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Fig and Fig Tree Benefits

Botanical Name: Ficus carica, L. (Common fig)

Family Name : Moraceae

Fig grows on. a bush or small tree with cylindrical stem. The tree grows to a height of about 15-30 ft. and has ample latex producing ducts. It has broad ovate or nearly orbicular leaves, more or less deeply 3-5 lobed, rough above and pubescent below; fruit, usually pear-shaped, variable in size and colour.

Origin and Distribution

The fig is a native of Asia Minor and spread early to the Mediterranean region. It is a plant of extremely ancient cultivation and was grown in Egypt around 4,000 BC. It has been used as a principal food in the Mediterranean countries for thousands of years. The main areas of fig cultivation in India are Pune in Maharashtra, Srirangapatnam in Karnataka, Lucknow in Uttar Pradesh and parts of Gujarat.

Properties of Fig

Pectoral, laxative, emollient, energy giving, antiboil, nutritive & tonic.

Forms of Use :- Its main use is as an edible nutritive fruit; its secondary uses are as a decoction and as a poultice.

Food Value of Fig

Figs are consumed fresh, dried, preserved, candied or canned. Fresh figs are delicious and may be used as dessert or for jam. Bulk of the crop is consumed as dried fruit. Better grades of dried figs are used for making fancy packs, while other grades are used for the production of alcohol and wine.

Fresh fig is a delicious fruit with high nutritive value. It consists of 84% pulp and 16% skin. The chemical composition varies with type. The average composition of the edible part of the fresh Indian fig is as follows (per 100gms):

Moisture 80.8%
Protein 1.3%
Vitamin A 80 IU
Carbohydrate 17.1 %
Phosphorus 0.03 mg
Iron 1.2 mg
Calcium 0.06 mg

Figs owe their food value chiefly to their mineral and sugar contents. The total mineral content is 2 to 4 times that of most other fresh foods. Only cheese and a few nuts have a higher calcium content than fig. It is richer in iron and copper than nearly all fruits. Traces of zinc are also reported to be present. Both fresh and dried figs contain appreciable quantities of vitamin A and C (30% of the Vitamin A activity is lost in drying) and smaller amounts of vitamins of the B-group and other vitamins. A comparison of the nutritive index of fig and other fruits is as follows: fig-11; apple-9; date-6; and pear-6.

The total sugar content of fresh figs is 13-20% and that of dried figs is 42-62%. Sugar is present mostly in the form of invert sugar. Analysis of fresh and dried figs showed presence of 15.2-45-95% of reducing sugars.

The principal acids in fresh figs are citric and acetic. Small amounts of malic, boric and oxalic acids are also present. The acid content ranges from 0.1 to 0.44% (as citric acid). Fresh figs also contain gum and mucilage (0.8%) and pentosons (0.83%). A phosphatide with a nitrogen: phosphorus ratio at 1:2 and containing palmitic and oleic acids is reported to be present.

Fig seeds contain both unsaturated and saturated fatty acids e.g. oleic acid 18.99; linoleic acid 33.72 and linolenic acid 32.95 (unsaturated); palmitic acid 5.23; stearic acid 2.18% (saturated acids) etc.

The milk clotting activity of fresh fig latex is reported to be 30-100 times rennet prepared from calf stomach mucosa. For preparing the rennet, the latex is collected in the early morning hours when both the yield and the enzyme activity are high. A solid preparation may be obtained from the latex (which contain rennin, proteolytic enzymes, diastase, esterase, lipase, catalase and peroxidase apart from sugar, malic acid etc.) by direct drying in vacuum where a white solid is obtained. One c.c. of the latex yields 0.10 to 0.15 g of the dry powder which retains 90-95% of the activity originally present in the latex for several months at room temperature, more if ascorbic acid is added.

Ficus rennet coagulates milk 'and also milk-like preparations from vegetable seeds. It may be used for the preparation of cheese and junkets, in other food processing industries and in medicine.

Handling of green unripe figs frequently causes severe erytheme and vesiculation. The principle responsible for this effect is present in the latex and is soluble in aqueous alcohol.

Medicinal Uses & benefits

  1. Fig, fresh or dried, is valued for its laxative property.
  2. It is diuretic, demulcent, emollient and nutritive.
  3. It is used in the form of confection and syrups along with senna for constipation.
  4. Figs are considered useful in the prevention of nutritional anemias.
  5. The ash of figs is highly alkaline and used in acidity and urinary trouble.
  6. Fig latex is used as an anthelmintic. The anthelmintic action has been traced to ficin, a proteolytic enzyme which has the remarkable power of digesting living worms. Ficin is effective against both Trichurus and Ascaris. As it gets destroyed by dilute hydrochloric acid, ficin has to be administered simultaneously with sodium carbonate.
  7. Sherbet Anjir or Ark Anjir available in the market is used to cure many stomach ailments like dyspepsia, indigestion, flatulence and amoebiasis.
  8. Fig is high in calories and is easy to digest and assimilate. The latex that oozes out of the freshly cut unripe fruit/leaves contains chymase (a milky fluid with a coagulant action), lipase, amylase and protease. It also contains a diastasic enzyme which when applied over uncooked meat increases maturation process.
  9. Fig is a highly nutritious fruit. Since it does not contain any fibre, persons recovering from illness are' especially advised to take it. It is a wholesome food which is easily digested.
  10. It is also effective in removing gravel from the kidney or bladder and also helps in the removal of the obstruction of the liver and spleen in subacute cases.
  11. The fruit is also given as a cure for piles & gout.
  12. It is also liver corrective and used to control diarrhea.
  13. Fig is used in leucoderma or white spots on skin as it contains a chemcial "furo-coumarin" which is responsible for this action. A person suffering from this disease is advised to take figs in any form for 2/3 months.

Figs are preserved by drying. Ripened figs are carefully picked and spread in 'trays in single layers and exposed to moist sulphur fumes for 20-30 minutes. They are exposed to the sun in wooden racks and turned over daily for 5-7 days to ensure even drying. Before the drying is complete, figs are pressed flat to economise packing space and to improve their appearance. Before packing they are dipped in boiling salt solution (3%) to render them soft and to improve the taste. Sun dried figs are graded according to size and colour. First grade figs possess a semi-transparent rosy skin, beautifully streaked at the stalk end; second grade figs are darker and less attractive in appearance.

A novel way of preservation could be to put the properly dried figs into honey. These will be highly nutritious and wholesome.

Sherbet of anjir is also prepared and available in the market to cater to the needs of people suffering from stomach trouble, indigestion, flatulence and dyspepsia.

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