Physalis longifolia (wild tomatillo)
Physalis longifolia is in the nightshade family of plants (Solanaceae), which includes tomatoes, potatoes, tomatillos and eggplant. P. longifolia is among more than 200 plant species native to Kansas and the Great Plains that have been collected for medicinal testing through our program. This plant and related species produce fruits, similar to domesticated tomatillos, that were used extensively as food by numerous Native American tribes. Charred seeds from the fruits—indicating that the fruits were used in cooking—are frequently found with other food remains at archeological sites.
Recorded uses of related species as medicine include use of the root to treat headache and stomach trouble, and as a dressing for wounds. Kelly Kindscher, who heads the botany arm of the Native Medicinal Plant Research Program, and his staff have completed an article, forthcoming, on the Native American ethnobotany (cultural use) of Physalis longifolia and related species.
As we move forward, we will explore the potential for medicines and health remedies to be developed from this species. We also will continue our broad-based study of the medicinal chemistry of the region’s flora.