This section is from the book "An Experimental History Of The Materia Medica", by William Lewis.
Alkekengi, Halicacabum. Solatium vefi-carium C. B. Physalis Alkekengi Linn. Winter-cherry: a low, somewhat hairy plant; with unbranched stalks; large heart-shaped acuminated leaves, standing in pairs at the joints; and whitish bell-shaped flowers, rising in the bosoms of the leaves, divided about the edges into five segments: the flower-cup changes into a pentagonal capsule or bladder, which, bursting, discovers in its bottom a red fruit like a cherry, containing numerous small seeds with a juicy pulp. - It grows wild in some parts of Europe, and spreads so much in our gardens as not to be easily extirpated. The fruit ripens about the beginning of October, and sometimes continues to near the end of December; after which, the plant dies to the ground.
Winter-cherries have an acidulous not unpleasant taste, mixed with, or followed by, a slight bitterness: the covering, in which they are inclosed, has a strong pungent bitterness, with which it is apt to impregnate the cherries, unlefs some care is taken in gathering them. As medical writers in general speak of this fruit as being very bitter, we may presume that it has been often used with this extraneous bitter impregnation.
These cherries are accounted powerful diuretics, operating without heat or irritation, and which may therefore be ventured on in inflammatory distempers: five or six of the cherries in substance, or an ounce of the expressed juice, are directed for a dose. They are said to be, in some places, eaten, among the common people, by handfuls (a), and with good success, against suppreffions of urine, and for promoting the expulsion of mucus and gravel. Mr. Ray tells us of a gouty person, who was cured, and kept free from returns of his disorder, by taking eight of these cherries at each change of the moon; and that the operation of the medicine procured a discharge of extremely fetid matter by urine (b). The cherries may be dried so as to be pulverable, or the depurated juice infpif-fated with a gentle heat to the consistence of a rob or extract, and in this state preserved for use.
(a) Cafp. Hoffman, de medicament, officinal. lib. ii. cap. 217.
(b) Ray, bift. plant. 68l.