By Richard komakech
Golden berry, scientifically known as Physalis peruviana (Family Solanaceae) originated from South America and, they are closely related to tomatoes and egg plants than other berries. It is a perennial plant that develops into a diffusely branched shrub with; heart-shaped leaves; bell-shaped flowers and drooping. The fruit is a round smooth berry, bright yellow to orange in colour and sweet when ripe.
P. peruviana is also named Cape gooseberry because it was first cultivated in Cape of Good Hope in South Africa on a large scale. It is widely known as Inca berry, Golden berry, African ground berry, Peruvian ground cherry and Peruvian cherry. In Uganda, P. peruviana is referred to variously in the local dialects. For example, in Luganda, it is referred to as Ntuntunu; in Runyoro/Rutoro the plant is called Ntuutu; in Busoga, it is called Ekitunku while in Acholi, it is called Tongogwal. Despite the fact that the plant is found growing wildly in most parts of the country, it is sold on a small scale in a few markets especially in Kampala.
Physalis super berries contain low levels of calories, moderate levels of most vitamins and minerals, and are potent with high anti-oxidant content. The fruits of the P. peruviana are considered a super food that is stacked with nutrition and cancer prevention agents that can altogether enhance general wellbeing. Due to its sharp tasting nature, it is used as a prominent component in various recipes such as snacks, pies, puddings, ice-cream, sauces, jams, fruit salads and desserts. In fact, the fruits are generally eaten raw. Apart from its great importance as a constituent for making pies, jams and cake or its use as nutritional fruits and in vegetable salads, the fruit boasts several great health benefits. In fact, physalis is a kind of drug nourishing crop with the fruit consisting of two times the quantity of Vitamin C as that in lemons with a more gratifying flavour. The abundant Vitamin A in Physalis denotes abundance of carotenoids which is very important for maintaining eye health. In fact, the Vitamin A prevents cataracts and protects the eyes’ muscular degeneration. The Vitamin A is also important in preventing degenerative diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, cystic fibrosis and macular degeneration.
Apart from vitamin A, the fruits are also rich in Vitamin C that boosts the body immune system. Physalis is a renowned remedy for diabetes mellitus. Some of the components found inside the fruit can control the breakdown and digestion of sugars from starches. This ensures that the body and circulation system is not over flowed with sugar and insulin receptors.
Thus, regular consumption of Physalis can help reduce and manage diabetes mellitus. Due to the presence of phyto-chemicals such as polyphenols and carotenoids and, suitable percentage of potassium, which act as high blood pressure reliever, Physalis is vital in controlling high blood pressure.
Physalis contains a rare phytochemical called withanolides. This unique compound is a renowned great anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory agent that can fight cancerous cells. The phytochemical also slows down the spread of cancerous cells throughout the body. Apart from the fruits, Physalis leaves, stems and roots are a great remedy for recovery power. The roots and leaves infusion is known to be efficient against flu and laryngitis conditions.
NB: Eating unripe golden berries can be harmful. The information given in this article should not be used for self-medication purposes. Always consult a physician or herbalist for guidance before using any natural remedies for given health related conditions.
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