As the popularity of the Mediterranean Diet has increased, so has the knowledge about the one main ingredient that can be found in every Mediterranean kitchen: olive oil. While Hippocrates, the Ancient Green physician discovered the therapeutic uses of olive oil in treating ailments, much of the world has really known it as a dietary additive.
The Western world has just been waking up when it comes to the health benefits of olive oil as a mainstay for one of the ‘healthy fats’, mono-saturated. Extra-virgin olive oil is rich in vitamins K and E as well as the coveted omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids. Science has begun to discover that consumption of olive oil, especially the extra-virgin level has been helpful in treating a variety of conditions: high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, osteoporosis, digestive ailments and the antioxidants in olive oil help fight the free radicals in the body that have been shown to cause cancer.
The benefits of olive oil goes beyond just consumption, it contains a natural substance called ‘oleocanthal, which is nature’s own brand of ibuprofen; helping in the reduction of inflammation. When used in topical creams, the oleocanthal can assist in the reduction of inflammation which is a major cause of pain.
The natural healing properties, both internal and external of olive oil have been used throughout the centuries, mainly known in Greek and Roman cultures. Olive groves have grown in various parts of the Middle East for thousands of years. The success of one crop for so many diverse health purposes have made it a popular export.
In more recent years, the contents of olive oil have been used externally for the treatment of dry skin, specifically the extra dry areas of feet and elbows, rash, insect bites, diaper rash, wounds, and sun burns. The soothing effects of olive oil make it an excellent gentle product to remove makeup while not depleting the skin of essential oils and it has therapeutic uses for the skin and scalp for shaving and dry hair.
Many of today’s natural topical treatments for pain are including olive oil as part of the ingredients to assist in the reduction of inflammation while bringing a soothing effect to the skin area. The Arthritis Foundation has included scientific studies and articles on the benefits of extra-virgin olive oil as a potential alternative for those patients that cannot take harsh medications. The extra-virgin olive oil acts as a preventative in the production of the COX-1 and COX-2 enzymes that are found in NSAID medications. Co-Author of a study, Paul Breslin, PhD, stated, “By inhibiting these enzymes, inflammation and the increase in pain sensitivity associated with them is dampened.” The olive oil that has the highest quantity of olecanthal levels have a stronger ‘throaty bite’ to the taste. The research seemed to narrow down the best olive oils from the Tuscany, Italy area for the highest olecanthal content.
Always confer with a primary care physician prior to making any changes in your medical regiment.