Scientifically Proven Health Benefits of Figs (Fruit, Leaves, Dried or Fresh)

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Scientifically Proven Health Benefits of Figs (Fruit, Leaves, Dried or Fresh)
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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.

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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. (1)

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. (2)

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. (1)

You just need to be aware, that figs (especially dried figs) are rich in sugar and have a high glycemic index. Therefore, to enjoy the benefits of figs, it is recommended to eat them along with foods that have low glycemic index, such as walnuts, almonds or vegetables. Eating them together allows the fig (and the sugar) to be absorbed more slowly into the bloodstream.

Fresh figs are usually available between July and September and you can buy dried figs all year round. (3)

Figs: Nutritional Value

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% of your recommended daily intake (RDI) of fiber. (3)

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The United States Department of Agriculture says that the nutritional benefits of one medium-sized fresh fig (50 g) are as follows: (4)

  • 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. (4, 5)

Gram for gram, dried figs also contain more vitamins and minerals than fresh figs.

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. (6)

Research has also shown that fig syrup (fig fruit concentrate) contains phenolic compounds and flavonoids. These antioxidants have scavenging properties against free radicals and can protect cells against DNA damage. (7)

Health Benefits of Figs

Let’s look in more detail at the important ways that consuming fresh figs, dried figs, fig milk, or fig leaf tea can benefit your health.

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. (8)

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. (9)

Research into the content of dried figs has shown that they are a great source of dietary fiber and also provide good nutritional value. (10)

One excellent way to improve your digestive health is to soak dried figs overnight in some water. In the morning, eat the fruit and drink the fig water to help get rid of constipation and improve your digestion.

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Find out other natural laxatives you can use to help get rid of constipation and hardened stools.

Increasing your fiber intake is also one of the 70 habits featured in my e-book 70 Powerful Habits For A Great Health which will guide you how to take positive steps to improve your wellness and overall health.

Figs Help Regulate Blood Pressure

Regular consumption of fresh or dried figs can help relieve some symptoms of hypertension.

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. (11) At the end of the article, you will find a recipe for fig leaf tea.

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. (12)

Learn about other natural remedies that help reduce high blood pressure.

Fig Leaf Tea Can Help Manage Diabetes

Regularly drinking tea made from fig leaves can benefit you if you suffer from diabetes. To make fig leaf tea, simply boil fig leaves in water for at least 15 minutes.

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. (13)

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 – a popular anti-inflammatory. The study found that fig leaf extracts could prevent vascular complications in diabetes. (14)

The American Diabetes Association recommends eating fresh fruits like figs, blueberries, dates, and apples to lower risks of type 2 diabetes. (15)

You can find out about other foods that help to manage the symptoms of type 2 diabetes.

Figs Have Antibacterial and Anti-Fungal Activity

The health benefits of figs also extend to having antibacterial and anti-fungal properties.

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. (1)

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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. (16)

Learn how to spot the tell-tale signs of a candida infection and how to treat yeast infections naturally.

Figs Can Help Get Rid of Parasites

One of the benefits of fig extracts is to create antiparasitic remedies from fig latex.

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. (17)

There are other natural ways to get rid of worms, and help to treat tapeworms in humans.

Fig Extracts Can Help Boost Your Liver Health

Figs contain medicinal compounds that can help keep your liver in good 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. (19)

Other studies have revealed that preparations containing fig leaf extracts help to reduce inflammation and protect cells in the liver from damage. (20)

Did you know that there are many habits that can damage your liver? Find out how to protect your liver health naturally.

Figs Help Strengthen Bones

Consuming fresh figs regularly is a great way to help promote bone health and help prevent osteoporosis.

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. (21)

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. (22)

In fact, Strontium supplements are sometimes used to treat postmenopausal osteoporosis. (22)

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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. (23)

Why not try some of these non-dairy foods that contain calcium to help strengthen your bones? You can read more about these 4 steps to prevent osteoporosis.

Fig Milk Can Help Get Rid of Warts

The milky sap (latex) of figs contain anti-viral properties, so applying it on warts helps to cure them.

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. (24)

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. (25)

Extracts from fig leaves have also shown to be effective in treating fever blisters (cold sores) caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV-1). (26)

Some people apply the milky sap of figs directly to the skin to treat cuts and irritated skin.

You can also remove warts using apple cider vinegar (ACV).

Dried Figs Can Help Prevent Anemia

Dried figs can help to increase hemoglobin levels.

A study concluded that dried figs are useful for improving hemoglobin level in blood and thus preventing a person from having anemia. (31)

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

Research has shown that certain extracts from the fig plant 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. (27)

Other studies have revealed that fig tree latex (fig milk) can help to inhibit the spread of cancer cells in humans without affecting healthy cells. (28)

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.” (29)

Figs For Improving Heart Health

In animal studies, fig leaves have been shown to lower levels of triglycerides. (1)

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. (1)

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. (30)

How to Make Fig Leaf Tea

Apart from getting the benefits of figs by eating them fresh or dried, you can create your own 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.

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