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Physalis alkekengi L. Rosaceae Chinese lantern, Winter Cherry, Bladder Cherry. Distribution: C & S Europe, W. Asia to Japan. Culpeper, in his English Physitian of 1652 writes: Winter Cherry ... are of great use in physic ...’ and recommends them for almost all kidney and urinary problems. In particular he seems to advocate the use of green berries in beer, for preventing kidney stones lodging in the ureters. It is called ‘aikakengi’ in the College’s Pharmacopoeia Londinensis of 1618. Belonging to the family Solanaceae, all its parts are poisonous except the ripe fruit. The green fruit and the rest of the plant contain atropinic compounds and will produce a dry mouth, rapid heart beat, hallucinations, coma and death if enough is taken. As the atropine is only present in the unripe fruit eating one will make the mouth go dry (and it has the most unpleasant taste), but it will also relax the smooth muscle in the wall of the ureter which helps passage of ureteric stones. Culpeper’s observations on its usefulness are supported by more modern observations. When ripe, the orange fruit inside its skeletal outer ‘lantern’ is edible, free of atropine, and delicious. Photographed in the Medicinal Garden of the Royal College of Physicians, London.

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Physalis alkekengi L. Rosaceae Chinese lantern, Winter Cherry, Bladder Cherry. Distribution: C & S Europe, W. Asia to Japan. Culpeper, in his English Physitian of 1652 writes: Winter Cherry ... are of great use in physic ...’ and recommends them for almost all kidney and urinary problems. In particular he seems to advocate the use of green berries in beer, for preventing kidney stones lodging in the ureters. It is called ‘aikakengi’ in the College’s Pharmacopoeia Londinensis of 1618. Belonging to the family Solanaceae, all its parts are poisonous except the ripe fruit. The green fruit and the rest of the plant contain atropinic compounds and will produce a dry mouth, rapid heart beat, hallucinations, coma and death if enough is taken. As the atropine is only present in the unripe fruit eating one will make the mouth go dry (and it has the most unpleasant taste), but it will also relax the smooth muscle in the wall of the ureter which helps passage of ureteric stones. Culpeper’s observations on its usefulness are supported by more modern observations. When ripe, the orange fruit inside its skeletal outer ‘lantern’ is edible, free of atropine, and delicious. Photographed in the Medicinal Garden of the Royal College of Physicians, London.

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