Ficus carica (generic name)
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CategoryHerbs & Supplements
Caricae fructus, feigen, Ficus benjamina (weeping fig), Ficus carica, Ficus elastica (rubber plant).
Figs are thought to have been first cultivated in Egypt. They spread to ancient Crete and subsequently, to ancient Greece where they became a staple in the traditional diet. Figs were regarded with such esteem that laws were created forbidding the export of the best quality figs. Figs were respected in ancient Rome and thought of as a sacred fruit. According to Roman myth, the twin founders of Rome, Romulus and Remus, rested under a fig tree.
Traditionally, figs have been used to treat constipation, bronchitis, hyperlipidemia (high cholesterol), eczema, psoriasis (chronic skin disease), vitiligo (white skin patches), and diabetes (high blood sugar). Topically, its latex has been used to remove warts and treat skin tumors.
At this time, there are no high quality human trials supporting the effectiveness of fig for any indication. However, the antioxidant activity and cytotoxicity against various cancer cell lines reported in fig are potentially promising in its future therapeutic uses.
EvidenceDISCLAIMER: These uses have been tested in humans or animals. Safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider.
Diabetes (Type 1):
Preliminary evidence suggests that fig has antioxidant properties and may be beneficial in type 1 diabetes. Additional study is warranted in this area.
TraditionWARNING: DISCLAIMER: The below uses are based on tradition, scientific theories, or limited research. They often have not been thoroughly tested in humans, and safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider. There may be other proposed uses that are not listed below.
Antioxidant, cancer, hemostatic potency (stops bleeding), photosensitization (abnormal sensitivity to sunlight).
Adults (over 18 years old)
There is no proven safe or effective dose for fig. However, as a tea decoction, 1 cup daily of 13 grams of Ficus carica leaf has been used.
Children (under 18 years old)
There is no proven safe or effective dose for fig in children, and use is not recommended.
SafetyDISCLAIMER: Many complementary techniques are practiced by healthcare professionals with formal training, in accordance with the standards of national organizations. However, this is not universally the case, and adverse effects are possible. Due to limited research, in some cases only limited safety information is available.
Avoid in individuals with a known allergy or hypersensitivity to fig or herbs in the Moraceae family. Some oral allergy syndromes have been attributed to the cross-sensitivity in people to grass and birch pollens. Food allergy to fig has also been reported due to cross sensitization to weeping fig (Ficus benjamina), or mulberry. Sensitization to fig with cross-sensitization to weeping fig and natural rubber latex has also been reported.
Allergic reactions to fresh or dried figs can present as a consequence of primary sensitization to airborne Ficus benjamina allergens independent of sensitization to rubber latex allergens. Kiwi fruit, papaya, and avocado as well as pineapple and banana may be other fruits associated with sensitization to Ficus allergens.
Side Effects and Warnings
There are few reports of adverse effects associated with fig. At least one report has indicated no adverse effects in subjects who were treated with an oral (by mouth) fig leaf decoction for one month. However, because fig leaf contains psoralens, it may cause photodermatitis when applied on the skin. Excessive sunlight or ultraviolet light exposure should be avoided while using products that contain fig leaf.
Although rare, obstructive ileus (intestinal/bowel obstruction), hemolytic anemia (deficiency of red blood cells), and retinal hemorrhages (bleeding of the retina) have been reported. Use cautiously in patients with bleeding disorders.
Pregnancy & Breastfeeding
Fig, taken as a medicinal agent, is not recommended in pregnant or breastfeeding women due to a lack of available scientific evidence. However, fresh or dried fruit is likely safe when taken by mouth in amounts commonly found in foods.