is recommended since an overdose of the plant is said to easily precipitate an abortion[218].

    The fruit is aperient, strongly diuretic and lithontripic[4, 7, 9, 218]. It is used internally in the treatment of gravel, suppression of urine etc and is highly recommended in fevers and in gout[4, 238]. The fruit is harvested when fully ripe and can be used fresh, juiced or dried[238]. The calyx should be removed[238].

    The leaves and stems are febrifuge and slightly tonic[4]. They are used in the treatment of the malaise that follows malaria, and for weak or anaemic people[4]. The fresh leaves have been used externally to make soothing poultices in the treatment of skin inflammations[238, 244].

    The seed is used to promote early labour[218].

    A homeopathic remedy is made from the fruit. It is used in the treatment of kidney and bladder disorders[9].

  • Edible Use

    Fruit – raw or cooked[1, 2, 105]. Rich in vitamins[100], with twice the vitamin C of lemons[179], but not much taste[178]. Another report says that they are juicy but with a bitter acrid flavour[4], whilst another says that they add a delicious flavour to salads[7]. We have found them to be bitter and rather unpleasant[K]. The fruit is a berry about 17mm in diameter[200]. The plant conveniently wraps up each fruit in its own ‘paper bag’ (botanically, the calyx) to protect it from pests and the elements. This calyx is toxic and should not be eaten[34, 65].

    Young leaves – cooked[105, 170, 179]. Caution is advised, the leaves are almost certainly poisonous, at least when raw.

  • Cautionary Notes

    All parts of the plant, except the ripe fruit, are poisonous[19, 65, 238].

Cultivation & Habitat

Seed – sow March/April in a greenhouse only just covering the seed. Germination usually takes place quickly and freely. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots of fairly rich soil when they are large enough to handle and plant them out in early summer. Diurnal temperature fluctuations assist germination[170]. Division in spring[111]. Very easy, larger divisions can be planted out direct into their permanent positions. We have found that it is better to pot up the smaller divisions and grow them on in light shade in a cold frame until they are well established before planting them out in late spring or early summer. Basal cuttings in early summer[111]. Harvest the shoots with plenty of underground stem when they are about 8 – 10cm above the ground. Pot them up into individual pots and keep them in light shade in a cold frame or greenhouse until they are rooting well. Plant them out in the summer.
Succeeds in any well-drained soil in full sun or light shade[111, 200]. The fully dormant plant is hardy in most of Britain, though the young growth in spring can be damaged by late frosts. A very ornamental plant[1] though it can be invasive[200]. The sub-species P. alkekengi francheti. Mak. (sometimes treated as a separate species) is a more vigorous form of the species with larger fruits[200]. Slugs are very fond of the new growth in spring and can destroy even quite large clumps[K].
Asia – Caucasus to China. Occasionally naturalized in Britain.

Become ungovernable, break the chains of the matrix; grow and forage your own food and medicine.

*None of the information on this website qualifies as professional medical advice. Take only what resonates with your heart and use your own personal responsibility for what’s best for you. For more information [brackets] [000], see bibliography.