1.1 What is a fig?
The fig (botanical name: Ficus carica, also known as common fig; Chinese Pinyin: Wu Hua Guo, Simplified Chinese: 无花果), is a species of evergreen or deciduous, flowering, deciduous tree or large shrub in genus Ficus in the mulberry family (also called fig family), Moraceae. The term fig can refer to the plant as well as the fruit of the plant. The flowers are blooming inside the infructescence and not visible from outside. The edible fruit is multiple fruit which develops from an entire inflorescence i.e., from a cluster or group of flowers into an entire fruit. The fig fruits are pear shape, small in size between 3-5 cm long with green, purple or brown skin. The plant can grow up to 10 m tall. Native to Middle East and western Asia and extensively cultivated in around the world. Characteristics of figs include adaptation to barren land and tolerance for drought.
Other simplified Chinese names for figs include: 阿驲, 阿驿, 映日果, 优昙钵, 蜜果, 文仙果, 奶浆果, 品仙果.
1.2 How do figs taste?
Good figs have a chewy, lush, soft texture with a flavor that is lusciously sweet.
1.3 How do I tell if my figs are ripe?
Figs start ripen when the fruits become soft to the touch and can be easily picked from the trees. Also ripe figs produce a sweet smell (over ripe figs develop a fermenting, alcohol-like smell). Most ripe figs are found in late summer or early autumn, depending on the weather conditions.
1.4 How is fig used in traditional Chinese medicine?
The fruit of figs is considered to have sweet, neutral and nontoxic properties and to be associated with the lung, stomach and large intestine meridians. It is used as heat-clearing drug, secretory, spleen tonic, digestion aid, detoxicant and discutient (reducing swelling) in traditional Chinese medicine (CTM) and widely adopted in treating different diseases and health problems, such as sour throats and dry coughs.
2. Uses, Health Benefits of Figs & Medical Formulas
2.1 Prevent Breast Cancer
Figs contain abundant dietary fiber that increases frequency of bowel movements (bowel motility), which in turn reduces breast cancer risk by increasing estrogen excretion. Circulating estrogen levels are an established risk factor for breast cancer. A study found out that there was a 34% reduction in breast cancer risk among women who consumed the most fruit fiber, compared to those who ate the least (mercola.com 2017).
2.2 Antioxidants And Anti-Aging
A famous free radical theory that explains the aging process proposes that ageing is the cumulative result of oxidative damage to the cells and tissues of the body that increases mainly as a result of aerobic metabolism. And it is known that cellular levels of free radical damage arises with age (Wickens 2001). To combat free radicals, our body need antioxidants which are molecules in cells that prevent free radicals from taking electrons and producing damage, in another word antioxidants help remove free radicals and prevent oxidative damage from formation. Figs contain a high level of polyphenol antioxidant, the naturally occurring antioxidant, that can slow the aging in human body cells as well as prevent various degenerative diseases, particularly cardiovascular diseases and cancers.
2.3 Boost Immunity System And Prevent Common Illnesses
Animal experiments carried out in a study confirmed that Ficus carica polysaccharide (FCP), isolated from the common figs, can up regulate immune related genes expression, stimulates immune response that fundamentally enhances disease resistance (Yang 2015). Furthermore, figs are rich in essential minerals, such as potassium and manganese, which also possessing antioxidants and enhancing our immune system to fight off common illnesses like cold.
2.4 Healing Rectal Prolapse
[CTM Formula] A decoction of pork intestines (large intestine) and figs is taken orally to treat rectal prolapse.
2.5 Chronic Diarrhoea
[CTM Formula] A decoction of dried figs dis taken orally to heal chronic diarrhoea.
2.6 Increase Milk Secretion
[CTM Formula] Pig’s feet cooked with figs, root of Ficus gasparriniana, Root of tiger daylily (Hemerocallis fulva) and Dregea sinensis are eaten to promote or increase the flow of a mother’s milk.
[CTM Formula] A decoction of twigs of common fig is taken orally to treat enteritis.
The Ben Cao Medical Book (also known as Compendium of Materia Medica or Ben Cao Gang Mu; Chinese: 本草纲目) is the most famous and comprehensive medical book ever written in the history of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). Compiled and written by Li Shi-zhen (1518~1593), a medical expert of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) over 27 years.
The Ben Cao Medical Book records and describes all the plants, animals, minerals, and other objects that were believed to have medicinal properties in TCM. The book reflects the pharmaceutical achievements and developments of East Asia before the 16th century. On the basis of his predecessors’ achievements in the pharmacological studies, Li contributed further by supplementing and rectifying many past mistakes and misconception in relate to nature of many medicinal substances and causes of various illnesses. Charles Darwin, originator of the biological theory of evolution, regards the book as the “ancient Chinese encyclopedia”.
Disclaimer: The Ben Cao Medical Book is translated by ChinaAbout.net. The information on this website is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional and is not intended as medical advice. It is intended as a sharing of CTM knowledge and information from the research and experience from the author Li Shi-zhen. Kindly be alert that the CTM knowledge and ancient formulas given above are likely NOT medically proven and may contain misconceptions.
List of reference
mercola.com 2017 What Are Figs Good For? [online] link: http://foodfacts.mercola.com/figs.html
Yang X, Guo JL, Ye JY, Zhang YX, Wang W. 2015 The effects of Ficus carica polysaccharide on immune response and expression of some immune-related genes in grass carp, Ctenopharyngodon idella. Fish Shellfish Immunol. 2015 Jan;42(1):132-7. doi: 10.1016/j.fsi.2014.10.037. Epub 2014 Nov 7.
Wickens 2001 Ageing and the free radical theory. Respir Physiol. 2001 Nov 15;128(3):379-91.