The Fabulous Fig

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Common names: Fig.
Botanical name: Ficus carica
Family name: Moraceae

Overview - Fig trees are perennial and were first discovered wild in Western Asia and then brought to the Eastern Mediterranean area where they continue to grow wild. Evidently, they are also one of the oldest known cultivated fruit trees. The common fig tree thrives in zones 8 and warmer where the summers are long and hot. However, there are some hardy species that can be grown in cooler temperatures. Some folks grow their trees in containers and bring them indoors for the winter.

Figs can be preserved, used in cooking or eaten fresh from the tree. These “fruits” are technically a flower that’s turned in on itself and are referred to as syconium. They are dependent on a unique form of pollination in that female agaonid wasps or “fig wasps” crawl into the developing fig, spreads pollen and lays her eggs. When those eggs hatch they mate and then move out and onto other figs continuing the cycle.

Parts used – fruit, stems, leaves, roots.

Primary Therapeutic Constituents - Soluble and insoluble fiber, calcium, iron, proteins containing high levels of the amino acids, aspartic acid and glutamine. Enzymes, magnesium, iron, vitamin A and C, calcium, and potassium. Phenolic compounds, phytosterols, anthocyanins, and organic acids that contribute to antioxidant activity. Coumarins, flavonol quercetin, anthocyanin, alkaloids, tannins, and fatty acids.

Other parts of the plant contain a high number of volatile compounds such as monoterpenes, sesquiterpenes, and norisoprenoids; mostly in the leaves.

Medicinal Actions - Anthelmintic, anti-inflammatory, blood purifier, diuretic, nutritive, anti-anxiety, aperitive, emollient, purgative, anti-diabetic, aphrodisiac, demulcent, expectorant, sedative.

Common Uses - The anthocyanin content of figs can help to maintain healthy blood lipid levels and play an important role in the prevention of obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and certain cancers (colon and lung). Historically used for all manner of digestive issues – poor appetite, colic, indigestion, constipation (contains a natural laxative effect), dysentery, inflamed or ulcerated intestines, and intestinal parasites.

Additional uses of the fruit include the improvement of vision, alleviation of asthma, amnesia, abscesses, acne, anemia, anxiety, arthritis, catarrh, colds and coughs, bronchial infection and headache.

An interesting biblical account from Isaiah 38:1-5, 21 states the following:  In those days Hezekiah became mortally ill. And Isaiah the prophet the son of Amoz came to him and said to him, “Thus says the LORD, ‘Set your house in order, for you shall die and not live.’” Then Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the LORD, and said, “Remember now, O LORD, I beseech You, how I have walked before You in truth and with a whole heart, and have done what is good in Your sight.” And Hezekiah wept bitterly. Then the word of the LORD came to Isaiah, saying, “Go and say to Hezekiah, ‘Thus says the LORD, the God of your father David, “I have heard your prayer, I have seen your tears; behold, I will add fifteen years to your life. Now Isaiah had said, “Let them take a cake of figs and apply it to the boil, that he may recover.”

Technique – food, decoction of the figs, chewing the leaves (bad breath), poultice (leaves crushed and applied), poultice (fruit mashed and applied). Decoction of leaves is stomachic. The latex applied to corns, warts, piles, bug bites and stings. Roasted fruit poultice applied to gumboils and dental abscesses. Syrup of figs for gentle laxative. The leaves have been known to also provide a covering. 

Cautions and Contraindications - The unripe fruit contains a sticky latex that contains alkaloids, tannins and phytosterols. This substance can cause skin irritation and serious eye irritation. Avoid use during pregnancy, breast feeding and surgery. Overeating may cause stomach pains. Excessive consumption may cause calcium deficiency in the body. Consuming along with diabetes medications may cause hypoglycemia. Those suffering from kidney and gallbladder disorder should avoid consumption of figs.

Toxicity - The sap and half-ripe fruits are said to be poisonous.
  
Taste – sweet

Energy – neutral, cooling

Nutritional profile - Good source of dietary fiber, vitamin B6, copper, potassium, manganese and pantothenic acid.



References

American Botanical Council ~ Hannah Bauman and Jayme Bisbano. Food as Medicine: Fig (Ficus carica, Moraceae). HerbalEGram: Volumne 14, Issue 8, August 2017

The Old Farmer’s Almanac – The Editors. Planting, Growing, and Harvesting Figs.

Herbpathy – Fig Herb Uses, Benefits, Side Effects, Nutrients.

Natural Medicinal Herbs – available at: http://naturalmedicinalherbs.net/herbs/f/ficus-carica=fig.php

The World’s Healthiest Foods – The George Mateljan Foundation. Figs. Available at: http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=24#nutritionalprofile

NASB - The beautiful fig leaf has an early appearance in the biblical scriptures; immediately after the fall of man, it is mentioned in Genesis 3:7 where it says... "And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons" 


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