Olive Oil, an ancient medicine
Olive oil was used by the Ancient Greeks in an incredible variety of ways according to Tom Mueller, who wrote the fascinating book Extra Virginity. It was used as food, fuel, a skin lotion, a contraceptive, detergent, a preservative, pesticide, perfume, adornment, a cure for heart ailments, to relieve stomach aches and against hair loss, flatulence and excessive perspiration. Amazing!!
Pliny recorded that green olives and their oil are good for the stomach and in particular against seasickness. He stated that when mixed with wine, green olives can cure mouth and ear infections. Above all, Pliny mentions that the oil should be young, delicate and scented when used for medicinal purposes.
From a UK perspective, until just a few decades ago the only way to get hold of Olive Oil in Britain was at the Pharmacy, where it was available on prescription as Olive Oil B.P. (British Pharmacopoeia). This particular oil had passed the tests for purity specified in the British Pharmacopeoia such as specific gravity, refractive index, acid value, saponification value and iodine values all within a specified range. It had to pass further tests for absence of adulterants such as cottonseed, arachis and sesame oils. It’s incredible to see how our habits have changed so dramatically in just one generation.
Olive oil consists of glycerides, the fatty acid constituents that are chiefly oleic acid. It has proven properties as a demulcent (relieving inflammation or irritation, especially related to mucous) and is mildly laxative. Since the 20thC it has been prescribed in doses of 15–30ml, three times a day with meals in the treatment of gastric and duodenal ulcers in order to decrease the secretion of gastric juice. In the form of an emulsion it has been prescribed as part of a nitrogen-free diet during the treatment of renal failure.
It can be applied to the skin to remove incrustations in eczema and psoriasis.
It is used as a lubricant in massage.
It can also be used to soften ear wax.
For further information about specific health benefits of Olive Oil, please go to health.