The Wondrous Benefits of Olive Oil

Olives have been mentioned seven times in the Qur’an and their health benefits have been propounded in Prophetic medicine. “And a tree (olive) that springs forth from Mount Sinai, that grows oil, and (it is a) relish for the eaters.” (Surah al-Muminoon 23:20). Saied al-Ansari (may Allah be pleased with him) narrates that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “Eat the olive oil and massage it over your bodies since it is a blessed tree.” (at-Tirmidhi, ibn Maja)

The benefits of the Mediterranean diet, rich in olive oil, have been extolled. While it has always been promoted as being beneficial in lowering cholesterol levels, it is now increasingly being linked to lowering blood pressure.

Olive oil has been mentioned in Quran and the Prophet (saw) encouraged to consume it. Now it has been proven to be highly beneficial in normalizing cholesterol levels, and improving blood pressure levels in people.

Olive oil is an ancient food that has been used by humans for thousands of years (olive oil residue has been found in jugs that are over 4,000 years old!). It has been called “liquid gold,” and prized for its flavors in addition to being a valuable cooking and salad oil.

The medicinal value of olive products are truly astounding. The oil is extremely nutritious and is recommended by dieticians to “improve the balance of fats within the blood” (Adams 2001) as well as in lowering cholesterol levels.

A study by Dr. Ferrara and his colleagues of the Frederico II University of Naples, Italy (Ferrera et al., 2000) compared the effects of two similar low-fat diets on the blood pressure of hypertensive patients.

One diet was enriched with extra virgin olive oil, high in monounsaturated fatty acids while the second was enriched with the same amount of sunflower oil with a high content of polyunsaturated fatty acids.

The patients on the former diet, all hypertensive, showed significant reductions in their blood pressure, thereby indicating that a diet, rich in olive oil, is not only associated with lower levels of cholesterol, but with lower blood pressure as well.

The DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) eating plan, which promotes a diet low in sodium and high in unsaturated fats, also recommends olive oil (National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, 2003).

Olives are rich in monounsaturated fats, vitamin E, antioxidants, and they prevent heart disease by reducing the LDL (bad cholesterol) and increasing the HDL (good cholesterol] levels.

Health benefits of olive oil include anti-inflammatory effect, antioxidant effects, cardiovascular protection and cancer protection. Many chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and arthritis have been linked to chronic inflammation in our body. Antioxidant compounds in olive oil can protect our cells from damage. Polyphenols in olive oil can prevent blood platelets from clumping together, which is the cause of heart attacks. Research shows olive oil reduces risk of cancer, particularly of the digestive tract, breast and leukemia.

The Vitamin E contained in Olives is the body’s primary fat-soluble antioxidant. Anti-oxidants help to strengthen the body’s immune system; reducing the severity of asthma, cancer, osteoarthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis, premature ageing, as well as delaying the effects of ageing.

Olives contain compounds called polyphenols that appear to have significant anti-inflammatory properties. Key benefits of olives: It fortifies the hair, keeps it shiny and prevents dandruff. Used as a balm, it fortifies and moisturizes the skin, combating dry skin and softening it. It also combats against acne.

Massaged onto the body, olives fortify the limbs, combat against inflammation, and sooth away aches and pains from worked out muscles. Help against wrinkles and delaying the effects of old age.

Olive oil help combat against strokes, heart-disease, high blood pressure, diabetes. It aids digestion, and strengthens the bowels, as well as the stomach.

Drinking tea made from olive leaves helps against high blood pressure. Recent scientific research have proven the health benefits of olive leaves in treating high blood pressure and hypertension.

Another medical benefit of olive oil relates to the maintenance of a healthy digestive system. Oxford University ’s Institute of Health found that “olive oil may have a protective effect on the development of colorectal cancer” (Stoneham et al., 2000).

Virgin olive oil is extracted from the olives purely by mechanical means (either by pressing or spinning the olives after they are mashed into a paste). No chemical processing is allowed in producing virgin olive oil. The best of the virgin oil is classified as “extra-virgin,” which has superior characteristics, including very low rancidity and the best flavor.

Olive oil has traditionally been used to prevent constipation, assist in ‘cleansing’ of the gallbladder and in treating various ailments relating to the skin, such as burns, scratches and sunburn (Cook, 1934). Cook, writing in the 1930s, said that, “Those who recognize its wonderful medicinal properties and the many uses to which it can be put will never fail to keep a bottle of pure olive oil in the house.”

Olive oil is also applied to the skin as it brightens the complexion, softens the skin and is used in the treatment of eczema and psoriasis (Khan). It is also used on the hair, especially problems relating to “dry hair and flaky scalp” (Adams, 2001). Furthermore, olive oil is used for massage and as a carrier oil when blending essential oils.

The leaf of the olive tree is commonly used by herbalists for its antiviral properties. It has been traditionally used to cool fevers by boiling the leaves and concocting a tincture that is then taken orally (Privitera).

Olive leaf was not only used to treat severe cases of fever, but tropical diseases such as malaria as well. Today, olive leaf extract is available from natural health practitioners and taken orally in a tablet form.