The genus Ficus (Moraceae) used in diet: Its plant diversity, distribution, traditional uses and ethnopharmacological importance

Yinxian Shia,b, Aye Mya Mona,c, Yao Fua,b, Yu Zhanga,b, Chen Wanga, Xuefei Yanga,b,*,Yuhua Wanga,*

a Department of Economic Plants and Biotechnology, Yunnan Key Laboratory for Wild Plant Resources, Kunming Institute of Botany, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Kunming 650201, China

b Southeast Asia Biodiversity Research Institute, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Yezin, Nay Pyi Taw 05282, Myanmar

c University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100049, China

* Corresponding author at: Department of Economic Plants and Biotechnology, Yunnan Key Laboratory for Wild Plant Resources, Kunming Institute of Botany, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Kunming 650201, China

E-mail addresses: xuefei@mail.kib.ac.cn (X. Yang), wangyuhua@mail.kib.ac.cn (Y. Wang).

PubYear : 2018

Volume: 226

Publication Name: Journal of Ethnopharmacology

Page number: 185-196

Abstract: Ethnopharmacological relevance: A new field of enthnopharmacology has opened, where pharmacological studies draw their attention from the conventional only-medicine approach towards the dietary dimension. The uses of Ficus species in the human diet have been extensively documented by ethnobotanical field surveyors. Overlap commonly exist between the dietary and medicinal selection of Ficus species but not for choices of the plant parts and development stages, which leave a large space for ethnopharmacological study.

Aims of the study: 1) To review published works on the dietary uses of Ficus species and their food-medicine overlap based on traditional uses, and 2) to spark interest in ethnopharmacological studies on the dietary uses of Ficus species.

Materials and methods: Data was collected and analyzed from many sources, including published and unpublished ethnobotanical field surveys, taxonomic and distribution information, international journals, books, thesis, floras, reports and professional databases. The possible biases arising from data sources are assessed to make sure that the dataset are global representative.

Results: A total of 132 Ficus species are reported for dietary uses, including one subspecies and four varieties. Those species are found across all of the six subgenera of the genus Ficus. For distribution, 98 species from the Indo-Australasian region, 27 species from the African tropics (with one species, F. palmata, from both the two regions) and 8 from the Neotropics. The parts most commonly used are the figs (i.e. syconium or fruits) (110 species) and leaves (67 species), in various growth stages. It is also found that the certain plant parts of 78 species are used both for dietary and medicinal purpose. Among which the figs are frequently cited in the treatment of diarrhea and oligogalactia, the leaves in the treatment of diarrhea, stomach complaintsas, antidote and diabetes, the latex in the treatment of intestinal worms and wounds, and the barks in the treatment of diarrhea.

Conclusions: We demonstrate that throughout its area of distribution, the genus Ficus is generally used as a dietary plant, although use of a individual species seems uncommon. Furthermore, we highlight the diet-medicine overlap of the uses of this genus, which should enable further understanding of the potential for broader health benefits, rather than limiting studies in this genus to its only-medicinal properties.

Keywords: Figs, Ethnobotany, Medicinal food, Functional food, Traditional knowledge

Link: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0378874118300023?via%3Dihub