Chapter from Healing Plants of the Bible
Chapter from Thirty Plants that Can Save Your Life
Chapter from Healing Plants of the Bible
Genesis 3:6-7 so when the women saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked, and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves aprons.
Song of Solomon 2:11
For lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone. The flowers appear on the earth, the time of singing is come, and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land. The fig tree puts forth its figs.
Matthew 24:32 From the fig tree learn its lesson, as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near.
Judges 9: 10-11
I Samuel 25:18,30:12
I Kings 4:25
II Kings 20:7
I Chronicles 12:40
The fig gets mentioned 52 times in the Bible. If you have ever seen a fig tree covered with fruit you will understand why this is so. The Fig tree produces an unbelievable quantity of sugar sweet, jelly blob like fruits. The fruits are 60% sugar and are so sugary they are likely to dry right on the tree. The Israelites had to work hard for their supper and the fig tree, like the date palm, handed them buckets and buckets of food with little or no care. The fig tree made their life easier.
If you have only eaten dried figs you may wonder why the Israelites were so taken with the fruit. Comparing a dried fig to the fresh is like comparing a raisin to a grape. There is no comparison. The plant and its fruit are nothing short of miraculous. The tree appears early in the Bible indicating that it was an early source of fruit. Most cultures, the Israelite included, felt the fig tree was dreamt up by God at about the same time he crafted man. It was one of the seven plants that blessed the land given by God to the Israelites. The fig was one of the rewards the Israelites received for leaving Egypt on the basis of faith and for having trudged the desert on the same basis. There is a pay off for having faith, in the Bible the fig is an example of this.
In the modern world we have become so accustomed to bright colours and loud music that often times the softer, more subtle messages go unnoticed. Our senses have been blown away by ever stronger advertising campaigns. One of the nice things about learning about the plants of the Bible is it gives us the opportunity to become un-jaded and gives us the chance to re-awaken our fine senses. We have the chance to slow down, quiet down, and listen to some non-day-glo transmissions.
The fig is a good example of a quiet message of inspiration. The Israelites left Egypt on a wing and a prayer. They had to walk through a nasty and barren desert. They got a pay off for having faith, and it was a sweet fruit. This is a powerful message and one that should encourage us all. However, in order to hear this message you have to change your perspective. In the modern world you can buy fresh figs at the market and indeed anything else you care to eat. With this perspective, the messages of the Bible go right over your head. You have to tune into the idea that food in days gone by was a big deal and that a plant that made you food with little of your own effort was a bigger deal.
Getting back to figs and the ancient world, dried figs have been found in a neolithic age archaeological site dating to 5000 BC. The location of the dig was near the ancient city of Gezer on the western slopes of Judean mountains. I suspect they were a little hard, but their presence indicates how long the plant was cultivated by the Israelites. It is mentioned 70 times in the Talmud, another example of how important the tree was to the Israelites. Some scholars feel that the honey in “the land of milk and honey” actually refers to figs as the Israelites made a sweet syrup out of them by boiling them down with water.
Figs were grown in ancient Egypt and in every other ancient nation around the Mediterranean. The plant is thought to be native to the Caspian sea and Turkey, we are talking about a local plant rather than an import item. In the musings of the prophets, heaven was seen as a place where every man could have his own fig tree.
The Hebrew word for fig is teenah and a fig tree was considered to be an essential item for every household to possess, rather like the car today. In ancient Middle Eastern culture, there were interesting ideas as to what the high life was. To the Israelites, having a fig tree was the goal. Today, the goal is to have two cars in the garage and two kids in a private schools. In yesteryear, it was to have one simple, but glorious plant.
In Micah 4:4 you can read Micah’s promise of paradise in times to come, “and they will actually sit, each one under his vine and under his fig tree, and there will be no one making them tremble”. So Micah promises days will come when everyone will have our their own fig and vine and no one will make people frightened. This sounds pretty good to me, but then again, I love to garden and I find the modern world a scary place at times.
The Egyptian, Israelite, Greek, and Roman physicians felt that if you ate the fig, power and strength was conveyed. From the earliest date, ancient athletes and soldiers were fed figs to strengthen their performance in the games and on the battle field.
The Bible does not suggest many of the healing uses of the fig save a major reference to it being used to cure cancer. In II Kings 20:1-8, King Hezekiah was saved by a fig. “In those days Hezekiah got sick to the point of dying. According to Isaiah, the son of Amoz the prophet came in to him and said to him: this is what god has said, give commands to your household, for you yourself will indeed die and will not live. At that time he turned his face to the wall and began to pray to god saying I beseech you, oh god, remember please how I have walked before you in truthfulness and with a complete heart and what was good in your eyes I have done. And Hezekiah began to weep profusely. And it came about that Isaiah himself had not yet gone out to the middle court when gods word itself came to him saying, go back and you must say to Hezekiah the leader of my people, this is what Jehovah, the god of david your forefather has said, I have heard your prayer, I have seen your tears. Here I am healing you. On the third day you will go up to the house of god.
And I shall certainly add 15 years to your days, and out of the plan of the king of assyria I shall deliver you and this city, and I will defend this city for my own sake and for the sake of david my servant.
And Isaiah went on to say, you men, take a cake of pressed dried figs. So they took and put it upon the boil after which he gradually revived.”
So there you have it. Hezekiah was healed of some sort of cancer by a pile of figs. We will continue with the history of the fig, though eventually we will come back to the use of the fig treating cancer. Suffice it to say, the fig was a smart choice in King Hezekiah’s case.
Many of the quotes in the Bible dealing with this plant are quite interesting in nature. In the book of Samuel we read that Abigail sent a gift of two hundred cakes of figs to King David as a tool of endearment. In I chronicles 27:28, we see that King David thought the fig so important he had a man assigned to keep on eye on his crop. The Egyptians paid and paid again for making a mockery of the Israelite God and one of the many harsh blows meted out to them was an early frost that ripped through the fig orchards destroying their crop. (Psalms 78:47) When the biblical prophets wanted to threaten the Israelites, how did they do it? They said, keep that up and the fig and grape crops will be cursed.
There is a lot of myth attached to the fig tree on the biblical front, not least of which is that the fruit of knowledge, the ruin of Eve, was really a fig. This makes sense as the fig tree is one of the most ancient fruits and one that was likely around when Eve took that fateful bite. If she was eating from the tree, the leaves would have been quite handy and large enough to be used for private coverage after her mistake. Other legends hold that Judas hung himself on a fig tree. Fig trees in the United States don’t get big enough for hanging, but in its native range they can reach great heights, more than ample for the occasional rope trick. Mary, mother of Jesus, is said to have found refuge in a fig tree while she was being pursued by Kind Herod. The legend holds that a fig tree opened its trunk and the virgin mother and son hid out until the coast was clear.
The fig tree can be found growing all over the world today, its spread from its native land started long before the written record. By the time the Bible was written it had spread well into Africa, India and China. In 812 AD Charlemagne ordered it be planted in central Europe, a curious order. It seems it was already there having spread as far as England with the help of the Romans prior to the day of Charlemagne.
The Israelites were not the only Mediterranean folk to spin myths around this blessed tree. The plant was so important to all ancient people that it was frequently associated with gods. In Greek mythology there is a host of myths attached to the creation of the fig tree. One says that Lucian was transformed into a fig tree by Rhea, mother of all the gods. Another says that Demeter brought the first fig tree to Greece. Yet another says that the fig tree sprung up where a thunderbolt of Jupiter hit the ground. Still other suggests that Dionysius Sycetes introduced the fig tree. It seems the fig tree was so popular in Greece they had not one, but four theories as to its creation.
The Roman god of the wine, Bachus, is also reported to have created the fig tree for his own pleasure. Roman mythology holds that the cradle holding Romulus and Remus,the founders of Rome, was floating down the river Tiber, when it got snagged on a fig branch. The fig tree saved the twins from drowning and thus was sacred to the Romans. The Romans thought the fig to be sacred and at Bachnalian feasts women wore necklaces of strung figs and men carried phalluses carved of fig wood. (29 BC-325 AD)
In much of the modern world the fig is seen as a laxative and that is about the extent of its perceived medicinal value. Its true that it will get the bowels rocking if eaten in large quantities. The ancient physicians of Egypt, Greece, and Rome felt there was much more to it than that. King Mithrydates, living in 1551 B.C., said that figs were the key to sound and strong health. Pliny, an herbalist writing in the first century AD said this of it, “Figs are restorative, and the best food that can be taken by those who are brought low by long sickness . . . professed wrestlers and champions were in times past fed with figs.” Atheneus, Columella, and Macrobius spoke similar words of the biblical star fruit.
In ancient medicine figs were used internally and externally. Internally there were thought to improve the general vitality and get the digestion under control and strong. We have already seen that they were used to treat skin cancer, though the external use does not stop there. They were used to treat a wide variety of skin conditions. Leprosy, skin cancer, boils, acne, you name it, the fig was ground and applied as healing medicine.
The ancient physicians may not have had a name for skin cancer, but they knew what it looked like, and they knew it needed to be removed. As such, they applied fig sap to the dangerous looking skin growths, and found that with its application, the offensive growth would disappear. What they probably didn’t know was that there are chemicals in the sap and the fruit of the fig that selectively attack cancer cells!
Maimonides was fond of the fig as medicine and was of the mind that it was perfect medicine for the elderly. Older people can have trouble moving their bowels and a plate of figs assists the process greatly. Maimonides said this, “Food for the elderly in the summer should include fresh figs that have already ripened. One should be careful to avoid other fruits. In the winter one should give them dry figs.” Though figs were given to the elderly for their bowels, they were also given as a stimulant to counteract the effects of aging. Maimonides goes on to say that it can help a person survive a poisoning, “Dried figs, if eaten together with the nut and rue before the ingestion of a fatal poison help the patient and protects him from its harm.”
Gerard got a lot of his information from the classical physicians and he offers a fair list of how they used the plant.
Expectorant: “Figs be good for the throat and lungs, they mitigate the cough, and are good for them that be shortwinded. They ripen flegme, causing the same to be easily spit out, especially when they be sodden with Hyssop, and the decoction drunke.”
Infection preventer: “Figs stamped with sale, rew, and the kernels of nuts withstand all poyson and corruption of the air. The King of Pontus, called Mithridates, used this preservative against all venom and poison.”
Tumor remover and skin healer: “Figs stamped and made into the form of a plaster with wheat meal, the powder of fenugreek, and linseed, and the roots of marsh Mallowes, applied warm, do soften and ripen impostumes, phlegmons, all hot and angry swellings and tumors behind the ears, and if you add thereto the roots of Lilies, it ripeneth and breaketh Venerious impostumes that come into the flanke, which impostume is called Bubo, by reason of his lurking in such secret places. Dry figs have power to soften, consume, and make thinne, and may be used both outwardly and inwardly, whether it be to ripen or soften impostumes, or to scatter, dissolve, and consume them.”
Wart remover: “The milky juice either of the figs or leaves is good against all roughness of the skin, lepries, spreading fores, tetters, small pockes, measels, pushes, sheales, freckles, lentils, and all other spots, scuruinesse, and deformitie of the body and face, being mixed with barley meal and applied: it doth also take away warts and such like excrescences, if it be mingled with some fattie or greassie thing.”
Haemorrhoid cure and laxative: “It openeth the veins of the haemorrhoids, and looseneth the belly, being applied to the fundament.”
Diuretic and kidney stone dissolver: “The green and ripe figs are good for those that be troubled with the stone of the kidneys, for they make the conduits slipperie, and open them, and do also somewhat cleanse: whereupon after the eating of the same, it happeneth that much gravel and sand is conveyed forth.”
Researchers became interested in the folk use of figs for cancer and took to the lab to find out if there was anything to its reputation. Scientists at the Institute of Physical and Chemical Research at the Mitsubishi-Kasei Institute of Life Sciences in Tokyo looked into the matter and discovered that people were wise to use figs in cancer. They isolated the active chemicals in the fig and have treated patients with these fig derived substances. In research with mice, they discovered that tumors injected with fig extracts shrunk down by 40%. So it seems Isaiah knew the right plant to apply to the good King to keep him around for those extra 15 years.
I will make an admission to my readers at this point. I love the fig and have over two hundred different fig varieties in my garden in Washington DC. I mention this as I have some experience with figs and skin. Fig trees are funny to prune because as soon as you cut into them a white sap comes exploding out at you. Normally I prune in the winter so the sap has gone down and this is not a problem. But, one summer I was doing a chop job on the figs and sap dropped all over my legs. The next morning I woke up with what looked like leprosy. I went to my doctor and was told I had contact dermatitis, fancy talk for a rash. The sap almost melted the skin that it touched. This is important as figs have been long used to remove warts and other growths. It seems the sap works like the liquid nitrogen used by modern dermatologists to remove warts and other skin growths.
Joseph Nasr is familiar with the fig, Lebanon is famous for its high quality figs. “In Lebanon we eat a lot of figs, they are one of the preferred fruits. They act as a gentle laxative. The dried fruits are also used in medicine, in this case to treat coughs. Many cough syrups are made with dried figs. They are boiled down with water,and the liquid is strained and used as a base for cough syrup.”
The fig is best used as a laxative, a cough remedy and health stimulant. As a laxative all one needs do is eat four before bed. Some people have a tendency towards constipation and the regular eating of figs should take care of the problem. Beyond this, figs are good for general well being and should be eaten on a regular basis. There are worse herbal medicines to take and bearing in mind all that the fig does for you, it is well worth the effort.
Chapter from Thirty Plants That Can Save Your Life
Much like our other tonic plants, the fig has been taken as far and wide as has the fig tree, and people have carried this plant around the globe for a variety of reasons. They like to eat it, and they find it makes the whole body feel better. This is the original world traveler. For centuries figs have been recommended to treat cancer, constipation, scurvy, hemorrhoids, gangrene, liver conditions, boils, and eruptions, and to restore energy and vitality.
The fig tree is native to Asia Minor and Syria , extending into Africa and Oriental countries, the Mediterranean Islands , and elsewhere. It is now cultivated in the temperate countries of the entire world. The fig leaf has a well established myth. Adam and Eve supposedly covered their secret parts with leaves torn from the tree. Though a quaint myth, fig sap is exuded from leaves when pulled from the tree, and copiously exuded at that. This sap is an extreme irritant and causes blistering, so it is unlikely that the troubled pair doned fig tree outfits more than once.
The fig tree being held in religions is a very old happening, it may have been one of the first fruits cultivated, and it is such an amazing tree it is easy to see how it could get all caught up in mysticism. Most Americans only know of the fig tree as the active ingrediant in fig newtons, which from a health perspective is as good a manner as any to take in this life supplementing plant. However, from an aesthetic level, you haven’t lived until you have eaten a fresh fig, ripping it from the tree, and plopping it in your mouth. Nothing compares to it, the moment the fig hits your mouth your head says this is ambrosia, food of the gods. It is not your run of the mill fruit, so exceptional that it is easy to understand why most cultures feel it to be divinely inspired.
Our starting off point is going to have to be the Bible. I don’t want you to get me wrong, I am not Bible thumper, but it is a piece of literature that has changed the world. Whether for better or worse, we can let the historians debate. But for those of us searching the stacks for hints of plants that might be preventative medicine, the Bible is a good place to start. It is a record of the plant used in the cradle of civilization. When a plant gets a mention in the Bible, it means that it was probably used for thousands of years before it ever got written down. The fig was the first plant mentioned by name in the Bible, and it gets mentioned fifty seven times, after its initial and first mention. Having picked through the Good Book in search of plant information, I have realized one thing, nothing happens in the Bible by accident, and it is no accident the fig is the first plant listed. The Hebrew word for fig is tena. By the by, some Biblical scholars do not feel the leaf worn as garment in the Garden of Eden was a fig leaf, and for reasons already listed, let’s hope not. Along with the date, some scholars feel the fig is the tree of knowledge mentioned in the Garden of Eden. In Samuel it is noted that Abigail somewhere around the year 1066 b.c. sent King David a little present of two hundred cakes of figs.
This was her way of saying, “Hello there sailor.”
The fig grew extensively in the Middle East at the time the Bible was put down on paper, as it is now. In the Bible the notion of happiness being every man having his own orchard with a fig tree in one corner. The custom of planting a fig tree in the corner of the orchard is mentioned in Luke, and a trip to the sandy lands will find that the same is continued to this day. The author would argue that heaven on earth is attainable. Sitting under a huge fig tree, protected from the hot sun, eating luscious fruits that are up to 70 percent sugar, with the birds cheeping overhead, this is heaven.
The medicinal use of figs is almost as ancient as the plant itself. The Old Testament tells of an Israelite king, Hezekiah, who was “sick unto death,” from “a boil,” which was probably a cancerous growth. Isaiah called for “a lump of figs.” The King recovered. Let’s take a closer look.
In the Bible, the fig is one of the plants mentioned being used in healing, in Kings II, 20:7.
The back drop is that King Hezekiah has cancer, and is not doing well at all. The prophet Isaiah drops by for a little visit.
“And the prophet Isaiah the son of Amoz came to him, and said unto him, thus saith the Lord, set thine house in order: for thou shalt die, and not live.”
Thanks for the encouraging get well visit, Isaiah. Rather upset by his visit’s cherry news, Hezekiah starts wailing:
“I beseech thee Lord, remember now how I have walked before thee in truth and with a perfect heart, and have done that which is good in thy sight.”
And Hezekiah sat down for a good old boo hoo session. The Lord heard the boo-hooing, checked his records, and sent a change of destiny slip down to bookkeeping. The change was processed and low and behold:
“And Isaiah said, take a lump of figs. And they took and laid it on the boil, and he recovered.”
The prophet heals King Hezekiah of a cancerous condition using nothing but the fig. The reference is so strong it has to raise some questions. We will talk about its use in cancer therapy at a later time, but make a note that figs have been proven to be an effective treatment for cancer.
In the Bible the Children of Israel are continually threatened and rewarded with mentions of the fig. If they act nice, their figs will do well, and if they act badly, their figs trees will die. The importance here is just how important the fig tree was to the people. God didn’t threaten them with stories of their petunias dying. He went for the gusto, for the plant that kept them alive, the fig tree.
Not wanting to be left out, the early church jumped in on the fig legend. The story goes that Mary, when being chased by King Herod’s men, at the point of being taken, was standing by a fig tree. The fig tree opened itself up, Mary stepped in, the tree closed up, and kept her hidden until they had passed. Later Judas is said to have hung himself on the limb of a fig tree. Once again, the fig was an important tree to the people. They knew something was special about it. And we think it is just the ingrediant in fig newtons.
The fig and Arabians have something in common, they both live in the same place. As such they are used by their people for food and medicine. The ancient Egyptian king Mithrydates in 1551 b.c. proclaimed figs a health tonic and the fig is repeatedly mentioned in the Arabian Nights, a hint of the pleasure derived from the plant by that culture. Their medicinal uses look something like this:
- Leaves for treatment of eyes, red and painful conjunctiva are rubbed with the leaves and then subjected to a bath of rose water in which pounded bitter almonds were soaked. Apparently the leaves with their hairy texture well clean the eye lids.
- Dry pounded leaves mixed with honey cures white leprosy
- Decoction of leaves erases freckles
- Wood and fruits used in preparation of anti-poison medication
- Said to be diuretic, emollient, laxative
- Fermented fruits are made into a liquor, flavored by anise, that is said to be a most excellent tonic
- The dried fruit is cooked and taken every morning with olive oil for hemorrhoids
Most notably the Arabians see the fig as incredibly strengthening to the body, building stamina and vigor. Symptom of virility being producing lots of children, which the fig is reported to make happen, so if big families are not it for you, better take precautions.
Though its homeland is said to be the cradle of civilization, the fig slowly spread as travel in the ancient world increased. The fig was an instant hit in Rome and by the year 23 a.d. Pliny, the Roman naturalist, was writing about the health giving properties of the fig. “Figs are restorative, and the best food that can be taken by those who are brought low by long sickness”.
The life of a gladiator was one where winning was a priority, loosing meant death, and under the circumstances the professional athletes of the day took every element of their personal fitness regime real seriously. Pliny noted that these ancient sport warriors were fed a diet of figs to bring on incredible strength and stamina. Hey, if they were good enough for the gladiators, they are good enough for me.
In classical mythology Luceus was transformed into a fig tree by Rhea, the mother of the gods. In another story, the fig was said to have been created by Bacchus, the god of wine and party. Romulus and Remus when floating down the river in their cradle got snagged up in the roots of a fig tree, and it was in that spot that the she wolf that raised them discovered them cold and hungry. This site is the very site that Rome was said to have been built on and as such, the fig was a sacred item to the Romans.
Of course the Romans had their own special way of showing respect for things, and during the empire days, 29 b.c. through 395 a.d., figs were used as party favors given and carried by guests at social functions. It seems the women would wear necklaces made of figs, edible panties of days gone by, and the men carried penis sculptures carved out of fig wood. This tells you something about what the Romans thought of the fig. It filled you with vitality or power, in all areas, including the bedroom.
The history of the fig doesn’t end with the Romans. Charlemagne, in 812, ordered its cultivation in central Europe, and in the reign of Henry VIII fig trees still standing in the garden of Lambeth Palace were brought to England, though the fig was unquestionably cultivated in England before that date. The fig doesn’t do well in England as it doesn’t get the hot summer days that are required to fill the fruit with the sugar it is famous for, but the dried fruit made its way into England very early in history.
Today we see food and medicine as two separate items, in days gone by they were one and the same. I was talking to an African American herbalist the other day, and she made an excellent point that we don’t seem to remember, you are what you eat. If you eat powerful foods, like the fig, you become powerful. If you eat dead foods like chips and french onion dip, you become dead. Pretty simple if you ask me. In Gerard’s text we see a listing of the virtues carried by this food:
“Figs be good for the throat and lungs, they mitigate the cough, and are good for them that be shortwinded. They ripen flegme, causing the same to be easily spit out, especially when they be sodden with Hyssop, and the decoction drunke.
“Figs stamped with sale, rew, and the kernels of nuts withstand all poyson and corruption of the air. The King of Pontus, called Mithridates, used this preseruative against all venom and poison.
“Figs stamped and made into the form of a plaster with wheat meal, the powder of fenugreek, and linseed, and the roots of marsh mallowes, applied warm, do soften and ripen imposumes, phlegmons, all hot and angry swellings and tumors behind the ears, and if you add thereto the roots of lilies, it ripeneth and breaketh venerious impostumes that come in the flanke, which impostume is valled Bubo, by reason of his lurking in such secret places”: in plain English terms they are called blotches.
“Dry figs have power to soften, consume, and make thine, and may be used both outwardly and inwardly, whether it be to ripen or soften impostumes, or to scatter, dissolve, and consume them.
“The milky juice either of the figs or leaves is good against all roughness of the skin, lepries, spreading fores, tetters, small pockes, measels, pushes, sheales, freckles, lentils, and all other spots, scuruinesse, and deformitie of the body and face, being mixed with barley meal and applied: it doth also take away warts and such like excrescences, if it be mingled with some fattie or great thing.
“The milk doth also cure the toothache, if a little lint or cotton be wet therein, and put into the hollowness of the tooth.
“It openeth the veins of the hemorrhoids, and looseneth the belly, being applied to the fundament.
“The green and ripe figs are good for those that be troubled with the stone of the kidneys, for they make the conduits slipperie, and open them, and do also somewhat cleanse: whereupon after the eating of the same, it happeneth that much gravel and sand is conveyed forth.
“Dry or barrel figs, called in Latin Carica, are a remedy for the belly, the cough, and for old infirmities of the chest and lungs: they scoure the kidneys, and cleanse forth the sand, they mitigate the pain of the bladder, and cause women with child to have the easier deliverance, if they feed thereof for certain dayes togeterh before their time.
“It bringeth down the menses, if it be applied with the yolk of an egg or with yellow wax.”
I think Gerard summed it all up when he said, it preserves us from all pestilence. This is old English for, it keeps you well. Getting back to my favorite topic, bathroom talk, Gerard along with the rest of the world, felt that figs cleaned you out of all bad things. If you have ever eaten one too many figs, you know exactly what he meant. But this cleaning out process is a wonderful, note I didn’t say pleasant, thing. As we get all the garbage out of our system, the immunity functions don’t have to work so hard, and can focus on killing the little bugers that enter into our bodies and cause problems, like bacteria that take us out of the game for a week at a time.
As the Spanish and the English started their colonial efforts, they brought with them articles of necessity and their favorite plants. The fig’s history in the Americas is complicated, but their use as a health giving plant consistent. The first figs were brought by the Spaniards, and were planted in South and Central America , Mexico , Texas and California . The English brought figs and planted them in the Southern United States, along with the French planting French varieties in the French territory of Louisiana .
On the Anglican side of things in America , the most notable report is that Aaron Burr once had a swollen jaw, disfiguring pimples, and infected skin boils. He applied a poultice of figs and by morning the swelling had reputedly gone down. This is quite in keeping with the English people’s use of it in southern colonial America for skin treatments. The Southerners used figs to treat boils, sores, pulmonary and kidney infections, as a laxative, and also as a general tonic for strong health.
To this day, in the Low Country, otherwise known as the South Carolina swamps, fig sap is applied to ring worm and the leaves are smoked to relieve asthma. In the days when gentlemen sat on the porch with mint julep in hand for a little smoke, the pipe stems were frequently made of sapling fig branches. Quite typically, the figs themselves were used to keep you regular and was used in a syrup for bronchitis.
Down Louisiana way the Creoles also apply fig tree sap to treat ringworm and also insanity. The hoodoo doctors suggest putting a fig and oak leaf in the shoe, the fig leaf is recommended to be taken from a tree that has yet to produce fruit. The hoodoo doctors suggest taking the stem off both leaves so they don’t extend out of the shoe, lest people know that you are being treated for madness.
Higos as they are called in New Mexico , are also used to treat asthma, the inhabitants of that region suggest smoking the substance vigorously and inhaling deeply, holding the smoke for as long as is possible. A smooth smoke figs leaves would not be, but the New Mexican grandmothers agree, this will take care of asthma.
They also recommend a split fig placed on a reptured navel of a newborn baby.
The same mission fathers that planted the fig in the American southwest planted them in and around South America and the fig factors heavily into Latin home curing. In the Islands a tea made of the dried leaves is used to treat diabetes. In Cuba , Curacao , Venezuela and Columbia , the leaf decoction is strained through a cloth and taken as a remedy for colds and chest afflictions. Like the New Mexicans, the Venezuelans believe smoking the leaves will relieve asthma. In Cuba figs are steeped in wine to treat whooping cough, and the Mexicans find putting some fig sap into a cavity will take the pain and the infection away. Throughout the Latin world roasted figs are seen as key medicine for any sort of chest ailment, and as a killer body tonic. The sap is also used to clean utensils, a cough medicine and a household cleanser all in one bush. Who needs the drug store anyway?
In China , the fig is used to treat stomachs that are acting up and for people in a state of declining health. Like the Arabians, the Chinese use the fig to treat hemorrhoids, but they don’t eat them, they steam the leaves and apply them to the source of discomfort. The Indians use the fruit of the plant as a body builder, stating the fruit can be 60 to 70 percent grape sugar when ripe, a food readily absorbed by the body. They also use the fig mashed to a pulp to treat skin conditions of all sorts.
As much as I hate to get graphic for your sake, the power of the fig to improve health and vigor may be due to its ability to get the body eliminating properly. Going to the bathroom, something nobody likes to talk about, is an important part of remaining healthy. Regular movements of the bowel and the bladder are the body’s way of getting the bad stuff out of the body, stuff that is toxic to the cells. Going to the bathroom is an important action, and it should be regular. The fig is considered supreme in getting you cleaned out, which, though no one likes to point the fact out, is important.
Now let’s get to the cancer facts I mentioned a little earlier, it would seem Japanese scientists at the Institute of Physical and Chemical Research at the Mitsubishi-Kasei Institute of Life Sciences in Tokyo looked into the cancer claims held up in the Bible, and by people that have access to the fruit. They found a chemical included in the fig that does, in fact, treat cancer patients. In a nutshell, the Japanese implanted cancer cells into mice, then injected the sites with fig extracts. The cancer tumors shrunk, down by a third. The substance, benzaldehyde, was then tested on other cancer patients with wonderful success. It seems Isaiah knew what he was doing.
Today, the closest most of us get to a fig is in a cookie I am not going to mention by name, but here is a hint. Fig n____n. And if this is how you get your saving dose of the fig, more power to you. There is no bad way to take this fruit into the body. With its track record, we should all make this one a daily routine. The really exciting part is that a fresh fig is the most wonderful fruit in the world, one that has been described as the food of the gods, for good reason. If you haven’t tasted a fresh fig from the tree, and I mean one you grow yourself, you have missed one of the greatest pleasures in life. Even the fresh ones at the market don’t compare as the fig gets its sugar in the last days on the tree, and they also turn into a blob of mush, making it impossible to pick and ship. As such, they are picked before ripe, which in my mind defeats the point.
So grow it yourself. I was told when I moved to Washington , D.C. it was too cold to grow figs, I now have 250 different varieties thriving in my backyard. If it’s too cold in your area, plant the fig in a pot and bring it into the basement for the cold of winter. Figs have to be brought in during the winter in areas north of the Mason-Dixon line . You can start your own fig tree with a branch of somebody else’s, or order a rooted tree from one of the many mail order houses that deal in them.