Olive oil, known for its therapeutic properties since antiquity, constitutes the core of the Mediterranean Diet and is recognized by the international scientific community as the healthiest fat, thanks to its numerous proven health benefits.
In 2010, the world famous Mediterranean diet was registered on the List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO. The Mediterranean dietary pattern, having as main component the olive oil, has been shown to assist in the prevention and treatment of various diseases and is the secret of longevity of the Mediterranean people.
The nutritional value of olive oil is indisputable, as it contains nutrients invaluable for the human body, such as such as monounsaturated fatty acids, which have a positive impact on cholesterol levels, fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, K, which shield the body against various diseases, trace elements, such as sodium and potassium, beneficial to the skin, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants that prevent cell oxidation and free radical formation.
Studies have shown the superiority of extra virgin olive oil as compared to all other vegetable oils or animal fats. The nutritional wealth of monounsaturated fatty acids, phenolic compounds and vitamins, gives olive oil great antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, neuroprotective, cardioprotective, anti-cancer, anti-aging and other beneficial properties for human health, according to the results of long-term clinical and laboratory research.
The health benefits of olive oil have been known since antiquity. Its therapeutic properties were first mentioned by Hippocrates, the father of medicine, and were widely regarded by the medical science in ancient times. Homer referred to olive oil as “liquid gold” and Hippocrates called it “the great healer”, while Theophrastus and Plutarch praised it in their writings for its beneficial impact on health. Dioscorides, Diocles, Galen, the greatest physicians in their time, acclaimed its positive effects on health and recommended it on a daily basis as a treatment on several occasions.
Olive oil has had multiple uses over the centuries. People living in the Mediterranean Basin used it not only for food, but for pharmaceutical purposes and cosmetic use. In the Hippocratic Corpus there are more than 60 medicinal uses of olive oil. In ancient Greece olive oil was used for skin conditions, for helping burns, wounds, cuts or bruises heal, for relieving headaches, toothaches or sore gums, and for maintaining the whiteness of the teeth, for treating ear infections, for curing an upset stomach, and as an antidote in cases of minor poisoning, for soothing sunburns or skin dehydration and for keeping the muscles healthy and shining. The use of massage, together with olive oil rub, helped to reduce muscle fatigue, to remove lactic acid, and to prevent the occurrence of sports injuries through flexibility provided to the skin of athletes. The ancient Greeks also used olive oil as a component of their cosmetics for face and body, as well as for their hair, becoming a staple for daily personal hygiene and body care. Perfumed olive oil was applied to clean and hydrate the skin, helping in preserving its elasticity, and to nourish the hair, giving it healthy shine, whereas Greek women used it as a beautifying skin cleanser, and an after-bath moisturizer.
Nowadays, 3000 years later, modern scientists have pointed out that in particular extra virgin olive oil has a range of beneficial effects with regard to almost all body functions, such as on brain development, bone growth, gastrointestinal function, central nervous system development, strengthening the immune system, metabolic function, tooth development and hair growth, even on skin revitalization and ageing prevention.