The Ficus benjamina, or weeping fig, is a plant from the Moraceae family native to India, Southeast Asia, Malaysia, the Philippines, northern Australia and the South Pacific islands. Although native to Asian regions, this tree is cultivated in other parts of the world like North America (Imran et al., 2014). Naturally, this tree can grow up to 60 feet tall and 70 feet wide, with its branches weeping toward the ground, forming a dense canopy and sometimes producing fruits (Gilman & Wilson, 1993). Over the years, this tree has been selected for ornamental uses inside homes and offices, growing into a small leafy tree with an average height of 5 feet (Diez-Gomez, Quirce, Aragoneses, & Cuevas, 1998).
Although common as an indoor plant, exposure to the Ficus benjamina (Fb) has been reported to induce sensitization and elicit allergic symptoms (Dechamp, Bessot, & Pauli, 1995). because of the latex, milky sap, located in the leaves and twigs of F. benjamin (Dechamp, Bessot, & Pauli, 1995). An individual can be exposed to this allergen directly when cutting or cleaning the plant or indirectly via airborne particles (Bircher, Langauer, Levy & Wahl, 1995). This occurs in dry, heated environments where dust particles bind to water-soluble antigen that accumulate on the plant leaf’s surface via diffusion. Thus, close contact with this plant and surrounding dust particles can induce such symptoms including rhinoconjunctivitis, asthma, eye lid oedema, and contact urticaria (Bircher, Langauer, Levy & Wahl, 1995).
The weeping fig has a variety of other uses involving the use of its latex and fruit extracts (Imran et al., 2014). A common practice by indigenous groups is to use the plant as a tonic. Other involve using the plant to treat skin disorders, inflammation, vomiting, leprosy, malaria, nose-diseases and cancer. The leaves and twigs of the plant are used as an insect repellant and the plant has been identified as a potential source of antioxidant and antimicrobial agents (Imran et al., 2014).
Bircher, A. J., Langauer, S., Levy, F., & Wahl, R. (1995). The allergen of Ficus benjamina in house dust. Clinical and Experimental Allergy, 25, 228-233.
Dechamp, C., Bessot, J., Pauli, G., & Deviller, P. (1995). First report of anaphylactic reaction after fig (Ficus carica) ingestion. Allergy, 50, 514-516.
Diez-Gomez, M. L., Quirce, S., Aragoneses, E., & Cuevas, M. (1998). Asthma caused by Ficus benjamina latex: evidence of cross-reactivity with fig fruit and papain. Annals of Allerg, Asthma, & Immunology, 80, 24-30.
Gilman, E. F. & Watson, D. G. (1993). Weeping Fig. Fact Sheet ST, 251, 1-3.
Imran, M., Rasool, N., Rizwan, K., Zubair, M., Riaz, M., Zia-Ul-Haq, M., … Jaafar, H. Z. (2014). Chemical composition and biological of Ficus benjamina. Chemistry Central Journal, 8, 1-10.