Figs poisonous?

mijoMarch 16, 2007

Hello all,

I live in northern Spain (same zone as California) and have a lot of fig trees growing on my land. A friend came over and told me that burning fig wood is extremely poisonous, if you inhale the smoke (we were burning olive prunings at the time, hence the subject came up) you can get very sick, if you cook over fig tree wood, the food will also make you sick. My friend is given to superlatives and I have never heard this anywhere else...Can anyone tell me the truth about this?

Warm regards,


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Based on what I found, (because your post intrigued me), there is a species of tropical fig called the Weeping Fig or Benjamin Fig (which is not the same as our figs, but related). It does not produce fruit, by the way. The Weeping Fig may be toxic to birds, but I found NOTHING about burning wood. The sap of common figs is very irritating, but all in all, everything I found leads one to believe that figs, their leaves and most other parts (except the white milky sap) are very beneficial to health. Here is what I found concerning the figs we eat, and the trees they come from:


The latex of the unripe fruits and of any part of the tree may be severely irritating to the skin if not removed promptly. It is an occupational hazard not only to fig harvesters and packers but also to workers in food industries, and to those who employ the latex to treat skin diseases.

Other Uses

Seed oil: Dried seeds contain 30% of a fixed oil containing the fatty acids: oleic, 18.99%; linoleic, 33.72%; linolenic, 32.95%; palmitic, 5.23%; stearic, 2.1 8%; arachidic, 1.05%. It is an edible oil and can be used as a lubricant.

Leaves: Fig leaves are used for fodder in India. They are plucked after the fruit harvest. Analyses show: moisture, 67.6%; protein, 4.3%; fat, 1.7%; crude fiber, 4.7%; ash, 5.3%; N-free extract, 16.4%; pentosans, 3.6%; carotene on a dry weight basis, 0.002%. Also present are bergaptene, stigmasterol, sitosterol, and tyrosine.

In southern France, there is some use of fig leaves as a source of perfume material called "fig-leaf absolute"Âa dark-green to brownish-green, semi-solid mass or thick liquid of herbaceous-woody-mossy odor, employed in creating woodland scents.

Latex: The latex contains caoutchouc (2.4%), resin, albumin, cerin, sugar and malic acid, rennin, proteolytic enzymes, diastase, esterase, lipase, catalase, and peroxidase. It is collected at its peak of activity in early morning, dried and powdered for use in coagulating milk to make cheese and junket. From it can be isolated the protein-digesting enzyme ficin which is used for tenderizing meat, rendering fat, and clarifying beverages.

In tropical America, the latex is often used for washing dishes, pots and pans. It was an ingredient in some of the early commercial detergents for household use but was abandoned after many reports of irritated or inflamed hands in housewives.

Medicinal Uses: The latex is widely applied on warts, skin ulcers and sores, and taken as a purgative and vermifuge, but with considerable risk. In Latin America, figs are much employed as folk remedies. A decoction of the fruits is gargled to relieve sore throat; figs boiled in milk are repeatedly packed against swollen gums; the fruits are much used as poultices on tumors and other abnormal growths. The leaf decoction is taken as a remedy for diabetes and calcifications in the kidneys and liver. Fresh and dried figs have long been appreciated for their...

    Bookmark   March 16, 2007 at 3:39PM
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I have heard NEVER to burn Poison Ivy (toxics gets in
the lungs), but not (similar) about the common fig
(aka, Ficus Carica)...

    Bookmark   March 16, 2007 at 3:53PM
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The oils in PI will get into the air and on your skin. Seriously bad stuff can happen to you then, but I nothing here on figs. Never heard anything bad.

Then again, why burn it in the first place? Sounds like something to throw in the compost pile.

Heck, for that matter why are you breathing in smoke? I personally try to stay away from that kind'a behavior.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2007 at 5:46PM
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axier - Z10, Basque Country (Spain)

There is an Spanish popular belief that the smoke from fig wood causes headache, but I don't think so. I have burned a lot of fig wood (last year I heavily pruned one adult fig tree) and I have never suffered headache. On the contrary, when I go inside an smoking permitted pub, I always come back to home with headache! I think that the tobacco smoke is worse... ;-)

    Bookmark   March 20, 2007 at 5:40AM
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FWIW, my aunt (and other Persians) used de-barked fig cuttings as skewers for kabob. Not only does it tenderize the lamb, but it also gives a distinct flavor. I don't care for it, but many do.


    Bookmark   March 20, 2007 at 2:30PM
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Last weekend my son burned all of the fig tree trimmings from last Fall, and yes, he did experience itching on his skin that was exposed to the smoke (hands, neck and face). He thought at first he had caught poison ivy, but it went away within a day. He had burned it without asking, now he knows better.
Anyway, the answer to the original question seems to be that smoke from burning fig wood does appear to irritate the exposed skin.....Elder

    Bookmark   March 27, 2007 at 5:48PM
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chills71(Zone 6b Mi)

I've burned fig wood without problems, so I would assume that the contact dermititus it can cause only a problem on some people...

But then again, I can pick poison ivy without getting a rash (but if I rub the leaves back and forth in my hands I do get it)


    Bookmark   March 27, 2007 at 7:20PM
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