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Figs can inhibit the growth of harmful microbes in foods

Figs have anti-microbial properties and can inhibit the growth of harmful bacteria in foods. Advertisers have a notion about figs being a 'geriatric' fruit along with prunes, associated by the vast public as being eaten by older people, usually for laxative purposes, similar to the reputation that prunes have had for generations. Figs when eaten can inhibit the growth of bacteria, but what about fig leaves, often said to be toxic? Seems when not eaten, the fig leaves also have antimicrobial and antioxidant properties. See, "Evaluation of Antioxidant and Antimicrobial Activity of Ficus Carica Leaves." But eat the fig, not the leaves. Some people say that fig tree leaves make their hands red and itchy when they try to pick/twist the ripe figs from their backyard trees.

Figs can inhibit the growth of harmful microbes in foods.
Photo by Vince Caligiuri/Getty Images

Now that the fig season is in full bloom between summer and early autumn, most people who reject figs because they don't want to eat a fruit associated with older people the same as ads keep saying, "it's not your grandfather's (insert name of product or item). But why is something nasty if older people eat it for health? The reality about figs is that figs may inhibit growth and survival of harmful microbes in food. You also may wish to check out the PDF article from a 2010 study, "The Antibacterial Effect of Fig (Leaves Extract and Latex) on Enterococcus faecalis as intracanal Medicament. (An invitro study)." If you buy figs, you'll find at some stores, a small container of figs costs around $10 per pound.

Other recent studies of the past decade show that figs and figs extracts may be effective at inhibiting the survival and growth of harmful microbes in food. Researchers from North Carolina A&T State University presented their findings back on May 27, 2004 at the 104th General Meeting of the American Society for Microbiology .

For years, trees throughout Europe and the Mediterranean have been cultivated and fig extracts have been used to fight various ailments such as constipation, bronchitis, mouth disorders, warts, and wounds

Externally, they are found in the latex used in ridding patients of warts. In the research presented in 2004, Maysoun Salameh and colleagues examined the antimicrobial effect of figs extracts on the reduction and inhibition of microbial loads of the popular food contaminants, E.coli and Salmonella.

Figs were sliced and blended into liquid after which strains of E.coli and Salmonella were added to the solution. After an incubation period of up to twenty-four hours, results showed a reduction in bacterial growth. Control samples not treated with fig juice revealed an increase in bacteria.

"These findings can be utilized by the food industry in the future by adding figs extracts, its original and/or modified liquid form, to processed foods," says Salameh, according to the May 27, 2004 news release, Figs may inhibit growth and survival of harmful microbes in food. "Its active component can also be isolated into pure forms as natural food additives into many food products."

In a related study, another group of researchers from North Carolina A&T presented data illustrating the antimicrobial properties of guava extract and its potential use as an all natural food preservative. The presentation occurred at the 104th General Meeting of the American Society for Microbiology, May 23-27, 2004, in New Orleans, Louisiana. What's noteworthy is that people too often reject the foods eaten by older adults as 'geriatric' foods/fruits/vegetables, instead of heeding the wisdom of the aged with respect for centuries of folkloric use of figs for health, such as to help inhibit unwanted harmful bacteria in foods or as a health tonic food.