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. Find out more about the fig and its use for constipation in this article..
Occurrence and distribution of the fig tree
The genus of fig plants (ficus) includes around 1000 different species. These include common decorative plants, such as the ficus tree (Ficus benjamini L.). 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 L., Ficus aurea Nutt. (Florida strangler fig) and Ficus altissima (council tree).
But what is probably the best-known fig species is the common fig (Ficus carica L.), 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. The figs survive the winter there in protected locations, for example on house walls or in courtyards. The fruits of the fig tree are sold in their fresh and dried forms.
Appearance of figs
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 and effects of figs
Figs contain substances including ficine (enzymes), mucilage, various sugars and fruit acids, B vitamins as well as minerals such as calcium, phosphorus and iron. Due to their high content of indigestible fibres, the fruits are ideal for a high-fibre diet that prevents intestinal sluggishness. Figs and especially medicinal preparations from them (extracts, pastes) can be used to relieve constipation. The mucilage, fructose and fruit acids in figs result in a softer, smoother stool.
Figs as a medicinal product
Constipation is when you empty your bowels less than three times a week or when going to the toilet is associated with significant discomfort, such as pain when pressing or the feeling of incomplete emptying. The fruit of the fig tree can offer gentle support here. Fig fruits have long been known to aid digestion. The natural mucilage, fructose and fruit acid of fig fruits help produce soft and slippery stools and facilitate bowel movements.
For relief from 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. The fig can then act as a helper to get bowel movements going again.
This is general information. For individual advice, please contact a specialist.