Family MesembryanthemaceaeUses & cultural aspects
The leaf juice is astringent and mildly antiseptic. It is mixed with water and swallowed to treat diarrhoea, dysentery and stomach cramps, and is used as a gargle to relieve laryngitis, sore throat and mouth infections. Chewing a leaf tip and swallowing the juice is enough to ease a sore throat.
Leaf juice or a crushed leaf is a famous soothing cure for blue-bottle stings-being a coastal plant it is luckily often on hand in times of such emergencies. The leaf juice is used as a soothing lotion for burns, bruises, scrapes, cuts, grazes and sunburn, ringworm, eczema, dermatitis, sunburn, herpes, nappy rash, thrush, cold sores, cracked lips, chafing, skin conditions and allergies. An old and apparently very powerful remedy for constipation is to eat fruits and then drink brackish water.
Syrup made from the fruit is said to have laxative properties. A mixture of leaf juice, honey and olive oil in water is an old remedy for TB. The leaf juice also relieves the itch from mosquito, tick and spider bites both for people and their animal companions. The Khoikhoi took an infusion of the fruits during pregnancy to ensure a strong, healthy baby and an easy birth and smeared leaf sap over the head of a new-born child to make it nimble and strong. In the Eastern Cape it is also used to treat diabetes, and diptheria.
Fruits are eaten by people and have been since ancient times. Archaeologists have found plants covering ancient middens along the coast and sometimes marking Khoikhoi burial sites (UCT Summer School lecture).
The sour fig is frequently cultivated as a sand binder, groundcover, dune and embankment stabilizer, and fire-resistant barrier and also a superb water-wise plant.