Olive Oil

Olive oil is recommended for culinary as well as medicinal use—only the first-pressed, or virgin, unrefined olive oil, as the later pressings do not yield the same medicinal factors. Virgin olive oil is made by simple traditional processes, without heat, without refining, bleaching, degumming and deodorizing. If an olive oil is not labeled virgin, you can be sure that it is non-virgin and may have gone through any of these treatments. These refined oils negatively affect human health. 

Olive oil contains linoleic acid, an essential fatty acid, in quantities from 3.5% to 20%, averaging 10%. It also contains the essential fatty acid alpha-linolenic acid from 0.1% to 0.6%. This makes olive oil not a significant source of the essential fatty acids which should be procured from other sources, notably flaxseed oil. Olive oil does contain some lecithin, which can help with liver functions. 

The special health-enhancing functions of olive oil are found mainly in its minor constituents. These are only present in the unrefined or virgin oil. They include beta carotene, or pro-vitamin A, and tocopherols, or vitamin E. Also included are chlorophyll, squalene, which is heart-protective, and phytosterols, which protect against cholesterol absorption from foods. 

Virgin olive oil improves brain maturity and function in animals deficient in essential fatty acids. These research results almost assuredly transfer to humans as well, because brain development and function are similar in both animals and humans. 

Olive oil has other components with specific beneficial effects:  

Beta-sitosterol lowers high cholesterol levels.

Triterpenic acids are anti-inflammatory.

Caffeic and gallic acids stimulate the flow of bile. Gallic acid also inhibits lactic dehydrogenase in the liver, a sign of liver malfunction.  

Phenolic compounds protect against peroxidation of fatty acids and cholesterol. 2-phenylethanol stimulates the production of fat-digesting enzymes in the pancreas.  

Triterpenic acids (only found in olive oil) stimulate pancreatic enzymes.  

Cycloartenol, stored in the liver, lowers the amount of circulating cholesterol and increases bile secretion. 

One of the most significant reasons for using virgin olive oil is that virtually every other oil on the market has been damaged by heat in its preparation. In practical terms, heat and chemically damaged oils are extremely dangerous to the health.

A Little History

Olives are said to have come into cultivation around the end of 4000 B.C. in the Near East and southeast Europe. In Israel and surrounding areas, olive trees grow everywhere, and in many areas it is the only tree that can be seen. Olive oil was used lavishly by the Egyptians for the hair and the skin, as well as in all sorts of ceremonies.

An even earlier reference to the tree comes in Genesis 8:11, where the dove brings back the plucked leaf of the olive tree to Noah as a signal that the land is drained and they can now leave the Ark. Some authorities say that this olive leaf was really a tamarisk, but most scholars believe that it was olive, which had to come from a tree so common that it could be identified from a single leaf. Both the olive tree and the dove are symbols of peace and friendship, probably originating from the Noah story. The olive leaf or branch is regarded almost universally as a symbol of peace. This is true in almost every land. Early navigators found that green olive branches carried in the hands or placed in the ground were everywhere used and understood as emblems of peace among all the islanders, including those in the South Seas. The Greeks prayed for prosperity and peace with green olive boughs held in their hands, garlands around their necks and crowns upon their heads. It was also the custom of the Greeks, especially of the Athenians, to carry an olive branch to the homes of their neighbors on the day of the new year as a symbol of peaceful intentions. Among the Chinese, disputes or quarrels were settled by sending the offended person an olive wrapped in red paper.

Olive oil has always been a symbol of prosperity and divine blessing, beauty, luxury, and strength. It was so abundantly cultivated in Bible times that the expression olive yards is quite often coupled with vineyards and grain fields in descriptions of the land. Almost every Middle Eastern village has its olive grove or orchards. Even though the tree is comparatively plentiful today, it used to be even more cultivated. There are many oil presses in archaeological sites throughout the Middle East which indicate that the olive was much more important than it is now.


The tree requires years of patient labor before reaching full fruitfulness, implying a certain degree of peace. A hostile army could, in a few days, destroy the work of two generations. Perhaps this may have something to do with its being an emblem of peace. Enemies of a village or of an individual today in the Middle East often carry out revenge by cutting away a ring of bark from the trunks of the olive trees, killing them in a few months. 

Olive oil is recommended for weak persons who cannot seem to gain weight. Dr. John Christopher tells of a young man who was unable to ingest food because his system would reject anything he took internally. Unwilling to undergo intravenous feeding, he was given olive oil massages daily. The olive oil fed into his system and nourished him until, with the use of other therapies, he was able to eat food again. Dr. John Christopher commented that, as far as his health was concerned, he might be better off with the olive oil nourishment than with some of the junk food he might be tempted to eat! Babies who are teething or whose digestive systems are otherwise upset can be nourished with olive oil massage in the same way. After a good, warm bath, the skin absorbs the oil very well. 

Soldiers in World War 1 were treated with an emulsified olive oil to help with shell shock or nervous conditions. In Greece, where heart and artery problems are very low, olive oil is consumed freely. Blood cholesterol is said to be reduced with the use of olive oil. Studies in France indicated that the use of olive oil reduces blood cholesterol from 14 to 26 percent. Patients were given as much olive oil to drink as they wanted, but no other oil or fat.

Olive oil taken internally is also reported to protect against the bad effects of x-rays and irradiation. Laboratory studies conducted on mice, which were exposed to doses of irradiation, showed that the animals whose diets were fortified with olive oil received no damage to the liver, kidneys and lungs, as well as any adverse reactions with the skin and hair. Of course, Dr. John Christopher and his students deplore the use of animals in such experiments. 

Olive oil is used as an important part of Dr. John Christopher’s treatment for gallstones and kidney stones. The oil causes strong healthy contractions of the gall bladder, greatly favoring complete emptying, which prevents the bile from backing up and clogging. Most treatments involve taking olive oil and lemon before bed, following up in the morning with hot water or apple juice. 

Dr. H.C.A. Vogel, the famous herbalist of Switzerland, said that an Italian woman came to him with a case of gallstones which she was afraid of having removed surgically. As he knew that Italians can swallow oil easily, he recommended an olive oil cure. First, he said that the intestinal tract had to be thoroughly cleansed by soaked prunes or flaxseed. Then swallow 4 to 14 ounces of virgin olive oil. Lie down, turn over on the right side, and remain in that position for two hours. The lady followed these instructions and came back to him beaming; a lot of stones came away and the operation was unnecessary. The lady’s doctor could not believe it. Not everyone can take a pint of oil as that lady did, but smaller quantities taken over a few days can help remove small stones. 

Olive oil taken internally will strengthen the gums and improve the hair. Italian hair was often preferred for wigs because the olive oil gave it such a marvelous healthy texture. 

Olive oil can be applied to burns. It is used on skin inflammations, to protect an injured surface from air and from germs, and can be applied to any wounds, bruises, sores, stings, and so on. 

Dr. John Christopher used olive oil exclusively for preparing herbal oils. Such a preparation made with St. Johns Wort is recommended for wounds, sores and abrasions. It can be used on the skin to remove crusts and scales and facilitate smooth skin. In Israel, it is used as a skin dressing and also on the hair, although most westerners prefer a less oily appearance. It can be rubbed into dry skin and cuticles to keep them soft. It can be used for massage for the feet, as an aid to reflexology. It is used with oil of rosemary to control dandruff. Many women apply the oil to the eyelashes and fingernails to strengthen them. You probably know of the familiar hot olive oil treatment to strengthen hair. Warmed olive oil is applied to hair and scalp and rubbed in well. The head is wrapped with a warm towel and the application is allowed to cool. The hair is shampooed and the resulting texture is wonderful. 

Olive oil is sometimes used for engorged breasts during nursing. One part witch hazel and ten parts olive oil are mixed and applied to the breast frequently. This gives speedy relief to the pain and reduces the swelling. If you cannot bathe a bedridden person, you can dampen a cotton ball and moisten it with olive oil to clean the skin. This is soothing and cleansing at the same time. 

Garlic oil is made by steeping peeled and cut garlic cloves in olive oil. Strain after a day or two and it is ready for use. This can be warmed and put into the ears for ear infections. 

Knowing what we do about damaged commercial oils, we use olive oil in almost all of our food preparations. We put it in homemade salad dressing, sauté with it, and use it as a dressing on vegetables. In Israel, people dip their pita bread in olive oil. In Spain, people spread olive oil on their bread or toast, often adding minced garlic and salt.  

A suggestion would be that you use either olive or flaxseed oil for all your food preparations.

Judy Hallingstad