Figs (Ficus carica) are members of the Moraceae (Mulberry) Family. Native to the area of the Middle East and Mediterranean, they are mentioned frequently in The Bible. Buddha became enlightened while sitting under a bo tree, a species of fig (Ficus religiosa). Roman gladiators were fed figs before combat to have supreme strength. Figs were introduced into North America in the 1700's by Spanish missionaries in California ("Mission Figs"). The word fig is derived from the Latin "ficus." Technically figs are not a fruit, but flower receptacles. The true fruit is inside. With Calimyrna figs, a wasp enters through a small hole at the rounded end of the fig to pollinate it. Only female fruits are edible.
Figs are warming, sweet and alkaline in nature. In oriental medicine, figs are considered a neutralizer of toxins and are suggested during times of cleansing and during healing crisis. Figs have a special affinity for the stomach, spleen, pancreas and large intestines. Figs are antibacterial, antiparasitic, and restorative. They have a high content of mucin, which is a soothing laxative. They help to moisten the lungs and large intestines. Figs contain the compound, benzaldehyde, which according to Japanese studies, shrink tumors. Figs also contain a sulphur compound called ficin, which helps reduce joint and tissue inflammation and is used to treat injuries.
Figs are sometimes called "bright vision fruit," due to their ability to improve eyesight, via helping liver function. Figs are used to treat anemia, arthritis, asthma, low blood pressure, cancer, catarrh, colitis, coughs, dysentery, emaciation, exhaustion, gout, hemorrhoids, pleurisy, rheumatism, sore throat, tuberculosis, and ulcers. Figs are used to deter cravings for sugar, alcohol and drugs. Figs are rich in B6, folic acid, calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, and potassium.
If buying dried figs, be sure to avoid those treated with the preservative potassium sorbate. Of all the dried fruits, figs are considered the healthiest.
Enjoy figs as a snack or for dessert. Try them stuffed with raw almond butter. Soak figs overnight in water for a breakfast compote. Figs can be used as a natural sweetener, added to cookies, pies and puddings. Excess consumption of figs may cause diarrhea. Figs are very sweet and should be used sparingly by those desiring to lose weight. However they are excellent for body builders and those wanting to gain weight.
Brush your teeth after eating dried figs as they are sticky and cling to the teeth, and can contribute to tooth decay.
Latex from unripe figs is applied twice daily to remove warts. Fresh fig poultice has been applied to toothaches to reduce inflammation until dental help can be sought, as well as boils.