Figs are even mentioned in the Bible, which mainly includes descriptions of their large, lobed leaves that served to cover Adam and Eve’s nakedness. Today, we typically enjoy figs for their sweet, fruity taste. But fresh figs, dried figs and fig extracts are also effective herbal aids for the bowel and digestive system. They provide gentle relief for constipation and related pain as well as stimulating bowel movement. Thanks to its gentle laxative effect, the fruit is also suitable for children and infants, for example when ingested in the form of fig syrup. Read on to find out more about the health benefits and uses of figs.
Where are fig trees found?
The genus of fig plants (ficus) includes around 1000 different species. These include common decorative plants, such as the ficus tree (Ficus benjamini). Other ficus species include evergreen, tropical plants. The ficus genus also includes the strangler fig, which entwines its host tree and eventually kills it. Strangler figs also include, for example, Ficus benghalensis, Ficus aurea (Florida strangler fig) and Ficus altissima (council tree).
But what is probably the most well-known fig species is the common fig (Ficus carica), which is cultivated throughout the Mediterranean region and increasingly in Central Europe as well. In Switzerland, fig trees also grow north of the Alps, for example in winemaking regions. Fig trees growing in protected locations, such as near walls or in courtyards, are able to withstand the winter quite well. The fruits of the fig tree are sold in their fresh and dried forms. They have been used since antiquity as a mild remedy for constipation.
Appearance and features of fig trees
The fig is a deciduous tree that can grow to a height of up to ten metres. The leaves are lobed and can reach a diameter of 20 centimetres. A fig tree may bloom as many as three times a year and then produce the familiar, usually purple-coloured fruit.
Figs are among the oldest and most common cultivated plants. The remains of figs from over 11,000 years ago have been found in Jericho (located in the present-day Palestinian territories). The specimens exhibit changes that occurred through breeding and that are not found in wild varieties. This most certainly means that figs had already been selectively bred at the time.
Active ingredients in figs and their effects
Fig extract is used to treat constipation. Figs contain substances including ficine (enzymes), mucilage, various sugars and fruit acids, B vitamins as well as minerals such as calcium, phosphorus and iron. The high percentage of indigestible fibre they contain makes the fruits an ideal component of a high-fibre diet for preventing or treating constipation. The mucilage, fructose and fruit acids in figs result in a softer, smoother stool.
Medical uses for figs
A person is said to be constipated if they have fewer than three bowel movements per week. Constipation becomes chronic if it occurs over a longer period of time. The fruits of the fig tree offer a gentle remedy and are often a good alternative to chemical laxatives.
Figs: the fruit to treat constipation
Children occasionally experience constipation. Adults often become constipated when they are under stress or during prolonged periods of bed rest. Constipation also occurs more frequently during pregnancy. Problems with bowel movements can also be caused by changes in a person’s environment, daily habits, or diet: one example is travel-related constipation. Figs serve as a mild remedy to help children and adults (including women, who are pregnant) get their bowels moving again.
Combination products containing fig
Fig extract can be combined with sorbitol. Both are mild laxatives that can also be given to children aged six and older. Products such as pursana® fig syrup, which contains fig and sorbitol, also work as stool softeners (for example when a person has haemorrhoids). zeller feigen mit Senna coated tablets and zeller feigen mit Senna Sirup contain combinations of fig and senna fruit. The two ingredients complement each other perfectly to soften the stool and stimulate digestion.
Please note: Herbal remedies may also have interactions and side effects. Please read the package insert and talk to your doctor or pharmacist if you require further information.