Are fig leaves safe?

socksSeptember 27, 2007

Would fig leaves be safe for children to handle in a leaf activity at school? I found one site that says they are toxic to animals, so it seems to me then they would be unsafe for children too. They are such beautiful leaves, I'd like to use them, but of course not if they would be dangerous.


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pitangadiego(San Diego, CA)

The sap is an irritant, and cause an allergic reaction (rash) in some people. If the were picked ahead of time and had time to seal off (dry out) at the stem, they would probably be fine. If the children folded or tore them, there might be some risk of irritation/reaction.

    Bookmark   September 28, 2007 at 1:48AM
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Thank you. They are such cool looking leaves, but I think I'll pass. Too bad, huh?

    Bookmark   September 28, 2007 at 1:16PM
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I really cringe at your comment Socks, it is very silly. How many plants, even in school are much more dangerous than a fig leaf?

Children around the world have been eating figs, touching their leaves, climbing the trees, and eating their fruit. Have kids of my own, I have never stopped them from touching leaves, especially in the name of education.

What ever happened to using leaves as educational tools saying this is a fig leaf, and the leafs contain latex that can cause ... because ....

    Bookmark   September 28, 2007 at 1:48PM
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The true of the matter is that the fig leaves are iritating to the skin.
So one should have a shirt with long sleaves,and ware gloves when harvesting,figs,or touching leaves.
I do not know of any other side efect,but they are iritating to me.
It does not stop me from growing figs,but i am carefull with them!!!!

    Bookmark   September 28, 2007 at 2:31PM
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This is some kind of joke, right ?

It is true that if you were to harvest all day long in professionnal orchards, then you would need some protection !!!

Otherwise, you can harvest manually, without protection... I have never heard of any accident in domestic orchards ! Never.... Herman do you really where long shirt with sleaves, when you harvest your fruits ?

There are much dangerous ornamental plants that are planted nearby kids... If they were to eat or chew a single leaf or eat a single fruit, they would die very quickly (i.e. Nerium Oleander, ++)...

Figs have been grown all over Mediterranean see for more than 12'000 years, they were planted in every garden, where any kid would play safely. I have planted 8 fig trees and my kids play nearby all the time..

Did you know that apple seed contain arsenic ? Can you imagine that kids eat both the apple and sometimes the seeds ? Same for almonds ?

Please leave happily with the fig trees that you can grow..



    Bookmark   September 30, 2007 at 2:24PM
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My grandmother has a severe reaction to fig latex that's gotten worse with repeat exposure. I think it's just like everything else -- it depends on the person.

    Bookmark   September 30, 2007 at 2:41PM
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There are two types of reactions involved. One is irritation from the sap and the other is an allergic reaction.
The first is irritating, but the second is dangerous. A lot of people will itch from contact with the sap, but only people allergic to latex will have the more extreme reaction.
If the figs are ripe, there isn't usually a problem. But I heard from an older Italian man, that his father wouldn't let him or his brothers pick figs without gloves.

    Bookmark   September 30, 2007 at 4:47PM
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loslunasfarms, I deal with over 100 children, and some do have serious allergies and health conditions. It is my responsibility to be careful to use the safest materials possible. There are plenty of other leaves that are interesting to study that are not potentially irritating.

I would never tell my own children not to touch a fig leaf, but in a school setting with a wide range of young children, I feel more comfortable erring on the side of caution. If I were protecting your sensitive child from something which might be harmful, I bet you wouldn't call me silly.

    Bookmark   October 1, 2007 at 12:37AM
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Thanks etneo0, you said what I thought only much better.

Dear Socks, what ever happened to wearing gloves. I, being both an engineer, and a sceientist (yes, i have taught courses to children), have never told my children to shy from learning something especially in your case. It is just good lab practices to wear long sleeves, googles, and gloves. This make more sense because you my no know what is being brought to you. Fignut also had a great comment.

Instead of shying away from what we don't know, why dont you just use good science to teach them that they can still learn in safe ways (especially in a controlled environment, aka you being there). I love teachers but I have become annoyed with all the sillyness that some legal-crazy parents have drove the teacher to doing to protect themselves in the name of kids. By the way, I am not attacking you Socks, just saying that, like etneo0, there are much more dangerous things to worry about.

Just my two cents. Thanks!

    Bookmark   October 1, 2007 at 10:32AM
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Hi Etneo:I tell you the true:I do ware gloves and long sleave when i harvest my figs.
I am also carefull not to be touched on the face or neck by leaves.
I am serious about it.
I was harvesting unprotected and i had skin iritation when i did.
So i guess i am sensitive.
Not everybody is i herd.
But i am.It doesn't stop me growing the only fruit tree i was sucessfully fruitting in my backyard organically.
New Jersey is prone to insect and fungal deaseses,so it is very hard to have a duiversified orchard here.
Take care

    Bookmark   October 1, 2007 at 12:45PM
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The sap of fig trees can cause contact dermatitis in some people,ciao

    Bookmark   October 1, 2007 at 1:28PM
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Yes, the fig latex can sometimes be irritating...
People that are allergic to figs are probably not
subscribed to this forum. But then again there exist
people that are allergic to MOST ANYTHING POSSIBLE ON EARTH!
That is why Young kids are sometimes encouraged to EAT
the good Plain Dirt (builds up of their immune system),
better than being raised in a Sterile Plastic Bubble,
with many woes thereafter.

    Bookmark   October 1, 2007 at 2:22PM
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As a child I had to stay away from fig trees because I would break out in a rash. When I was about 55 I was bitten by a yellow fly and I broke out again, this time my face, neck, tongue, swelled so I could hardly breathe. I went to the DR. and I took 32 shots to get me cured. It worked and now I have 5 fig trees and 8 in pots rooting, and never a problem with the leaves. The DR. told me that only about 1 in a million need to worry about it, as the cases are that rare.

    Bookmark   October 1, 2007 at 3:55PM
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Yeah me too once had an alarming allergic reaction, some 25+
years ago. It had something to do with my 2nd job here (USA)
running telecommunication cables above the 'dropped'
ceilings somewhere in Manhattan, NY. Came home with a real
red-swollen-itching neck! Not sure if it was those ceiling
tiles or the dust on top of them! Up to this day, I still
get goose-bumps, by just seeing 'them' tiles!

Here is another 'gross' fact. If you are of the faint
hearted kind, stop reading here...
else continue...

A few years ago, I was watching some TV show (I think
the Discovery Channel), where they showed baby elephants,
kneeling and devouring their mother SH*IT, as if it was
the best candy on earth (other than her tits)!
It turned out that elephants being vegetarians for some
tough veggies, need a certain bacteria to help them break
it all down. The babies were just being inoculated with it
(wonder how they ever knew that)....

    Bookmark   October 1, 2007 at 4:37PM
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Regan could have used your elephant story to support Trickle Down Economics.

To the question at hand. I've not had a problem with irritation of the skin while handling fig leaves, but that doesn't mean others don't. I have however had my lips and throat become numb from eating a cookie while bare-rooting a tree. Also, I met a lady who blames a severe allergy to latex as an adult on eating unripe figs as a child. I think she's probably full of, well... baby elephant bacteria.

I suppose the answer is that fig leaves are as safe or as dangerous as anything else. I say let the kids play with them. If they complain, tell them to buck up. After all, didn't Adam and Eve wear fig leaves on their genitalia when they left the Garden of Eden? OUCH!


    Bookmark   October 1, 2007 at 8:40PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

I have many species of Ficus as bonsai & find that whenever I get (reach) into the tree & prune, I get sap on the more tender parts of my hands & forearms. If I do not immediately wash my hands & arms after the work, or several times during prolonged sessions, the next day I develop very itchy spots on my hands. If I scratch, I find that there are already blisters formed & the skin comes off very easily - contact dermatitis, roughly the same reaction I have to poison ivy, though not as severe.


    Bookmark   October 1, 2007 at 9:17PM
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albertine(z5b Idaho)

I was just googling "fig leaves allergies" and this post came up. For several years I have been getting a poison oak like rash from something in the garden and haven't figured out what it was from. I had suspicions about the fig and a little euphorbia weed, A few days ago I pruned a few fig branches and had held them in my bare arms. Today I have a rash all over my arms and specifically where I had contact with the leafy branches. I am so happy to have solved this mystery - this stuff is ugly and lasts for weeks. Viva Gardenweb!

    Bookmark   June 29, 2008 at 4:37PM
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I have had the same breaking out on my hands and arms from contact with fig trees. I found out that it is the sap, the white sap that comes out when you break a leaf off the tree. Now I have 5 fig trees and am careful not to get that on my skin and if I do I go wash it off before it starts action.


    Bookmark   June 30, 2008 at 10:40AM
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pegs099(z5 NY)

I think any natural, growing items can be irritants to some. I find that when I handle my strawberry plants, my hand/arms get "pricked," and itchy. That doesn't mean children should never be exposed to strawberries. And latex allergies should have shown up previously in children since they've been handled by begloved heath care people since birth. Of course anyone could at any time discover a new allergy, but should we avoid all contact with the natural world just in case? IMO, that might be one of the reasons for so many allergies etc. in the first place.

    Bookmark   June 30, 2008 at 2:08PM
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castlemaster(Cary, NC 7b)

This post is almost a year old, the original poster has long since moved on.

    Bookmark   June 30, 2008 at 2:40PM
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Found this site tonight, after picking figs with my 6 year old daughter, put her in the bath tub and she became so hysterical from burning and itching that I pulled her out and found her face, arms, chest and palms bright red with a few welts. We were both red and burning. My child is normally very calm when injured, and her screams were horrifying-and I have medical training! Almost took her to the hospital after using bactine, neosporin, benadryl, hydrocortisone, ice cubes, no relief in sight. Just then remembered the Calamine lotion, and voila! Relief within minutes. We are still both itchy and burning, but at least it's under control. Assumed it was the leaves, but could be leaves or sap now? Planning on gloves/sleeves, but even her chest reacted and she was fully clothed. Millions of other leaves to study at school, let parents introduce fig leaves themselves perhaps during a field trip so that they can be present. I'm just sayin'!

    Bookmark   July 25, 2010 at 11:58PM
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Yes, contact with these leaves has left huge scars and irritation on my arms. Stupidy, did not cover up. The itching begins 2 days after contact. Beware! cover up.

    Bookmark   July 7, 2011 at 8:10AM
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When a fig leaf touches me it looks like someone took a red hot wire and burned me. It seams like the younger the plant the worse it is. I just got through planting a young potted fig tree, the day was hot( makes it worse) and I was not careful enough so from the size of a pencil eraser to the size of two silver dollars I am suffering. So to any one that doe's not believe that they are poison take it from me that they are.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2013 at 8:46PM
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Just a word to the wise. I once, in the morning under the sun (this acid in the sap interacts with the sun), sawed off a couple of small fig tree branches while I was only wearing a sleeveless undershirt on my upper torso. Unknown to me and without much thought to it, minor amounts of sawdust got on my bald head, bare shoulders and inside my tee shirt on my chest and back. Not very much at all. Again, not thinking of it, I just brushed off the saw dust instead of taking a good soapy shower right away, instead, I took one in the evening prior to retiring. I knew about the sap in the figs but never had thought about the sap in the wood. Next day, where ever the sawdust touched my skin I literally had what looked like the beginnings of 2nd degree burns and it kept getting worse. It wasn't itchy, it was painful like a burn because it was a burn. I actually got blisters. Initially I thought it was an allergic reaction to something I ate because the spots were there like an allergy but initially they didn't hurt or itch. I didn't mentally link it to the sawdust. I got medical treatment at my doctor for burns several days later as it kept getting worse. It lasted for weeks and looked terrible. It looked like I was burned in a fire. The spots turned red, blistered and then darkened. According to my doctor, the wood sap contains an acid which burns the skin. Also, concerning eating the figs and their dangers, I think it's exaggerated, unless you are allergic to them, just like anything else you might be allergic to. They are delicious in any form especially fresh right off the tree. The thing most to be cautious about is, touching the figs or handling them to eat and then rub your eyes before washing your hands. It will do a similar thing to your eyes. So make sure the kids when they eat them, let them know not to touch the figs and then touch or rub their eyes or rub their sap sticky fingers all over their skin. If you get the sap from the figs on your hands, just be sure to wash them good with soap and water to remove the acid. It can be stubborn to remove because it is very sticky. I have a big fig tree in the back yard and 4 children that grew up around it from birth to adults with no issues. We like to peel them prior to eating because then we don't have to eat the sap that is in the fig where you detach it from the branch. I picked figs this morning and the leaves kept touching my bare hands and I could feel the burning start. I was wearing a jacket and hat for protection. I washed my hands promptly with soap and water and it's all gone. Its not a problem as long as you know some of the cautions you need to take along with kids. Just like anything else. By the way, I included a picture, its not me but I found this on the internet because it's similar to what I had but this picture is at the beginning stage. Again, this information is to give you some idea what I went through so you and your kids can avoid it and be advised on how to handle figs. Better informed than not. I hope this helps.

    Bookmark   August 24, 2013 at 2:37PM
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