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Keeping the Back Channels Open
Member Name: Hishyeness
Advantages: Works as advertised.
Disadvantages: Sickly sweet taste. Confusing label.
The human body is a remarkable collection of fine-tuned parts that more often than not, manages to work without too many problems. For instance, after undergoing various biological processes which would take far too long (and a biology degree) to work out here, it is a generally accepted law of nature that what goes in one end, tends to eventually come out of the other.
Occasionally however, something happens that upsets the delicate balance within this remarkable, organic, corporeal machine and causes the system to do some strange things. The transit from entrance to exit is interrupted, and rather like a five car pile up at rush hour on the M1, things can get a little backed up.
After a recent period during which I seemed to be getting myself stuck in more than my fair share of "traffic jams", I had a good old rummage around our bottomless medicine cabinet and found a handsome half-full little bottle promising to help me "maintain regularity". It seemed just the thing to ease my discomfort, and after confirming that the "best before" date was within reasonable proximity, I decided to give Califig a go.
As the name suggests, Califig is a syrup made of real fig extract. The "Cali" part is a remnant from the original US product (marketed by Merck Pharma), where it is made using California figs. The labelling on the UK version, sold here by the well known vitamin giant "Seven Seas", doesn't make the distinction.
The product is available over the counter at most chemists and large supermarkets in two sizes - 55ml and 110ml - and is marketed as a "food supplement" rather than as a "medicine". That said, it's most often found on shelves near similar products for the <ahem> "facilitation of bowel movements". My attractive 55ml recyclable glass bottle was purchased from Tesco for £2.13. The 110ml version can be picked up from various retailers for around £4.00
The main ingredients are water, fig extract (10%), sorbitol (a sugar substitute with laxative properties), maltodextrin (a sweetener derived from starch), natural colouring and natural flavourings (including peppermint, cassia and clove oil, as well as ginger extracts). The American and UK formulations appear to be quite different. In fact, the Tesco web site states that the product contains Senna (an herbal laxative) - but that ingredient is unique to the US formula - the UK version definitely doesn't have any in it, but double-check before you buy.
Like most "food supplements", Califig is intended to be used daily. It is not formulated, or intended to be used as a quick fix. The product is suitable for everyone, with suggested doses listed on the label for ages one and up. Adults are advised to take one or two tablespoons a day, and feeling slightly desperate, I erred on the side of excess and started on a course at the full dose.
The label advises pregnant women, anorexics and those with severe abdominal pain to consult their doctor before use. However, a word of warning - the instructions are baffling, as they suggests that a two tablespoonful dose should equate to 30ml, which by my calculation, means a 55ml bottle would yield just under two doses. At more than £1.05 a go that seems pretty steep - and palpably wrong. I used an ordinary measuring tablespoon to calculate my dose and it was well short of 30ml.
USE & EFFECT
Califig is a dark, dense brown colour - similar to molasses - except that it flows quite freely. It has an unmistakable sickly sweet aroma which reminds me of prunes much more than figs. It tastes quite sweet, cloying and every so slightly oily. It's not unpleasant, but I certainly would not take it out of choice.
I had brought the product thinking - wrongly - that it would provide more or less instant relief from constipation, and in that aspect, I was sorely disappointed. There was no appreciable effect the next day, and I had more or less decided it didn't work until I read the label again and realised it's not an instant solution.
During the second day, my insides started to produce a veritable orchestra of sounds that would have made Benjamin Britten proud. This intestinal cacophony was frighteningly audible at times, and, coupled with a fair bit of wind, it would have made me terribly self-conscious but for the fact that, fortunately, I was working from home. The considerable pay-off, if you can call it that, arrived around 48 hours and two doses later.
SIZE, CONSISTENCY & COLOUR
Oh come on. You didn't really expect me to go THAT far did you?
As I had never intended to add Califig permanently to my diet, and with the immediate problem satisfactorily solved, I stopped taking it when the bottle finished (about five days). I was looking for instant relief, so it did not really work as I wanted. However, it did do what was advertised - i.e. help maintain regularity - it just took more time than I hoped to get "traffic" moving again. Accordingly, it was a qualified success.
In retrospect, I should have taken greater care over reading the label and perhaps taken smaller doses to prevent the unintended comedy musical theatre which ensued. In summary, given the confusing labelling and the cost per suggested dose, I'll invest in a bag of prunes and apricots next time. At least they taste nicer.
© Hishyeness 2009
*Note: This review is of the 55ml version - identical to the 110ml version listed on DooYoo except for its size.
Summary: Helps clear up "traffic jams" and keeps "motorways" clear 8^)