Figs are a rich source of vitamins, minerals, and fiber with many health benefits. Fresh and dried figs have been traditionally used as a natural medicine to treat many ailments, and scientific research backs up many of the health benefits of figs.
You can also make a healthy fig tea from infusing fig leaves in hot water. You can use figs to help relieve constipation, improve digestive health, lower blood pressure, and even manage the symptoms of diabetes.
Fresh figs are a delicious snack that is low in calories and high in nutritional value. The fig skin is also edible but make sure to wash it well if your fig is not organic.
Dried figs are also very healthy and may even have more nutrients than the fresh varieties. It’s not just figs that are very good for men and women. Fig leaves have anti-diabetic properties and fig milk (the sap from the fig plant) has antiviral properties that can help remove warts.
In this article, you will learn about scientific research that proves the many health benefits of eating figs. You will also find out how to use figs to treat and prevent many health conditions.
What are Figs?
The botanical name for figs is Ficus carica L. and they are also called Anjeer. Figs traditionally grow in the Mediterranean and southwest Asia and have been cultivated for thousands of years.
Figs are sold dried and fresh and both have great nutritional value. People describe the taste of fresh figs as fruity with a melon or honey-like taste. Mature fresh figs are very juicy and may become very sticky.
The benefits of figs are due to their high content of polyphenols – plant-based, naturally occurring antioxidants. Fresh and dried figs are also an important source of phenolic compounds which can help to prevent many chronic diseases.
Nutritional Value of Figs
Figs are an important source of fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
According to nutritionist and dietician Kathleen M. Zelman, figs contain more dietary fiber than any other fresh or dried fruit. One serving of figs (about 3 or 4 figs) can provide you with 20 percent of your recommended daily intake (RDI) of fiber.
The United States Department of Agriculture says that the nutritional benefits of one medium-sized fresh fig (50 g) are as follows:
- 37 calories
- 1.4 g fiber
- 9 g carbohydrate
- 18 mg calcium
- 0.18 mg iron
- 116 mg potassium
- 0.07 mg zinc
- 1 mg vitamin C
- 2.4 mcg vitamin K (phylloquinone)
- 0.05 mg vitamin B6
Dried figs are also a rich source of vitamins and minerals but have a higher sugar content, more carbohydrates and have much more calories. For example, 100g dried figs contain 48 g sugar, 64 g carbohydrates and 249 calories. The same weight of fresh figs (100 g) has 16 g sugar, 19 g carbs and 74 calories.
The many health benefits of fresh and dried figs are due to their high levels of antioxidants. The Journal of the American College of Nutrition reports that “dried fruits have superior quality antioxidants, with figs and dried plums being the best”. The report adds that figs are a good source of phenol antioxidants and nutrients, most notably fiber.
Health Benefits of Figs
Figs Can Treat Constipation
One of the most common benefits of consuming figs is to improve your digestion and relieve constipation.
The high fiber content of figs makes them a great remedy for digestive problems such as constipation. One randomized, double-blind trial found that fig paste was effective in treating constipation. Patients using fig paste had less abdominal discomfort when passing stool.
Other trials on using figs to treat constipation have found that figs can help increase water content and bulk up stool. This had the effect of shortening the time that stool takes to pass through the digestive system.
Figs Help Regulate Blood Pressure
Compounds in figs have an effect on the cardiovascular system that helps to lower blood pressure. One study found that extracts from fig leaves can have an anti-hypertensive effect. Scientists observed that a liquid extract of fig leaves significantly reduces blood pressure in rats.
Another reason why figs could help lower blood pressure is that they contain a large amount of potassium. 5 small fresh figs (40 g each) contain about 460 mg potassium. Researchers from Harvard Medical School say that potassium is an essential mineral that lowers blood pressure.
Fig Leaf Tea Can Help Manage Diabetes
Research into fig leaf extracts has found that they contain compounds that help to regulate blood glucose levels. Scientists found that fig extract exerts a hypoglycemic effect and have a similar effect to insulin. However, the scientists couldn’t identify the reasons why fig leaf extract helps to lower blood glucose levels.
Other studies into the benefit of fig leaf extracts for diabetes have revealed that they can help manage other symptoms of diabetes. For example, fig leaf extracts can help to suppress inflammation and work similar to the drug diclofenac which is a popular anti-inflammatory. The study found that fig leaf extracts could prevent vascular complications in diabetes.
Figs Have Antibacterial and Anti-Fungal Activity
For example, one study found that extracts from fig leaves were powerful enough to kill off certain strains of bacteria. Researchers suggested that fig leaf extract could be used as a natural antibacterial remedy against oral bacteria.
Another benefit of figs is found in therapeutic compounds found in fig milk (fig latex) which is the milky sap from the fig tree. Scientific research has revealed that fig milk (fig latex) has antimicrobial activity against fungal strains like Candida albicans.
Figs Can Help Get Rid of Parasites
Research published into natural ways of treating parasite infections has found that fig latex (fig milk) can help kill off intestinal parasites. Scientists discovered that compounds in fig milk have an anthelmintic (antiparasitic) effect. Fresh latex from fig plants helped to kill off intestinal whipworms (Trichuris), roundworms (nematodes), and cestodes.
Fig Extracts Can Help Boost Your Liver Health
The reason that figs are good for your liver is that they contain antioxidants like phenolic compounds. Research has shown that these chemicals have a protective effect on the liver and can protect against oxidative stress.
Figs Help Strengthen Bones
Figs of the dried and fresh varieties contain vitamins and minerals that are essential for bone health. Calcium, potassium, phosphorus, copper, iron, and vitamin A are in figs and are all necessary for healthy bones.
Research published in 2014 reported that dried figs contain many of the necessary micronutrients that can help prevent osteoporosis. For example, figs also contain a compound called Strontium which promotes good bone health and increases bone formation.
Extracts from figs also inhibit certain types of bone cells that can break down bone tissue. Researchers suggest that these types of fig extracts can help prevent conditions affecting bone health like osteoporosis and rheumatoid arthritis.
Fig Milk Can Help Get Rid of Warts
People in the Middle East and Asia have traditionally used the sap from fig trees to remove warts. But can fig milk actually get rid of warts? The journal Case Reports in Internal Medicine reports that fig sap (fig milk) can help eradicate flat warts. Fresh fig tree sap was applied to multiple flat warts. After about 6 weeks, the warts were successfully treated.
Other studies into using fig milk for getting rid of warts say that it is an effective cure with no reports of any side effects. One trial involved 25 patients. Fig tree sap helped to resolve warts in 11 of the patients and 14 patients had their warts frozen (cryotherapy). The study concluded that cryotherapy is only slightly better than fig milk to treat warts.
Dried Figs Can Help Prevent Anemia
A study concluded that dried figs are useful for improving hemoglobin level in blood and thus preventing a person from having anemia.
It is recommended for people who suffer from iron deficiency anemia to add figs to their diet, as figs are good source of iron. Get familiar with these iron deficiency symptoms and how to increase iron levels in your blood.
Fig Extracts May Have Anticancer Properties
The Journal of Natural Products reports that extracts from fig resin have inhibitory effects on cancer cells to prevent them from spreading.
Of course, more research has to be carried out on using fig extracts on the treatment of cancer. Doctors recommend enjoying a well-balanced, healthy diet to help reduce your risk of cancer. This includes eating whole grains and plenty of “fruit and vegetables that have cancer-fighting potential.”
Eat Figs for Improving Heart Health
When your triglyceride levels are too high, you have a higher chance of having a heart attack or stroke.
Figs Can Help Relieve Respiratory Infections
Drinking figs brew helps to relieve dry cough, sore throat, and helps to get rid of excess mucus.
Cook two figs (preferably organic) with half a cup of water for a few minutes, and drink the liquid several times a day.
Side Effects of Figs
Figs are a delicious juicy fruit that can be part of a healthy diet. There are generally no side effects when eating figs in normal food amounts. Doctors say that some people may have a skin allergy to latex from the fig tree sap.
How to Make Fig Leaf Tea
If you have access to fresh fig leaves, you can make your own delicious tea from fig leaves this way:
- Wash and chop up one large fig leaf.
- Place a heaped teaspoon of fresh leaves in a cup.
- Pour boiling water over the leaves, cover, and leave to infuse for 10 minutes.
- Strain the fig tea into another cup and add a teaspoon of raw honey to taste.
- Relax and enjoy the benefits of fig leaf tea.