ficain (ficin)

Ficain is an enzyme extracted from the milky sap of plants of the Fig type. In common speech it is also a name for the sap itself. It is currently being studied for its effects on cancer and diabetes.

Botanical Classification of a Common Plant Source:

  • Genus: Ficus (Fig)
  • Subgenus: Ficus
  • Species: Carica.
  • Scientific Name: Ficus Carica (Linnaeus) - the common fig tree.

Distribution of Ficus Trees:

  • Tropics: including the Sacred Fig of India (Ficus Religiosa), the Banyan Tree of India (Ficus Benghalensis) and the Moreton Bay Fig in sub-tropical Australia (Ficus Macrophylla);
  • Temperate Zone: a few species, including the common fig tree, are found in areas from South-west Asia to the Mediterranean.

Benefits of Ficain:

  • it is a protease enzyme (an enzyme that breaks down proteins and peptides);
  • anthelmintic (destroys worms);
  • antioxidant; having anti-diabetes effects in rodents;
  • anti-cancer effects in laboratory and mouse experiments;
(Note: evidence is from laboratory and animal studies)

Scientific Data on Ficain:

  • Synonyms: Ficin, Fig Tree Latex, debricin; ficus protease, ficus proteinase;
  • Extraction of Ficain Sap: Make an incision in the bark of the tree or branch and collect the sap; alternatively, using the fruit, make a fresh cut into the stem of the fruit and collect the sap that exudes.

The Plant:

  • evergreen, though some outside the tropics are deciduous;
  • form of plant: trees, shrubs and vines; the Ficus Carica is a tree that grows up to 10 metres tall;
  • roots: the tropical form has aerial roots; the common fig tree has underground roots;
  • leaves: the common fig tree has leaves up to 25 cm long with 3 to 5 lobes (divisions in the leaf, like fingers); the Moreton Bay, Sacred Fig and Banyan varieties do not have lobes.
  • flowers, seeds and fruit: the almost sealed fruit contains the flowers and seeds in inflorescences.

Moreton Bay Fig Tree branch

Historical Uses of Fig Tree Products:

  • External Use
    • the latex for warts, skin ulcers and sores;
    • a poultice for tumors and other abnormal growths;
  • Alimentary Internal Use
    • fresh and dried figs as a laxative, dietary fibre and as a vermifuge;
    • the latex by itself has been used as a vermifuge (risky);
    • decoction gargled for sore throat;
    • poultice made from figs boiled in milk for swollen gums;
  • Internal Use
    • leaf decoction (extraction of the active ingredients by boiling the leaf in water and using the water)
      • for diabetes; see also Turmeric Extract for diabetes;
      • for calcifications in the kidneys and liver;
    • the fruit
      • calcium for bones;
      • source of potassium which may help to lower blood pressure;
      • vitamins, anti-oxidants, flavonols and polyphenols: folic acid, gallic acid, chlorogenic acid, syringic acid, catechin, epicatechin and rutin; also the flavonoids quercetin and luteolin;
      • traditionally used as an aphrodisiac.

Quotations from Research Articles on Ficain Extracts

Article 1: Fig Resin and Cancer
"A mixture of 6-O-acyl-beta-D-glucosyl-beta-sitosterols, the acyl moeity being primarily palmitoyl and linoleyl with minor amounts of stearyl and oleyl, has been isolated as a potent cytotoxic agent from fig (Ficuscarica) latex and soybeans... Both the natural and the synthetic compounds showed in vitro inhibitory effects on proliferation of various cancer cell lines."

Title: Suppressors of cancer cell proliferation from fig (Ficus carica) resin: isolation and structure elucidation.
Author: Rubnov S, Kashman Y, Rabinowitz R, Schlesinger M, Mechoulam R. Dept. of Medicinal Chemistry and Natural Products, School of Pharmacy, The Hebrew University, Jerusalem, Israel.
Source: J Nat Prod. 2001 Jul;64(7):993-6.

Article 2: Fig Residue and Cancer
"... The anti-cancer active components of Fig Residues inhibited 49.3% of the transplanted liver cancer in the mice. CONCLUSION: The method for extracting the anticancer active components of Fig Residues is stable and reasonable, and the extract from Fig Residues is of the anticancer effect."

Title: Study on anti-cancer components of Fig residues with supper critical fluid CO2 extracting technique. [Article in Chinese]
Author: Wang ZB, Ma HL. Jiangsu University, School of Biological and Environmental Engineering, Zhenjiang, China.
Source: Zhongguo Zhong Yao Za Zhi. 2005 Sep;30(18):1443-7.

Article 3: Fig Extract and Diabetes
"Parameters related to oxidative stress were studied in rats divided into 4 groups: streptozotocin-induced diabetic rats (n=10), diabetic rats who received a single dose of a basic fraction of Ficus carica extract (n=14), diabetic rats who received a single dose of a chloroform fraction of the extract (n=10), and normal rats (n=10). ... Our work confirms that antioxidant status is affected in the diabetes syndrome, and that Ficus carica extracts tend to normalize it."

Title: Experimental diabetes treated with ficus carica extract: effect on oxidative stress parameters.
Author: Pèrez C, Canal JR, Torres MD. Dept. of Physiology, Faculty of Medicine, University of Extremadura, Avenida de Elvas s/n 06071 Badajoz, Spain.
Source: Acta Diabetol. 2003 Mar;40(1):3-8.

Article 4: Fig Leaf Decoction and Diabetes
"The effect of a decoction of fig leaves (Ficus carica), as a supplement to breakfast, on diabetes control was studied in insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (IDDM) patients ... ... The addition of FC to diet in IDDM could be of help to control postprandial glycemia."

Title: Hypoglycemic action of an oral fig-leaf decoction in type-I diabetic patients.
Author: Serraclara A, Hawkins F, Pérez C, Domínguez E, Campillo JE, Torres MD. Dept. of Physiology, Faculty of Medicine, Badajoz and Serv. Endocrinology, University Hospital 12 Octubre, Madrid, Spain.
Source: Diabetes Res Clin Pract. 1998 Jan;39(1):19-22.

Old Herbs - New Science

Ananain and Comosain (from Pineapple stem)

Cinnamon Extract

Curcuma Longa


Ficain (from Fig Trees)

Licorice Root Extract

Petty Spurge and Euphorbia Peplus

Rosmarinic Acid (from Rosemary, Sage)

Spanish Sage

Turmeric Extract

Vineatrol (from Grapevine shoots)

Withania Somnifera (Ashwagandha)

Withanolide (from Ashwagandha)

Zerumbone (from Ginger)
This website acknowledges Pubmed ( as source for medical research abstracts.

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