Native to tropical southern Asia, the sacred fig (Ficus religiosa) bears large heart-like leaves with a long tail, which flutter in the slightest breeze. Reaching a mature size of 100 feet tall and equally wide, it is a deciduous tree appropriate to grow in frost-free regions, in U.S. Department of Agriculture hardiness zones 10 and warmer. If the tropical winter is unusually warm and wet, sacred fig retains much of its foliage.
Unlike other species of tropical fig trees, the sacred fig doesn't develop as a massive and sprawling matrix of trunk and aerial roots, thus making it better for use as a tall shade tree for parks and gardens. The upright and rounded canopy upon a singular trunk also makes it work well along boulevards. The foliage is beautiful on several levels and because this fig tree doesn't produce the large or showy fig fruits, the leaves remain the primary ornamental feature.
Great religious honor is placed upon the sacred fig across India for Buddhists. It is believed the young prince Siddharta sat under a sacred fig and gained his enlightenment and earned his name of Buddha, the "enlightened one". Today, Buddhists do not harm this species of fig tree under any circumstance and will not cut it down according to Margaret Barwick in "Tropical and Subtropical Trees."
Many parts of the sacred fig have traditional medicinal uses for a wide array of ailments. The bark is useful in inflammations and glandular neck swellings while root bark is good for treating ulcers. Roots also treat gout and when chewed can help prevent gum disease. The fruit is a laxative, promoting digestion, and it curbs vomiting. Ripe fruits are good for abating foul taste, thirst and heart disease. The powdered fruit is taken for asthma. Seeds are useful in treating urinary troubles. The leaves alone are used to treat constipation as is a mixture of leaves and young shoots together as a strong laxative. An infusion of the bark is used with some honey for the treatment of gonorrhoea, ulcers, skin diseases and scabies according to Mother Herbs and Agro Products.