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FIG — Uses, Side Effects, and More

Fig (Ficus carica) is a tree native to the Mediterranean. It produces a popular fruit. The fruit, leaves, and root are also used to make medicine.

Fig leaf and fruit contain chemicals that might help move food through the intestines better. It also contains chemicals that might help control blood sugar and cholesterol levels.

People use fig for constipation, diarrhea, diabetes, eczema, and many other conditions, but there is no good scientific evidence to support these uses.

Uses & Effectiveness ?

We currently have no information for FIG overview .

Side Effects

When taken by mouth: Fresh and dried fig fruit are commonly consumed in foods. Fig fruit paste is possibly safe when used as medicine for up to 8 weeks. There isn’t enough reliable information to know if fig leaf is safe or what the side effects might be.

When applied to the skin: Fig leaf is possibly unsafe. It can cause the skin to become extra sensitive to the sun, leading to sunburn.

Special Precautions and Warnings

When taken by mouth: Fresh and dried fig fruit are commonly consumed in foods. Fig fruit paste is possibly safe when used as medicine for up to 8 weeks. There isn’t enough reliable information to know if fig leaf is safe or what the side effects might be.

When applied to the skin: Fig leaf is possibly unsafe. It can cause the skin to become extra sensitive to the sun, leading to sunburn.

Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Fresh and dried fig fruit are commonly consumed as foods. There isn’t enough reliable information to know if fig is safe to use in larger amounts as medicine when pregnant or breast-feeding. Stay on the safe side and stick to food amounts.

Allergies. People who are sensitive to mulberry, natural rubber latex, or weeping fig might have allergic reactions to fig.

Surgery: Fig might lower blood sugar levels. This might interfere with blood sugar control during and after surgery. Stop using fig as medicine at least 2 weeks before a scheduled surgery.

Interactions ?

Moderate Interaction

Be cautious with this combination

Insulin interacts with FIG

Medications for diabetes (Antidiabetes drugs) interacts with FIG

Dosing

Fresh and dried fig fruit are commonly eaten. As medicine, there isn’t enough reliable information to know what an appropriate dose of fig might be. Keep in mind that natural products are not always necessarily safe and dosages can be important. Be sure to follow relevant directions on product labels and consult a healthcare professional before using.

REFERENCES:

Bollero, D., Stella, M., Rivolin, A., Cassano, P., Risso, D., and Vanzetti, M. Fig leaf tanning lotion and sun-related burns: case reports. Burns 2001;27(7):777-779. View abstract.

Brehler, R., Abrams, E., and Sedlmayr, S. Cross-reactivity between Ficus benjamina (weeping fig) and natural rubber latex. Allergy 1998;53(4):402-406. View abstract.

Caiaffa, M. F., Cataldo, V. M., Tursi, A., and Macchia, L. Fig and mulberry cross-allergy. Ann.Allergy Asthma Immunol. 2003;91(5):493-495. View abstract.

Focke, M., Hemmer, W., Wohrl, S., Gotz, M., and Jarisch, R. Cross-reactivity between Ficus benjamina latex and fig fruit in patients with clinical fig allergy. Clin.Exp.Allergy 2003;33(7):971-977. View abstract.

Lembo, G., Lo, Presti M., and Balato, N. Phytophotodermatitis due to ficus carica. Photodermatol. 1985;2(2):119-120. View abstract.

Micali, G., Nasca, M. R., and Musumeci, M. L. Severe phototoxic reaction secondary to the application of a fig leaves’ decoction used as a tanning agent. Contact Dermatitis 1995;33(3):212-213. View abstract.

Munteanu, M. Contact dermatitis to the sap of fig-tree. Rev.Med.Chir Soc.Med.Nat.Iasi 1989;93(3):602. View abstract.

Ozdamar, E., Ozbek, S., and Akin, S. An unusual cause of burn injury: fig leaf decoction used as a remedy for a dermatitis of unknown etiology. J.Burn Care Rehabil. 2003;24(4):229-233. View abstract.

Perez, C., Canal, J. R., and Torres, M. D. Experimental diabetes treated with ficus carica extract: effect on oxidative stress parameters. Acta Diabetol. 2003;40(1):3-8. View abstract.

Abbasi S, Kamalinejad M, Babaie D, et al. A new topical treatment of atopic dermatitis in pediatric patients based on Ficus carica L. (Fig): A randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trial. Complement Ther Med. 2017;35:85-91. View abstract.

Baek HI, Ha KC, Kim HM, et al. Randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of Ficus carica paste for the management of functional constipation. Asia Pac J Clin Nutr. 2016;25(3):487-96. View abstract.

Belguith-Hadriche O, Ammar S, Contreras Mdel M, et al. Antihyperlipidemic and antioxidant activities of edible Tunisian Ficus carica L. fruits in high fat diet-induced hyperlipidemic rats. Plant Foods Hum Nutr. 2016;71(2):183-9. View abstract.

Bohlooli S, Mohebipoor A, Mohammadi S, Kouhnavard M, Pashapoor S. Comparative study of fig tree efficacy in the treatment of common warts (Verruca vulgaris) vs. cryotherapy. Int J Dermatol. 2007;46(5):524-6. View abstract.

Bonamonte D, Foti C, Lionetti N, Rigano L, Angelini G. Photoallergic contact dermatitis to 8-methoxypsoralen in Ficus carica. Contact Dermatitis. 2010;62(6):343-8. View abstract.

Dechamp C, Bessot JC, Pauli G, Deviller P. First report of anaphylactic reaction after fig (Ficus carica) ingestion. Allergy 1995;50:514-6. View abstract.

Gandolfo M, Baeza M, De Barrio M, Anaphylaxis after eating figs. Allergy 2001;56:462-3.

Gilani AH, Mehmood MH, Janbaz KH, Khan AU, Saeed SA. Ethnopharmacological studies on antispasmodic and antiplatelet activities of Ficus carica. J Ethnopharmacol. 2008;119(1):1-5. View abstract.

Lembo G, Lo Presti M, Balato N. Phytophotodermatitis due to ficus carica. Photodermatol 1985;2:119-20.

McGovern TW. The fig—Ficus carica L. Cutis 2002;69:339-40.

Mopuri R, Ganjayi M, Meriga B, Koorbanally NA, Islam MS. The effects of Ficus carica on the activity of enzymes related to metabolic syndrome. J Food Drug Anal. 2018;26(1):201-210.View abstract.

Perez C, Canal JR, Campillo JE, et al. Hypotriglyceridaemic activity of Ficus carica leaves in experimental hypertriglyceridaemic rats. Phytother Res 1999;13:188-91. View abstract.

Pérez C, Domínguez E, Canal JR, et al. Hypoglycaemic activity of an aqueous extract from Ficus carica (fig tree) leaves in streptozotocin diabetic rats. Pharmaceutical Biology 2000;38:181-6.

Pouryousef A, Eslami E, Shahriarirad S, et al. Effects of topical gel formulation of Ficus carica latex on cutaneous leishmaniasis induced by Leishmania major in BALB/c mice. BMC Res Notes. 2021 May 22;14(1):199. View abstract.

Ramadan S, Hegab AM, Al-Awthan YS, Al-Duais MA, Tayel AA, Al-Saman MA. Comparison of the efficiency of Lepidium sativum, Ficus carica, and Punica granatum methanolic extracts in relieving hyperglycemia and hyperlipidemia of streptozotocin-induced diabetic rats. J Diabetes Res. 2021 Dec 21;2021:6018835. View abstract.

Rubnov S, Kashman Y, Rabinowitz R, et al. Suppressors of cancer cell proliferation from fig (Ficus carica) resin: isolation and structure elucidation. J Nat Prod 2001;64:993-6. View abstract.

Serraclara A, Hawkins F, Perez C, et al. Hypoglycemic action of an oral fig-leaf decoction in type-I diabetic patients. Diabetes Res Clin Pract 1998;39:19-22. View abstract.

Takahashi T, Okiura A, Saito K, Kohno M. Identification of phenylpropanoids in fig (Ficus carica L.) leaves. J Agric Food Chem. 2014;62(41):10076-83. View abstract.

Turkoglu M, Pekmezci E, Kilic S, Dundar C, Sevinc H. Effect of Ficus carica leaf extract on the gene expression of selected factors in HaCaT cells. J Cosmet Dermatol. 2017;16(4):e54-e58. View abstract.

Zaynoun ST, Aftimos BG, Abi Ali L, et al. Ficus carica; isolation and quantification of the photoactive components. Contact Dermatitis 1984;11:21-5. View abstract.

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Fig Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits

Barbie Cervoni MS, RD, CDCES, CDN, is a registered dietitian and certified diabetes care and education specialist.

Updated on September 22, 2022
Medically reviewed

Verywell Fit articles are reviewed by board-certified physicians and nutrition and exercise healthcare professionals. Medical Reviewers confirm the content is thorough and accurate, reflecting the latest evidence-based research. Content is reviewed before publication and upon substantial updates. Learn more.

Marisa Moore is a registered dietitian nutritionist with a BS in nutrition science and MBA in marketing. She is also the founder of Marisa Moore Nutrition.

figs

Table of Contents
Table of Contents

Figs, the fruit of the Ficus carica plant, are naturally sweet and nutritious. Throughout history, cooked figs have been used as a sweetener in lieu of sugar, and some cuisines still maintain this practice today. You can use fresh or dried figs in jams, jellies, desserts, and savory dishes.

In addition to natural sweetness, figs provide fiber and antioxidants. If portion-controlled, they can fit into any meal plan.

Fig Nutrition Facts

Figs are a good source of fiber, magnesium, and potassium. The following nutrition information, for one small raw fig measuring 1-1/2″ in diameter (40g), is provided by the USDA.

Carbs

Depending on the size and type (dried or raw), one fig can contain anywhere from 5 to 12 grams of carbohydrate and 3 to 9 grams of sugar. One small, raw fig contains 7.7g of carbohydrate, 1.2g of fiber, and 6.5g of sugars. One dried fig (8.4g) contains 5.4g of carbohydrate, 0.8g of fiber, and 4g of sugar.

Figs are a high glycemic food, with a glycemic index of 61. Foods with a high glycemic score are those that raise blood sugar sharply and quickly.

Fats

Figs are naturally low in fat, containing a negligible amount.

Protein

Figs do not contain much protein—only 0.3 grams per fig.

Vitamins and Minerals

Figs are usually consumed in small portions. A single fig will not provide substantial amounts of any vitamin or mineral, but a fig will provide small amounts of vitamin K, thiamin, vitamin B6, potassium, manganese, and magnesium.

Calories

One small raw fig measuring 1-1/2″ in diameter (40g) provides 30 calories, 93% of which come from carbs, 4% from protein, and 4% from fat, rounding up.

Summary

Figs are a healthy source of carbohydrates and fiber that are low in fat, sodium, and cholesterol. Figs contain magnesium, potassium, vitamin K, vitamin B6, and copper.

Health Benefits

Figs have long been associated with good health and longevity in some cultures. Some purported health benefits of figs have been supported by research.

May Prevent Cell Damage

Although figs are high in sugar, they provide important antioxidants. Researchers have identified phytochemical compounds, particularly phenolic acids and flavonoids, in fresh and dried figs.

The antioxidant capacity of figs is highly correlated with their amount of phenolic compounds. Studies have shown that darker figs have higher amounts than lighter figs and that the skin provides more than the pulp.

Antioxidants may help prevent or minimize cell damage caused by free radicals. Free radicals are environmental toxins that we are exposed to, like air pollution or cigarette smoke. Your body also makes free radicals. Antioxidants are believed to help minimize the oxidative stress (damage) caused by these free radicals.

May Reduce Risk for Chronic Diseases

Although researchers don’t fully understand the relationship yet, antioxidants are also believed to play a role in preventing many chronic diseases, including cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and eye diseases such as cataracts and age-related macular degeneration.

Experts recommend consuming antioxidants in foods like fruits and vegetables, including figs, rather than taking them in supplement form.

May Aid in Cancer Prevention

There have been very few studies on the antioxidant benefits of figs, specifically. Still, one research project identified antioxidant compounds in fig extracts that may help fight cancer.

The preliminary in vitro study found that fig extracts showed strong antioxidant and anti-cancer activities when exposed to breast cancer cells. However, much more research needs to be done to fully understand the relationship between figs and breast cancer.

Aids IBS Symptom Management

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a digestive disorder. Sometimes, those with the condition are diagnosed with a variation known as IBS-C or irritable bowel syndrome with predominant constipation. A large, randomized, controlled trial found that consumption of fig for four months could be a useful therapy for alleviating IBS-C symptoms.

Aids Constipation Relief

Because of their fiber content and fiber’s laxative effects, dried figs are often used to treat constipation. The National Institute on Aging recommends consuming foods such as dried fruits, including apricots, prunes, and figs, to increase fiber intake for constipation relief.

Allergies

There are some limited reports of fig allergy. One report published in 2003 noted that an allergy to fig followed by respiratory symptoms could be present in people with allergies to weeping fig plants or who have the latex-fruit syndrome (a condition where you are allergic to latex and certain fruit and nuts).

Also, if you have an allergy to jackfruit, you may experience a reaction if you consume fig. If you are concerned about a potential food allergy, consult with your physician for a diagnosis.

Adverse Effects

People often complain of a burning sensation or sore tongue after eating too many figs, particularly fresh ones. This reaction is due to a molecule in the fig called ficin. Ficin is a proteolytic enzyme that breaks down proteins. It can cause the skin and tongue to itch or burn from exposure.

To avoid «fig burn,» spoon the inside of the fig out and eat it separately from the skin, where most of the ficin is contained. The less ripe a fig is, the more ficin that is present.

Varieties

There are several main varieties of fig. Black Mission figs are sweet and dark purple, not black. Black mission figs are commonly found in grocery stores, along with Brown Turkey figs that are less sweet and have a mild taste. Calimyrna figs, Kadota, and Adriatic figs are bright green. Sierra figs and King figs are also found in some areas.

When It’s Best

There are two seasons for figs. The first is in late June, and the second runs from August through October.

Ripe figs are easy to spot. They hold their shape and are not soft, but they do give slightly to pressure. If the figs are too hard and don’t respond to your touch, they are not ripe. Unfortunately, figs do not ripen well once they’ve already been picked, but you can try leaving them by a sunny window for a day and see if they soften a bit more.

Storage and Food Safety

Fresh ripe figs should be kept cold. Carefully place your figs in a bowl in the refrigerator to protect them from bruising. Most figs will last for several days when kept cold. You can also freeze figs for up to 12 months.

You should store dried figs in an airtight container away from heat and light. They can also be stored in the refrigerator to make them last a little longer (up to 6 months).

How to Prepare

Figs can be eaten raw, grilled, roasted, or dried. They make a great on-the-go snack and can be used to dress up a meal, adding texture, color, and sweetness. Figs are a tasty ingredient in desserts and smoothies, and a unique topping for yogurt, ricotta, and cottage cheese.

Replacing sugar, jelly, or other processed carbohydrates with figs is a great way to add fiber and nutrients to your meal.

Most people cook with and consume dried figs, but you can also eat them fresh, freeze them, or purchase them frozen. When using fresh figs, make sure to remove the stem (split the stem in half and peel it off the fruit).

10 Sources

Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.

  1. Fig, raw. FoodData Central. U.S. Department of Agriculture.
  2. Figs, dried, uncooked. FoodData Central. U.S. Department of Agriculture.
  3. Arvaniti OS, Samaras Y, Gatidou G, Thomaidis NS, Stasinakis AS. Review on fresh and dried figs: Chemical analysis and occurrence of phytochemical compounds, antioxidant capacity and health effects. Food Res Int. 2019;119:244-267. doi: 10.1016/j.foodres.2019.01.055
  4. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. Antioxidants: In depth.
  5. Jasmine R, Manikandan K, Karthikeyan. Evaluating the antioxidant and anticancer property of Ficus carica fruits. Afr J Biotech. 2015;14(7):634-641. doi:10.5897/AJB2014.13742
  6. Pourmasoumi M, et al. Comparison and assessment of flixweed and fig effects on irritable bowel syndrome with predominant constipation: A single-blind randomized clinical trial. Explore (NY). 2019;15(3):198-205. doi:10.1016/j.explore.2018.09.003
  7. National Institute on Aging. Concerned about constipation?
  8. Antico A, Zoccatelli G, Marcotulli C, Curioni A. Oral allergy syndrome to fig. Int Arch Allergy Immunol. 2003;131(2):138-42. doi:10.1159/000070929
  9. American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology. Jackfruit anaphylaxis.
  10. Reddy VB, Lerner EA. Plant cysteine proteases that evoke itch activate protease-activated receptors. Br J Dermatol. 2010;163(3):532–535. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2133.2010.09862.x

Additional Reading

  • Khan AS. Figs and their medicinal value. Medicinally Important Trees. Springer, Cham. 2017;235-253. doi:10.1007/978-3-319-56777-9_10

By Barbie Cervoni MS, RD, CDCES, CDN
Barbie Cervoni MS, RD, CDCES, CDN, is a registered dietitian and certified diabetes care and education specialist, counseling patients with diabetes. Barbie was previously the Advanced Nutrition Coordinator for the Mount Sinai Diabetes and Cardiovascular Alliance and worked in pediatric endocrinology at The Steven and Alexandra Cohen Children’s Medical Center.

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