Do Ficus Plants Cause Breathing Problems?

Updated July 20, 2017

Ficus benjamina, also known as the weeping fig, is among the most common plant found in offices and homes across the country. This small tree is very attractive and requires little maintenance in an indoor setting. Often bought to help purify air quality as well as for its beauty, this tree actually causes an allergic reaction in many people.

Latex Sap

Weeping figs excrete a very fine layer of sap that coats their trunk and leaves. This sap has a chemical composition similar to latex, a substance commonly known to cause allergic reactions. Dust particles in the air pick up small amounts of the sap released by the weeping ficus, carrying the allergen to the sinuses of susceptible individuals.

Reaction Symptoms

Reactions to the Weeping ficus usually are not immediate, as it may take time for dust particles travelling in a room to connect with the plant and from there to be breathed in. Common symptoms are typical of allergic reactions to pollen, including runny nose and itchy eyes, as well as respiratory problems akin to asthma. Skin allergies can develop as well in the form of hives.

Rubber Plant

Another member of the ficus family, the rubber plant, is also known to cause similar allergic reactions, such as difficulty with breathing, though not nearly as frequently as the weeping fig. Ironically, the rubber plant is exceptionally useful for air purification and the removal of dust particles in the air.


Unfortunately, there is no easy cure for allergies to the weeping ficus. Studies have shown that for those susceptible to the plant's sap, removal of the plant from their dwelling space had immediate positive results. If you own a weeping fig in your home or office and experience signs of an allergic reaction, including breathing problems, the only real solution is to remove the plant once and for all.

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About the Author

Ian Willson is a professional landscaper and certified master gardener in Louisiana. He graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University with a B.S. in sociology. Willson's work has been published in "Style Weekly," a local newspaper in Richmond, Va.