The genus Physalis is composed of some 120
species and is thus the largest genus of its family
(Lu 1986, 80*). Several species are regarded as
toxic, some are raised as ornamentals popular for
their unusual flowers (Chinese lanterns), and
others have ethnomedical significance. Physalis
pubescens 1. and Physalis peruviana 1. (Cape
gooseberry) are the two species most commonly
grown for their fruit. Very mild toxic effects have
been observed following consumption of a large number of berries of Physalis peruviana (Roth et
al. 1994, 560*). The calyx, which surrounds the
seeds like a lantern, can be smoked. It has definite
psychoactive effects that tend to be narcotic in
Physalis angulata 1., a species from the northwestern
Amazon, is said to be mildly narcotic. Its
juice finds use in Brazilian folk medicine as a
treatment for earaches (Schultes and Raffauf 1991,
43*). Physalis minima, a species from the Caroline
Islands known as poowa, bears fruits that are said
to have an inebriating effect when consumed in
excess (von Reis Altschul 1975, 269*).
The roots of some species of the genus have
yielded tropane alkaloids as well as alkaloids of
the hygrine type (von Reis Altschul 1975, 269*).
The Jew's cherry or lampion flower, Physalis
alkekengi 1. (cf. halicacabon), contains the mildly
toxic bitter principlesphysaline A, B, and C (Roth
et al. 1994, 560*).

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