Prota 11(1): Medicinal plants/Plantes médicinales 1
Syst. veg. 4: 679 (1819).
2n = 24
Physalis micrantha Link (1821), Physalis minima auct. non L.
Origin and geographic distribution
Physalis lagascae is native to tropical America, and now distributed pantropically as a weed. In tropical Africa it occurs in most countries.
Leaves are used externally to treat yaws and measles. Pain in the joints is relieved by rubbing or dressing them with pounded leaves. The leaves are also applied to Guinea worm sores, killing the worms and easing extraction. Leaf sap is taken orally to treat tonsillitis, jaundice, angina pectoris, tachycardia and stomach-ache, and as an anthelmintic. The ground leaves are used in the treatment of abdominal and vaginal pain and are taken as a cold infusion shortly before childbirth to help expel the placenta. The whole plant mashed up and added to palm wine is taken to cure fever.
In Ethiopia and Kenya the leaves are boiled and eaten as a vegetable. The fruits are edible and are eaten raw.
The leaf sap of Physalis lagascae is very bitter and haemostatic. Chemical and pharmacological work done on the species has been published under the name Physalis minima and cannot be distinguished from that done on other species of Physalis for which this name has been used. In view of the medicinal uses, it is probable that Physalis lagascae contains steroidal lactones belonging to the physaline and withanolide types: physalins, physagulins, withangulatins, withanolides; it may further contain vitasteroids.
Annual herb up to 100 cm tall, with erect, decumbent or prostrate stem, hairy with simple, multicellular hairs 1–4 mm long and minute hairs, also with sessile glands. Leaves arranged spirally or opposite, simple and entire; stipules absent; petiole 0.5–4.5(–8) cm long, slightly winged; blade ovate to lanceolate, 1.5–7.5(–10.5) cm × 1–4.5(–7.5) cm, base cuneate, apex acuminate to obtuse. Flowers axillary, solitary, erect or nodding, bisexual, regular, 5-merous; pedicel 2–5(–9) mm long, elongated in fruit up to 10 mm; calyx campanulate, 5-lobed, 2–3.5 mm long, angled to ribbed, in fruit 1–2 cm long; corolla campanulate, 4–5 mm long, greenish yellow, yellow, white or greenish cream, with or without purplish marks or blotches; stamens inserted near the base of the corolla tube, filaments 1.5–3 mm long, anthers yellowish; ovary superior, 2-celled, style filiform, stigma head-shaped. Fruit a globose berry 6–10 mm in diameter, greenish yellow, pale yellow or yellow, viscid, many-seeded, enclosed in the persistent, inflated bladdery calyx. Seeds round or ovate in outline, sometimes kidney-shaped, c. 2 mm × 1.5 mm.
Physalis comprises about 90 species, all but one being native to tropical and temperate America. The species are variable and taxonomically confusing, and no comprehensive study of the genus exists. In tropical Africa the name Physalis minima has often been misapplied to Physalis lagascae.
Physalis lagascae is a common weed and also occurs on disturbed ground, especially in seasonally dry areas.
Cultivation of Physalis lagascae is reported for its edible fruits and leaves as well as for medicinal use, but details on optimal cultivation techniques are not recorded.
Genetic resources and breeding
Physalis lagascae is widespread as a weed and thus not liable to genetic erosion. Large collections of Physalis, including Physalis lagascae, are kept in Mexico, Guatemala, Germany and the Netherlands.
The steroidal lactones of the physaline and withanolide types isolated from Physalis spp. show very interesting activities, e.g. in the field of tumour inhibition. More research on their toxicity toward non-malignant cells is, however, needed to fully evaluate their possibilities as lead compounds in cancer research. A taxonomic monograph of Physalis will contribute to botany and other areas of research that currently publish research results under wrong or doubtful names.
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Correct citation of this article:
Bosch, C.H., 2008. Physalis lagascae Roem. & Schult. In: Schmelzer, G.H. & Gurib-Fakim, A. (Editors). Prota 11(1): Medicinal plants/Plantes médicinales 1. [CD-Rom]. PROTA, Wageningen, Netherlands.