Did you know that figs and fig leaves have been used as healing remedies for thousands of years?
For example, figs have been used as an anti-diabetes treatment , as there’s a possibility that a tea brewed from fig leaves can help to lower blood sugar levels after eating.
Or, figs work as an excellent laxative to help relieve constipation and improve digestive health.
Fig leaves also contain a potent sap that can deal with warts and skin tumors when applied directly, and it’s believed that they can help to deal with skin conditions like psoriasis, vitiligo, and eczema.
Now, thanks to more recent research, it looks like figs can also offer some pretty amazing antibacterial properties. Fig leaves may soon be a safe, new bacteria-killing remedy!
One study  examined the effects of fig leaf extract on oral health. Specifically, it looked at the effects fig leaves had on a type of bacteria common in the mouth after root canal treatments.
The bacteria, known as Enterococcus faecalis, is typically present in pulp and root canal infections that set in after a root canal treatment. They are often the cause behind the infection, or are there alongside whatever bacteria is causing the infection.
To date, the most common antibacterial agent used in root canal treatments is sodium hypochlorite. However, while sodium hypochlorite helps to kill off bacteria, it is toxic and unfortunately can cause damage to the sensitive tissue in your mouth. The purpose of this study was to determine if fig leaf extract would be a safe, non-damaging antibacterial alternative to replace sodium hypochlorite.
The study examined the “minimum bacterial concentration” of fig leaf extract, using it to test not only its effect on the E. faecalis bacteria responsible for the infections, but also on fibroblast cells to determine its toxicity.
A few different potencies and quantities of fig leaf extract were administered, and the researchers paid close attention to how they affected the healthy cells and bacteria. Fascinatingly, the fig leaf extract proved effective at killing off all bacteria at a concentration of just 50%. After applying the extract of this potency, the bacterial growth was nonexistent. However, cell viability was at 77.7%, which meant that the damage to healthy cells was much lower than with sodium hypochlorite.
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A second analysis  examined the chemical makeup of the fig fruits to determine what made them such a potent antibacterial remedy. The review of the figs was long and complex, but it highlights some pretty important compounds, including phenolic acids and flavonoids. The paper listed compounds like:
These are among the most important of the phytochemical compounds found in both fresh and dried figs. They have antioxidant properties and are known to be potent antibacterial agents. Interestingly enough, the level of antioxidants is determined by factors like the part of the fruit used, the color of the fruit, the drying process, and the fruit’s maturity.
For example, the darker the color, the higher the antioxidant levels in the figs. The skin tended to have significantly more antioxidants than the pulp, and the riper the figs, the higher the quantities of phenolic acids.
The study summed up its findings by stating, “Future efforts should be focused on the application of fig extracts as functional ingredients of food products, on clinical trials in order to confirm the beneficial effect of plant extracts in human health and, on the valorization of the waste material produced during figs' processing.”
Pretty amazing, isn’t it? That such a simple plant with such a delicious fruit could offer so many benefits! Figs and fig leaves both have their important properties, and they offer a lot of potential remedies and treatments for very real and modern health problems.
Of course, further research is needed in order to determine the full extent of the beneficial properties and effects of both figs and fig leaves. Only by collecting more scientific data will we be able to understand just how much benefits can be derived from all parts of the fig plant, including the fruit, the leaves, and even the latex sap from the leaves!
However, if you’re looking for an antibacterial superfood to add to your diet, you might want to give figs a try. Whether you opt for dried figs or you can find fresh figs in your local markets, they’re an amazing source of nutrients and potent antioxidants. As the science above indicates, you can seriously improve your oral health, combat harmful bacteria, and give your body the antioxidants it needs to stay healthy.
Definitely a good reason to include more figs into your daily fruit intake!
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