Figs Have Nutritional and Medicinal Potential

August 8, 2014

Argentinean researchers review the common fig.

The common fig (Ficus carica L.) isn’t as popular as acaí or blueberry, but it’s rife with nutrients and interesting phytochemicals. A recent review of fig health properties by Argentinean researchers in Food Chemistry reminds us that interest in this sweet plant is still well worth it.

Figs are known for being high in dietary potassium, fiber, and calcium, but they also bear a lot of antioxidants, perhaps more so than wine:

Actually, red wine (200-800 mg/200ml) and black tea (150-210 mg/200 ml), two well-published source of phenolic compounds, contain lower amounts of phenols than figs (1090-1110 mg/100 g of fresh matter)…Fruit skins are clearly the major source of phenolic compounds in many cases, so the consumption of whole ripe fruits is recommended.

Fig nutrients differ depending on the part of the fig, say the researchers. The polyphenols in fig skins are mainly anthocyanins and those in fig pulp are mainly proanthocyanidins. Still, the differences extend elsewhere on the plant. Fig leaves and roots contain their own supplies of nutrients, such as coumarins, flavonoids and sterols. Leaves are even used in veterinary practice as a digestive aid. Fig latex, a gooey white substance that secretes from fig branches, and to a lesser extent fig skins, has an estimated 13 amino acids, and the extraction of this substance might serve use in oral or topical applications. For some, though, latex “may cause skin irritation.”

For all the compounds that exist in the fig tree, there is much research connecting fig use to human health improvement. Reports suggest potential fig uses for eye vision, constipation, loss of appetite, enteritis, digestion and constipation, and even for unfortunate skin warts, postules, and furuncles. The common fig is included in a few herbal pharmacopoeias, including the Spanish, French, and British Pharmacopoeias, and in documentation from Chinese medicinal practice.

Sophisticated extracts aside, consumers can enjoy fig and its purported health benefits through a variety of food forms, including fresh, dried, as spread, as paste, and as concentrate.

Photo by ©iStockphoto.com/nikitos77

 

Robby Gardner

Associate Editor

Nutritional Outlook magazine

robby.gardner@ubm.com

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