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Family Moraceae
Balete
Ficus benjamina Linn.
WEEPING FIG

Chui ye rong

Common names   Common names  
Ficus benjamina Linn. Balete (Ilk., Tag.)  
Ficus haematocarpa Blume Salisi (Is.)  
Urostigmahaematocarpa Miq. Benjamin's fig (Engl.)  
Urostigma benjaminum Miq. Benjamin tree (Engl.)
  Small-leaved rubber plant (Engl.)
  Weeping fig (Engl.)  
  Weeping laurel (Engl.)  
  Chui ye rong (Chin.)
Worldwide there are over 800 species of the genus Ficus (Latin: fig) and of the more than 10 species found in the Philippines, Balete is a shared common name for six of them: (1) Ficus benjamina, salisi (2) Ficus elastica, Indian rubber tree (3) Ficus indica, baleteng-baging (4) Ficus payapa, payapa (5) Ficus retusa, marabutan, and (6) Ficus stipulosa, botgo.
Quisumbing's compilation lists Ficus benjamina (balete) and Ficus retusa (marabutan) as separate species. Some compilations list them as synonyms.
The Weeping Fig is hte official tree of Bangkok, Thailand.

Other vernacular names
BURMESE: Kyet kadut, Nyaung lun, Nyaung thabye.
CHINESE: Xi ye rong, Bai rong, Xiao ye rong, Chui rong, Chui ye rong.
DANISH: Birkefigen.
DUTCH: Wariengien (Dutch Indies).
GERMAN: Benjamin-Gummibaum, Birkenfeige.
JAPANESE: Shidare gajumaru.
MALAY: Beringin (Indonesia), Mendera, Waringin (Java, Sumatra).
NEPALESE: Conkar, Samii, Svaamii.
SANSKRIT: Mandara.
SERBIAN: Fikus benjamina, Bendžamin.
SPANISH: Árbol benjamín, Benjamina, Ficus benyamina, Matapalo.
SUNDANESE: Caringin.
TAMIL: Vellal.
THAI: Sai yoi, Sai yoi bai laem.
VIETNAMESE: Cây sanh, Sanh.

Botany
Balete is a strangling, smooth plant, assuming a tree form and reaching a height of 15 meters or more. Branches are drooping. Leaves are leathery, oblong-ovate, 6 to 9 centimeters long, with prominent and rather slender point, rounded base, entire margins, smooth green and shining; the nerves slender and spreading, not prominent. Petioles are 5 to 10 millimeters long. Fruit is axillary, solitary, stalkless, dark-purple and fleshy when mature, somewhat spherical, and 1 centimeter in diameter.

Distribution
- From northern Luzon to Mindanao, in most islands and provinces, n primary forests at low and medium altitudes.
- In Manila, planted as avenue and shade tree.
- Also occurs in India to southern China, Malaya, northern Australia, and the islands of the South Pacific.

Constituents
- Bark contains 4.2 percent tannin.
- Latex contains
30% caoutchouc, along with 59% resin.
- Wax contains cerotic acid.
- Extraction of leaves, bark, and fruits yielded six compounds: cinnamic acid, lactose, naringenin, quercetin, caffeic acid and stigmasterol. (11)

Properties
- Dermatitis and Allergic Reactions: Plant sap from all parts reported to cause minor skin irritation. Frequent contact may cause itching of the eyes, coughing, and wheezing. (4)

Parts utilized
Bark, root, leaves.

Uses
Folkloric
• Root, bark of root and leaves boiled in oil and applied on wounds and bruises.
• Juice of bark used for liver diseases.

• Pounded leaves and bark applied as poultice for rheumatic headache.
Others
Landscape: In Manila, used as an avenue and shade tree.
Rope: In the provinces, rope made from its bast.

Studies
Household Allergen: Ficus benjamin is a relatively common source of indoor household allergen, with a prevalence of sensitization similar to moulds. (1)
Allergic / Toxic Irritative: Study showed more complaints of asthmatic bronchitis, rhinoconjunctivitis and skin symptoms among gardeners handling Ficus benjamina (weeping fig) and Hedera helix (Ivy). (2)
Asthma / Weeping Fig / Cross-Reactivities: Study showed hypersensitivity to F. benjamina may cause IgE-mediated respiratory allergy. The association with allergy to fig and papains is likely due to cross-reactive allergen structures. (3)
Hepatoprotective: Study showed a hepatoprotective activity of an ethanolic extract of Ficus benjamina against CCl4-induced liver damage in rats. Silymarin was used as standard reference drug. (7)
Leaves as Indicator of Atmospheric Pollution: Study evaluated the suitability of Ficus benjamina leaves as a captor of heavy metal particles from atmospheric dusts in urban areas. Samples collected yielded values almost ten times higher than those obtained from unpolluted reference. (8)
Hypersensitivity to Ficus benjamina / Implications in Food Allergy: Study of exposure to Ficus benjamina and other Ficus species was documented in 101 (29%) of patients. Of the 22 with hypersensitivity to F. benjamina, 8 showed hypersensitivity to common edible fig, seven to kiwi and two to latex. Study concludes that both prevalence of exposure and sensitization to F. benjamina and presence of allergic manifestations in some patients should be a concern for the plant as an indoor allergen which may also have implications in food allergy. (9)
Cross-Reactivity / Latex and Fig Fruit: Allergic reactions to fresh or dried figs can present as a consequence of primary sensitization to airborne FB allergens independent of sensitization to rubber latex allergens. Other fruits like kiwi, papaya, avocado, pineapple, and banana may be associated with sensitization to Ficus allergens. (10)
Constituents / Antibacterial / Cytotoxicity: Leaves, bark, and fruits yielded six compounds: cinnamic acid, lactose, naringenin, quercetin, caffeic acid and stigmasterol. Caffeic acid showed strong cytotoxic activity against T-lymphoblastic leukemic (CEM-SS) cell line. The compounds showed antibacterial activity against B. cereus and P. aeruginosa.

Availability
Wild-crafted.


Last Update May 2013

IMAGE SOURCE: Ficus benjamina / File:Weeping Fig (Ficus benjamina) in Hyderabad, W IMG 8314.jpg / J M Garg / 13 July 2008 / GNU Free Documentation License / click on image to go to source page / Wikimedia Commons

Additional Sources and Suggested Readings
(1)
Ficus benjamina, a new source of household environmental allergens / Alergol Inmunol Clin, July 1999 Vol. 14, No. 4, pp. 203-208
(2)
The prevalence of skin and mucosal symptoms in gardeners handling Ficus benjamina (weeping fig) and Hedera helix (ivy). A cross-sectional study / Jørs E / Esbjerg Centralsygehus, Arbejdsmedicinsk Afdeling / Ugeskr Laeger. 2003 Sep 8;165(37):3526-9.
(3)
Asthma caused by Ficus benjamina latex : evidence of cross-reactivity with fig fruit and papain / Diez-Gomez M L, Quirce S, Aragoneses E and Cuevas M / Annual Meeting of the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, San Diego, California, 1998, vol. 80, no 1, pp. 78-136
(4)
Poisonous Plants of North Carolina / Ficus benjamina / Weeping fig, Benjamin tree / Dr. Alice B. Russell, Department of Horticultural Science
(5)
Ficus benjamina L. (accepted name) / Chinese names / Catalogue of Life, China
(6)
Sorting Ficus names / Authorised by Prof. Snow Barlow / Maintained by: Michel H. Porcher / MULTILINGUAL MULTISCRIPT PLANT NAME DATABASE / Copyright © 1997 - 2000 The University of Melbourne.
(7)
Evaluation of hepatoprotective activity on the leaves of Ficus benjamina Linn. / Vinod Kumar Kanaujia*, R. Irchhaiya, H.K. Singh, Deepak Kailasiya, Mohini Verma, Rahul Deo Yadav, Dileep Shivhare / J. Nat. Prod. Plant Resour., 2011, 1 (3): 59-69
(8)
Ficus benjamina leaves as indicator of atmospheric pollution / Bertha Aguilar Reyes, Rubén Cejudo Ruiz, Juan Martínez-Cruz, Francisco Bautista, Avto Goguitchaichvili, Claire Carvallo, Juan Morales / Studia Geophysica et Geodaetica, July 2012, Volume 56, Issue 3, pp 879-887
(9)
Hypersensitivity to Ficus benjamina / P. Gaig, B. Bartolomé*, E. Enrique, P. García-Ortega and R. Palacios / Alergol Inmunol Clin, Juy 1999 Vol. 14, No. 4, pp. 212-217
(10)
Cross-reactivity between Ficus benjamina latex and fig fruit in patients with clinical fig allergy. / Focke M, Hemmer W, Wöhrl S, Götz M, Jarisch R. / Clin Exp Allergy. 2003 Jul;33(7):971-7.
(11)
The Chemical Constituents of Ficus benjamina Linn. and Their Biological Activities / Hassan Abdalla Almahyl, Mawardi Rabmani, Mohd Aspollah Sukari & Abdul Manaf Ali / Pertanika J. Sci. & Techno\. 11(1): 73 - 81 (2003)


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