The Olive is a symbol of peace and olive trees are believed to have first been cultivated 6000 years ago in the Mediterranean on the coasts of what is now known as Palestine and Syria. From there, they spread all over the Med and to North Africa, eventually reaching Australia, China and America. Olive trees can live to the ripe old age of 1000 and the older they are, the richer and more complex the oil contained in the flesh of the fruit becomes.
The healthiest Olive Oil is extra virgin Olive Oil (EVOO) from the first cold pressing that does not involve heat or chemicals. Olive Oil is predominantly made up of the monounsaturated Omega-9 oleic acid. It also has the polyunsaturated linoleic acid (Omega-6) the saturated palmitic and stearic acids and a small amount of the polyunsaturated Omega-3 alpha-Linolenic Acid. It is high in antioxidants like polyphenols, vitamins E & K, chlorophyll and carotenoids plus vitamin E, iron, calcium, magnesium, potassium and amino acids. It has a significant amount of phenols and pigments like pheophytin and the two hydrocarbons squalene and β-Carotene. The colour of Olive Oil varies from light gold to rich green and the taste can include a cornucopia of flavours from bitter to pungent, green and fruity, peppery and buttery all in the same mouthful. Olive Oil is a complex substance with 280 compounds having been identified in the volatile fraction alone.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil confers so many health benefits, from improved cholesterol and blood sugar levels, increased memory function and better heart health. It also stimulates metabolism, boosts the immune system, lubricates the mucous membranes and acts as a digestive aid. Olive Oil helps remineralise bones as it ensures better calcium absorption from food so helps prevent osteoporosis. The powerful antioxidants in Olive Oil are extremely beneficial for arthritis, mainly due to the polyphenol hydroxytyrosol, which is the major olive polyphenol. This compound is also responsible for reducing oxidative damage and the ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol. Half of the phenolic compounds in Olive Oil are hydroxytyrosol and its derivatives and they exert powerful antioxidant effects which neutralise free radicals, slow down ageing and keep inflammation in check. Other anti-inflammatory agents include oleocanthal, which acts like a natural ibuprofen and is believed to exert a neuroprotective effect linked to a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s. Olive Oil is antimicrobial and the squalane content makes it chemoprotective.
EVOO has good skin penetration and is healing for dry, damaged and wrinkled skins. It protects, tones, firms and improves texture whilst increasing elasticity and moisture content.
EVOO is good for almost everything – food, hair, skin, scalp, nails, hands and feet. It can be used as a moisturiser, cleanser, conditioner, massage and bath oil, anti-wrinkle treatment and soother for sensitive, dry, sunburnt or acne prone skin. Olive oil is a culinary gift that has the unique ability to uplift the flavour of other foods. It has a low smoke point and is best used at room temperature as a garnish or dressing. The most reliable indicator of quality EVOO is the taste and smell.