Several reports have it that the daily consumption of fruits and vegetables is linked with the promotion of good health and the prevention of chronic-degenerative diseases. Fruits are indeed one of the greatest nature’s gifts to humanity because they provide us with the essential nutrients required for the healthy functioning of our bodies. Although fruits are mostly eaten fresh, yet they can be consumed dried as well. To a larger extent, human beings derive phytochemicals such as polyphenols, flavonoids from the food they consume such as fruits and vegetables. Presently, there is an increasing need to study the various fruits we consume as a means of identifying the numerous benefits that can be derived from them. Fruits are preferably consumed fresh since they tend to lose a significant amount of their nutritious components during processing, preservation and storage. Notwithstanding, this does not annul the fact that preserved fruits can still be consumed in the absence of fresh ones. One important fruit that is highly nutritious and highly medicinal is the fig fruit.
Fig is botanically known as F. carica L. and it is a vital member of the Moraceae family, genus Ficus and order of Urticales. It has more than 1400 species that are categorised into approximately 40 genera. Fig is considered as one of the early trees that were planted by humans and is believed to have originated from the eastern Mediterranean and southwest Asia. The main distinguishing feature between the male and female fig is that the male produces only pollen and pollen-carrying wasp progeny while the female produces only a seed-bearing fruit. F. carica species are deciduous small trees or shrubs without adventitious roots. The rough barks are grey in colour while the petiolated leaves have ovate leaf blades that are palmately lobed. The fig is classified as a syconium due to its fleshy hollow receptacle that develops into multiple fruits. The fleshy hollow receptacle encloses multiple flowers that develop into drupelets within the receptacle after pollination has occurred. Significant changes take place within the fruits in terms of the fruit texture, colour and size during the final stage of the fruit development. Fig fruits are distinguished by their sweet taste, size and lucid colour when ripe. The softness of the fruit upon ripening contributes to its fine texture.
Fig is highly nutritious and it is an excellent source of phenolic compounds, essential vitamins and minerals such as vitamin K, iron, carbohydrates, manganese, organic acids, magnesium, sugars, calcium, copper, polyphenols, amino acids, potassium and dietary fibre. The phytochemistry analysis of fig reveals that it is a rich source of volatile compounds, phenolics, organic acids, polyphenols, flavonoids and diverse compounds such as terpenes, arabinose, coumarins, b-amyrins, b- carotines, coumarins, glycosides, saponins, b-setosterols, flavonoids, alkaloids and xanthotoxol. The crude extracts of the plant contain biological activities and as such various parts of the plant such as the leaves, fruit and root can be therapeutically used for treating ailments like cardiovascular disorders, respiratory disorders (cough, bronchitis and sore throat), gastrointestinal disorders (diarrhoea, colic, loss of appetite and indigestion). Fig exhibits essential properties such as anti-inflammatory, anticancer, hepatoprotective, antispasmodic, antibacterial, hypoglycemic, antidiabetic, antimicrobial, antipyretic, antifungal and hypolipidemic. The leaves, barks and fruits of the fig plant are often used for treating several ailments such as gastric problems, ulcers, diabetes, stomachache, inflammation, skin problems, diarrhoea, piles, dysentery and cancer. Fig latex can be used as a vermifuge (an anthelmintic medicine), purgative and for treating sores, warts and skin ulcers. Fig juice can be mixed with honey and used for tackling haemorrhages and it can serve as an expectorant.
23 Remarkable Benefits of Fig
Antibacterial Activity
The antibacterial activity of fig was evaluated with an antimicrobial susceptibility test using the well diffusion method by measuring zone of inhibition. A gram-negative bacterium Proteus mirabilis and three gram-positive (Staphylococcus aureus, Staphylococcus epidermidis, Bacillus subtilis) bacteria were used to investigate the antibacterial activity of dried fig extract. Inhibiting concentrations used for the sample was 100 mg/ml. The dried fig extract inhibited two strains (Bacillus subtilis and Proteus mirabilis) while the fig extract exhibited higher antibacterial activity against Proteus mirabilis. In another experiment, the methanol extract of fig (MICs, 0.156 to 5 mg/mL; MBCs, 0.313 to 5 mg/mL) exhibited a strong antibacterial activity against oral bacteria. The synergistic effects of methanol extract with ampicillin or gentamicin acted against oral bacteria. This entails that fig can act as a natural antibacterial agent.
Antifungal Activity
Chloroformic, methanolic, hexanoïc and ethyl acetate extracts of fig latex were examined for their in-vitro antimicrobial proprieties against five bacterial species and seven strains of fungi. The antimicrobial activity of the extracts was examined and based respectively on the inhibition zone using the disc – diffusion assay, minimal inhibition concentration (MIC) for bacterial testing and the method by calculating inhibition percentage (I%) for fungi inhibiting activities. The methanolic fraction had a total inhibition against Candida albicans (100%) at a concentration of 500μg/ml and a negative effect against Cryptococcus neoformans. Microsporum canis was strongly inhibited with methanolic extract (75%) and totally with ethyl acetate extract at a concentration of 750μg/ml.
Anticancer Activity
A mixture of 6-O-acyl-β-d-glucosyl-β-sitosterols has been isolated as an effective cytotoxic agent from fig (F. carica) latex that showed in vitro inhibitory effects on proliferation of various cancer cell lines. Bioactive compounds like 6-O-acyl-β-d-glucosyl-β- sitosterols, the acyl moeity being primarily palmitoyl and linoleyl with minor amounts of stearyl and oleyl, has been isolated as a potent cytotoxic agent from fig latex. Both the natural and the synthetic compounds showed in vitro inhibitory effects on proliferation of various cancer cell lines.
Antioxidant Activity
Due to the high anthocyanins, polyphenols and flavonoids present in fig, the fruit is considered to be a strong antioxidant. As result, it can act as a free radical scavenger, a reducing agent, singlet oxygen quencher and a hydrogen donator. The antioxidant properties of fig were identified using the ferric reducing antioxidant method.
Antipyretic Activity
The ethanol extract of fig at doses of 100, 200, and 300 mg/kg, exhibited a significant dose-dependent reduction in normal body temperature and yeast provoked elevated temperature. The effect extended up to five hrs after drug administration while compared to that of a standard antipyretic agent, paracetamol (150 mg/kg.b.wt., p.o.).
Antituberculosis Activity
Some researchers evaluated an 80% methanol extract from fig leaves against Mycobacterium tuberculosis H37Rv using a colorimetric microplate-based assay. The result showed anti-tuberculosis effects with MIC value of 1600 µg/mL
Nematicidal Activity
Some researchers evaluated 40 different plant species for their nematicidal activity against the nematodes Bursaphelenchus xylophilus, Panagrellus redivivus, and Caenorhabditis elegans. The leaf extract of fig exhibited the strongest nematicidal activity within 72 hrs.
Counters Hyperacidity
The burnt ash of the fig fruit can be taken (1 tsp) before a meal to counter hyperacidity. Hyperacidity is a health condition whereby the level of acid in the gastric juices is excessive thereby causing discomfort.
Anthelmintic Properties
The enzyme ficin found in the fig latex contains anthelmintic properties thus can be used for worm eliminations especially the tricharus and ascaris types.
Laxative Properties
Figs possess strong laxative effect thus can be used for purging or cleansing the bowels. The laxative effect is attributed to the numerous seeds, solvent and dietary fibre found in the juice.
Supplement Food for Diabetics
Dry fig fruit can serve as a supplement food for diabetic patients. The fruits are often used for producing special sweets for diabetic patients. The leaf decoction can also be taken as a remedy for diabetic patients.
Treatment of Urinary Disorders
Fig fruits can be decocted by boiling in water. The decoction can be taken twice daily for tackling urinary disorders and for melting small stones.
Treatment of Leucoderma
In traditional medicine, the roots of fig plants are often used for treating leucoderma or vitiligo. Leucoderma is a skin condition whereby certain pigments are lost from areas of the skin thereby causing white patches.
Treatment of Sore Throat
A decoction of dried fig fruits can be taken as a mouthwash for sore throat and mouth odour.
Treatment of Burn Ulcer
The bark of fig plant can be boiled together with peepal, neem and mango barks in water. This decoction can be used for washing and soothing ulcers caused by burns.
Boosts the Iron Level
Being a rich constituent of iron, fig is a highly recommended diet for anaemic patients.
Controls the Blood Pressure
Fig fruit is an excellent source of potassium thus helpful for controlling the blood pressure.
Treatment of Piles
The fig leaves can be decocted in boiling water and used as a steam bath for tackling painful or swollen piles.
Wart Eradication
The milky juice from a freshly-cut stalk of a fig plant is useful for eradicating warts from the body.
Body Resistance
Both fresh and dry fig fruit can be consumed on a daily basis for building and maintaining strong body resistance against diseases
Astringent and Carminative Properties
Due to the carminative and astringent nature of fig, it can be applied to the skin to reduce bleeding from minor abrasions.
Aphrodisiac Properties
Fig fruit possesses aphrodisiac properties thus can be used for stimulating sexual desire.
Other Uses of Fig
Dried fig fruits can be mixed with honey (150-gram dosage) for treating dysentery, menorrhagia and hepatitis. Fig can be used for tackling the calcifications of the kidney and liver. Fig fruit is also suitable for tackling paralysis and inflammation.
This post is for enlightenment purposes only and should not be used as a replacement for professional diagnostic and treatments. Remember to always consult your healthcare provider before making any health-related decisions or for counselling, guidance and treatment about a specific medical condition.
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- Pixabay (2018), Images from https://pixabay.com/
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