Here we have an impressive collection of old folk remedies using figs – the fruit, juice, milk (sap), and/or leaves – to cure everything from diseases of the breast to open wounds. As with all old remedies and cures, some actually work really well, others are ineffective and harmless, while some are downright dangerous. So, use common sense before trying any of these.
In General: Fig milk (or sap) is so commonly prescribed for ringworm, skin irritations, warts, and insect bites, that I think it must have some healing effect although wikipedia warns that the sap of the fig’s green parts is an irritant to human skin. Figs (made into syrups or decoctions) are universally popular when it comes to treating coughs, colds, and and upper respiratory problems. Figs also appear to have a soothing effect on the teeth and gums. Possibly it has a drawing effect, pulling out the infection thus reducing the inflammation.
Abscess: A poultice made of barley meal or flour boiled in vinegar and honey, and a few dry figs put in them, dissolved all hard imposthumes (a collection of pus or abscess). Onion and figs beaten together help to ripen and break… sores (abcesses).
Angina: Anthimus (5th century Greek physician) employed fig emulsion in cases of angina.
Baldness: Two yolks of egg are added to powdered dry fig leaves. This paste is put onto the hair. It cures baldness and dandruff.
Bee stings: To avoid being stung by a bee, eat one dry fig on the first of May.
Birthmarks: To remove a birthmark, place an opened-up fig on the mark.
Bite of a mad dog: (This one is very old, and wierd – I wouldn’t try it) For tear of mad hound, take the worms which be under a mad hounds tongue, snip them away, lead them round about a fig tree, give them to him who hath been rent; he will be soon hole.
Bloody flux: The decoction of fig leaves, being drunk, is good for the bloody flux.
Boils and furuncles: Put fresh figs on boils to draw out the poison. That is definitely the truth. It works. Alternatively, for a boil, use white foam from stem of a fig tree, rubbed on the boil. And if you want to get really complicated you can always make a poultice of honey, malt, eldershoots, figs, parsley, cabbage and groundsel (also urine and cow dung can be added if you are so inclined).
Breast problems: A syrup made of the leaves or green fruit of the fig tree is good for all diseases of the breast.
Breastfeeding (agalactia): A mother may warm herself with firewood from a fig tree to speed the drying up of her milk.
Cancer: If you have a cancer, eat plenty of figs.
Cure for Cancer: Boil turkey figs in milk and let them thicken. When they are tender, split and apply them to part affected. The part must be washed every time the poultice is changed with some of the fig milk. Change to a fresh poultice every night and every morning, and at least once during the day. Drink a quarter of a pint of the fig milk twice in 24 hours. Repeat for three or four months. [This item found written in a neighbor’s old Home Book of Health, where she had inserted it, handwritten, on the inside front cover. She claims a man of 105 years of age had been cured of “mouth cancer, with six pounds of figs.” ] Here’s another report of a cancer cure from long ago – Cancer is cured by one doctor by cutting away the growth and binding on green figs with other herbs.
Canker under the tongue: Figs (Hippocrates VII-49).
Chest ailments: Cooked figs are taken for chest ailments. In the East figs are boiled in milk or barley water and used for pains in the chest.
Chilblains: The ashes of the wood of the fig tree, made into an ointment with hog’s grease, helps chilblains.
Childbirth, delivery, labor: Figs should be eaten before childbed so that the delivery will be easier.
Colds: The liquid of boiled toast, figs, oregano and rosemary is good for colds.
Constipation: Eat figs. See also Laxatives.
Consumption: Liquorice boiled in fair water, with some maidenhair and figs, is good for consumption. From London, 1737 comes ‘an infallible cure for the galloping consumption . . . And if this will not cure you, the Lord have mercy upon you” (a mixture of raisins, figs, honey, Lucatellus’s balsam, powder of steel, flour of elecampane, grated nutmeg, and sugar).
Corns: Rubbing the corn with fresh cut garlic or the juice of figs was said to work well.
Cough: Boil up a decoction of dried figs and drink it. In the East figs are boiled in milk or barley water and used for coughs. In Siberia yellow figs are boiled in milk to cure a cough. For a chronic cough boil hyssop with honey and figs in a half measure of wine.
Cough syrup: Mash mustard seed in a cupful of stewed figs, add a little water, cook, strain, and drink when needed. Here’s another cough syrup recipe – Boil one pound of figs, one pound of dates, one pound of sage, four quarts of water until one quart remains, bottle and keep for use.
Cough medicine: 3 lemons; 1/2 cup flax seed; handful mullein leaves or boneset. Boil for three hours in 2 quarts of water; strain and add honey, 1/2 pint, and 1 pound sugar and 1 pound figs boiled in wild flax seed. Can boil the boneset in a cloth.
Dandruff: Two yolks of egg are added to powdered dry fig leaves. This paste is put onto the hair. It cures baldness and dandruff.
Deafness: Dry mustard mixed with oil on a fig leaf, applied to the ears is a good remedy for hardness of hearing. The juice of the fig eases pain and noise in the ears and deafness.
Diarrhea: To stop diarrhea use decoctions of the flower of the Indian fig. To cure diarrhea, include the use of Chinese figs and sardines in your diet.
Dropsy: Fig; an excellent food, an invaluable aid in all complains of the liver, also for dropsy, scurvy, etc.
Eczema: Use the milk from fig leaves for eczema.
Epilepsy: A syrup made of the leaves or green fruit of the fig tree is good for falling sickness.
Eye ailments: In Palestine, for eye diseases, the eyelids are rubbed with a figleaf.
Fertility: In early Roman times, switches from the (male) wild fig tree were used by women to lash one another ceremonially, the fig being believed to impart its fruitfulness to the woman struck.
Fever: (I like this one.) Figs in brandy, drunk in morning.
Gums: To cure a gum boil, take a thin strip of dried fig, dip it in milk, toast it, then apply it hot to the swollen gum.
Headache: The decoction of fig leaves is good to wash sore heads with.
Hemorrhoids: Fig leaves were once used to massage afflicted area. When you want them to come down, rub the orifice with powdered fig leaves. Wild fig carried on body or sewn into clothing prevents hemorrhoids. Figs should be eaten to cure hemorrhoids, according to the Prophet. See also Piles.
Hoarseness: A syrup made of the leaves or green fruit of the fig tree is good for hoarseness.
Illness prevention: After putting 3 leaves in a small cut made in a fig tree, no one will ever become ill under the shade of that tree.
Indigestion: A few drops of sap from a fig tree pounded and squeezed through a piece of cloth when mixed with water will stop indigestion.
Inflammation: A poultice made of barley-meal or flour boiled in vinegar and honey, and a few dry figs put in them, dissolves all assuages inflammations being thereto applied.
Jaundice: Go to a fig tree when all the fruit is ripe, put one’s arms around the trunk, bite off a piece of bark, and eat two inches of it.
Laxatives: Equal amounts of chopped raisins, figs, and senna leaves. Add honey to make into small balls and roll in sugar. (These are delicious but potent.)
Leprosy: There is no better remedy for the leprosy than the decoction of fig leaves.
Liver problems: Fig; an excellent food, an invaluable aid in all complains of the liver, also for dropsy, scurvy, etc. Here’s a somewhat cruel cure for liver aches involving a wolf fed on figs – Wolf’s liver wrapped in laurel leaves, dried in sun, unwrapped, pulverized, and stored in clean vessel. Administered: 2 spoonfuls with 10 crushed pepper seeds and honey on empty stomach as drink warmed up with piece of hot iron.
Lungs: Liquorice boiled in fair water, with some maidenhair and figs, is good for all the griefs of the breasts and lungs.
Menstruation: Wild figs and collected from a tree growing on rocks, dried or used fresh, wrapped into goat’s hide, tied together with a thread removed from clothing, and placed on bleeding organ checks effectively nose bleeding of the men and menstruation of women.
Mental ailments: To remove doubts, temptations and mental distractions, verses 15-17 of the third sura [of the Koran] should be read over a dish of sugar, the sugar is blown upon, and then melted in dew which has been collected from the leaves of trees. For four days on half-teaspoonful of this is taken as medicine along with figs, which should be the total diet for the time. The mind will be set free and all tasks will be made easy.
Mosquito bites: One should eat dried figs during the first days of May in order to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes in summer.
Mumps: For mumps, wrap your throat in fig leaves.
Nosebleed: Wild figs and collected from a tree growing on rocks, dried or used fresh, wrapped into goat’s hide, tied together with a thread removed from clothing and placed on bleeding organ checks effectively nose bleeding of the men and menstruation of women. Here’s something a lot easier – the skins of figs are used to stop nosebleeds.
Piles (hemorrhoids): A mixture of a pound of figs and an ounce of senna, an herb long known for its physicking qualities, when taken three times a day before meals, will relieve piles.
Pimples: Treated with juice squeezed from a fig leaf.
Peptic ulcer: Dried fig broken up and soaked in olive oil overnight, and then eaten.
Poison Oak: Hot water and the juice of a fig leaf will cure poison oak on the body.
Pregnancy: If you touch a fig leaf when you are pregnant, you will have a baby boy.
Purge: Garlic in a split fig is used as an effective purge.
Quartan fever: The patient grasps the branch of a fig tree and says. “Fig, little fig, I have a quartan fever; may it leave me and enter you.”
Quinsy: Hyssop is an excellent medicine for the quinsy, to wash and gargle it, being boiled with figs. Figs boiled in milk, and swallowed whole, will cure the quinsy.
Rheumatism: Milk of the fig tree rubbed on for rheumatism.
Ringworm: Fig Juice (Ficus). This is also reported as an Indian remedy. Apply the juice (or milk) from the bruised fig leaf directly to the ringworm. The juice from an unripe or green fig can also be applied. A poultice made from green fig leaves will cure ringworm. Alternatively, fig leaves and milk (ingested) is also said to be a cure.
Scabs: The decoction of fig leaves clears the body of scabs.
Scorpion bites: Apply fig juice.
Scurvy: Fig; an excellent food, an invaluable aid in all complains of the liver, also for dropsy, scurvy, etc.
Skin erruptions: Ox’s glue, thinned in vinegar, admixed, cooked on low fire until honey-like, stirred with fig twig. Applied as ointment 2 times daily. Effective remedy.
Snakebite: For a snake bite: first burn or cut out the wound, then wash it with seawater, then with lye and vinegar, and finally squeeze the juice of wild figs and onion onto it. To protect against snake bite one should eat three dried figs on the 3rd of May.
Sores: Onion and figs beaten together help to ripen and break… sores. (I assume this is applied as a poultice). For any suppuration (infected sore), a mixture of dried figs, yeast, bacon fat, salt and soap may be used.
Sore Throat: Cook figs in milk. Hold them in the mouth and then spew them out. Or you can drink water in which a fig leaf and an olive pit have been boiled. If you’re really desperate you could always try this – Dove dung, triturated (ground to a powder), mixed with dry figs and soda, triturated again and applied to throat. Or this ancient Egyptian cure – Centipedes bruised with pigeons’ dung were taken as a gargle with raisin wine or applied externally with dried figs and nitre.
Soul loss: A number of plants, including rice, a species of fig, and garlic, are supposed by the Battas to possess soul-compelling virtue and are used in rites for the recovery of lost souls.
Spleen: For an aching spleen here’s a speedy and “simple” remedy – 3 dry figs steeped in vinegar from evening till morning, removed. Administered mornings on empty stomach for 3 days. And in addition, 3 clots of hot iron pieces extinguished in wine daily for three days drunk. Alternatively, Hyssop being taken with figs and nitre, helps the spleen.
Stomach ailments: Hyssop taken with fresh new figs bruised, helps to loosen the belly, and more forcibly, if the root or flower-de-luce and cresses be added thereto.
Stye: In Styria figs are applied and the stye is stroked with a black snail.
Supernatural illness: It was customary in Silesia “to mix together figs, sweet wood, and carob” cure of koltun (a supernatural cause of illness). The mixture is not ingested, but acts as a lure and a trap because it is believed that “koltun likes to go after sweets.”
Toothache: For a toothache, hold figs in one’s mouth. Fried figs in milk are not to be beaten for the cure of a toothache. Fig juice being put into an hollow tooth, also is said to ease pain. To cure neuro-tooth aches, cook figs in hot milk and then put them between your teeth and the pain will go away. If all else fails, place hot bricks on the feet and apply fig tree sap to the tooth. Alternatively, a 16th century German physician advises against eating figs and dates to avoid toothache.
Ulcers (on the skin): If the decoction of fig leaves be dropped into old fretting ulcers, it cleanses out the moisture and brings up the flesh.
Warts: Use fig leaves. On a night when the moon is full, cut a fig from a tree. Put the juice of the fig on a wart, and the wart will go away. Alternatively, apply the juice of an unripe fig. The milky juice of the fig leaf is a wart remedy, although reportedly not as effective as spurge. Or you can cut off the top of the wart and apply fig juice.
Wheezing: Liquorice boiled in fair water, with some maidenhair and figs, helps wheezing.
Wounds: A fig cut open is placed on the wound. Wounds can also be treated with unsalted lard covered with a fig leaf.
Disclaimer: Most of these cures are very old, passed down through generations from a time when proper medical care was nonexistent – so please use common sense – and if medical attention is needed by all means visit your physician.
Source: UCLA Folk Medicine Database