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A fig is a soft fruit with a thin skin that can be either green or purple. The flesh of a fig is typically red, and the entirety of the fruit is edible.
People have used figs to help treat health conditions related to the endocrine, reproductive, and respiratory systems, as well as the digestive tract.
This article explores the benefits and risks associated with fig consumption. It also discusses the nutritional content of both fresh and dried figs.
Practitioners of Indian systems of medicine have long used figs to treat conditions affecting the following bodily systems:
Some researchers believe that figs have the following properties:
These properties may be responsible for the therapeutic effects of figs. The sections below discuss these potential benefits in more detail:
Diabetes and glucose control
Research on this subject is very limited. However, one small study from 1998 found that in eight participants, there was a decrease in after-meal glucose levels when they took fig leaf extracts.
The study participants also needed lower doses of insulin when they supplemented with fig leaf extract.
In a different study using mice with diabetes, the researchers revealed that fig leaf extract could stop or slow down the production of glucose in the liver.
Some people consider certain plants to be aphrodisiacs due to their potential ability to stimulate sexual arousal. Indeed, some people use figs for their alleged aphrodisiac properties.
The researchers measured the effectiveness of a mixture of these plants by studying the increase in mounting behavior. The rats that received this mixture had increased sexual activity, compared with the control group.
However, it is difficult to determine which of the three plants was responsible for the increased sexual activity.
Researchers have not yet examined the aphrodisiac effects of figs in humans. Further studies are necessary before doctors can recommend using figs for erectile dysfunction.
In the study, 25 participants with common warts on both sides of their body applied fig tree latex on one side. On the other side, doctors used cryotherapy.
The researchers found that in 44% of the participants, the fig tree latex completely resolved the warts. Cryotherapy was more effective, however, resulting in a complete reversal in 56% of the participants.
Researchers do not yet understand why figs can help resolve warts, but fig tree latex could offer a safe and easy-to-use treatment option that presents little or no side effects.
Very few studies have looked at the connection between figs and hair health. However, figs are very high in iron, which is an important mineral for helping maintain healthy hair.
Before a person starts taking extracts or supplements for hair health, they should speak with their doctor to ensure that it is safe for them.
Further studies are needed to confirm these findings, however, as researchers are still unsure how to explain the body temperature-lowering effect of figs.
Due to the fruit’s laxative properties, people commonly use fig syrup to help treat constipation. However, only a few studies have ever provided evidence of figs helping with constipation.
In one study, the researchers gave rats loperamide (Imodium) to cause constipation. The rats that received fig paste had fewer episodes of constipation than the control group.
Another study compared the effects of figs and fiber supplements in people with functional constipation. Figs improved the majority of constipation symptoms, including:
- bowel movement time
- number of bowel movements
- stomach pain and discomfort
Figs also decreased the effort necessary to pass a stool and improved the sense of incomplete evacuation.
The researchers did not note any differences in constipation relief between fiber supplements and figs.
The risks associated with figs may vary depending on how people use them. The sections below cover this in more detail.
Both fresh and dried figs contain a high level of vitamin K. People taking blood-thinning medications such as warfarin need to keep the vitamin K levels in their diet consistent, so they may wish to avoid figs.
Since figs have a high fiber content, eating too many figs — especially dried figs — can cause diarrhea.
Some people may be allergic to figs.
Researchers in Vienna found that a high percentage of people allergic to birch pollen had positive skin allergy tests to fresh figs.
Specifically, although 78% of the participants with birch pollen allergy had a positive skin test to fresh figs, most tolerated dried figs.
Choosing dried or fresh figs depends on a person’s tastes, preferences, and circumstances.
A person should always rinse fresh figs. After that, they are edible as they are.
People can also eat dried figs as they are, or they can reconstitute them by soaking them in warm water until they soften.
People can use fresh and dried figs in a variety of dishes. Here are a few recipes to try:
- homemade no-bake Fig Newtons energy bites
- oatmeal fig bars
- fresh figs with goat cheese and peppered honey
- vanilla fig oatmeal with pistachios and honey
The following table, which is adapted from the United States Department of Agriculture, shows the nutritional content of 100 grams (g) of raw and dried figs in kilocalories (kcal), g, milligrams (mg), and micrograms (mcg):
|Raw figs||Dried figs|
|Calories||74 kcal||249 kcal|
|Protein||0.75 g||3.3 g|
|Lipids||0.3 g||0.93 g|
|Dietary fiber||2.9 g||9.8 g|
|Sugar||16.26 g||47.92 g|
|Calcium||35 mg||162 mg|
|Iron||0.37 mg||2.03 mg|
|Magnesium||17 mg||68 mg|
|Phosphorus||14 mg||67 mg|
|Potassium||232 mg||680 mg|
|Vitamin C||2 mg||1.2 mg|
|Folate||6 mcg||9 mcg|
|Choline||4.7 mg||15.8 mg|
|Vitamin A||7 mcg||0 mcg|
|Beta-carotene||85 mcg||6 mcg|
|Lutein and zeaxanthin||9 mcg||32 mcg|
|Vitamin K||4.7 mcg||15.6 mcg|
A fig is a nutritious fruit that provides a lot of calcium and fiber. People can choose to eat fresh or dried figs, but they should be mindful that dried figs contain more calories and sugar.
People can use figs to help treat a variety of conditions, as they are unlikely to cause harm. However, there is not currently enough research to back up many of the claims associated with the alleged health benefits of figs.