The Healing Powers of Olive Oil: A Complete Guide for Hair & Skin Care

4 Main Causes of Aging and The Superfoods (3)

Is an Olive a fruit?

Olive-Leaf-Extract

We tend to think of olives as a savory snack or associate them with olive oil – neither of which brings the fruit category immediately to mind! However, a fruit is generally defined as the part of a plant which develops from its flowers and contains the seeds from which the next plants can grow.

The olive fruit grows after the white and yellow flowers of the olive tree have finished, and contains a stone which can be used to plant new trees, so is therefore considered a fruit. Often the stone is of course removed so that the olive can be eaten or prepared for any of a wide range of potential uses for this wonderful, healthful natural product.

Why is Olive Oil so healthy?

olive-oil-branch

Olive oil, like all edible oils, contains fat – something we are always told to avoid. But fat is actually a vital component of the human diet; it’s a just a matter of choosing the right types. Olive oil is full of unsaturated fats, which are very different from the saturated fats present in deep fried food, many forms of meat, and other fatty food items. Unsaturated fat differs from saturated fat in it’s chemical structure and has a completely different effect on the body.

Saturated fats can raise your cholesterol levels, increasing your risk of experiencing a heart attack or stroke.[1] The World Health Organization recommends that unsaturated fats, such as olive oil, are consumed in preference to saturated fats, such as lard, butter, cream and fatty meats.[2] Unsaturated fats not only represent a healthier alternative, but foods such as olive oil actually have the potential to lower cholesterol levels.

[3] It is the prominent role of olive oil in the Mediterranean diet, which is considered a major factor in the low rates of heart problems in this part of the world. With 81 per 100,000 deaths in the US caused by coronary heart disease, compared to just 52 per 100,000 in Italy,[4] it makes sense to incorporate such a practical ingredient into your own diet.

Olive oil is also a major source of vitamin E, a nutrient which is important for cell repair, the immune system, and good eyesight. Deficiency of vitamin E, whilst rare in the developed world, can lead to neurological damage, retinopathy, and anemia.

[5] Also present is oleic acid, a substance which has been shown to reduce blood pressure. The type of oleic acid found uniquely in olive oil has also been the subject of research for its capacity to defend the body from some forms of cancer. Regular consumption of olive oil has been found to measurably lower the risk of developing breast cancer,[6] a disease which currently affects around 1 in 8 women in the United States.

[7]Its antioxidant ingredients have also been found to reduce or slow down the incidence of the harmful form of skin cancer caused by excessive exposure to the sun’s harmful UV rays.

[8] It is clear that the benefits of olive oil are not just a passing fad, but based on its genuine and naturally occurring nutritional benefits. If you are looking to improve the health of your heart, body and general well-being, you should try to make olive oil be an important part of your diet.

Youth in a Bottle – the Benefits of Olive Oil

The benefits to the health of your heart and immune system mean olive oil can play a role in helping you live longer, but there are further nutritional benefits which can prevent conditions associated with the aging process. Alzheimer’s disease, which affects the memory and cognition with a devastating impact on sufferers and their families, is a condition which is becoming more common as we live longer.

Olive oil’s antioxidant effects are thought to strengthen the body’s ability to maintain cell strength and reverse damage which has already occurred, due to the polyphenols it contains.[9] The United States has the third highest global occurrence of death from dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, whereas Italy is ranked 35th. [10] Making olive oil a part of your diet could help protect against the aging process of the mind, as well as the body.

Olive oil’s health-giving properties go beyond physical ailments. By improving your diet and lowering your cholesterol, you are certainly going to feel younger and fitter – and probably live longer too. But olive oil is often regarded as ‘youth in a bottle’ because it has anti-aging properties which work both inside the body and out.

It has been used as a beauty treatment throughout history, as far back as ancient Egypt. Olive oil continues to be recognized today as a fantastic natural product for bringing your skin back to life – which isn’t surprising given that many of the chemical constituents which occur naturally in olive oil are promoted as key ingredients in expensive skin creams and face masks.

Olive oil contains significant levels of vitamin E, which is a powerful antioxidant commonly found in skin creams. Antioxidants are popular in skin treatments because of the way they can protect against UV light and target free radicals, preventing premature damage to the cells of the skin. Other antioxidants which can be found in olive oil and are frequently marketed as active ingredients in skincare products include hydroxytyrosol, polyphenols, and phytosterols.

Olive oil also contains squalene, which research has shown to be an effective method of treating various skin conditions including acne, psoriasis, and some forms of dermatitis.[11] Research using mixtures of honey, beeswax, and olive oil have also found that this ancient combination of natural ingredients is effective in treating some very powerful bacteria, including Staphylococcus aureus (which can cause skin problems such as abscesses, and even affect the respiratory tract.)

It has also been found effective in preventing the spread of the yeast infection Candida albicans, which can affect various parts of the body.[12] Olive oil’s powerful infection-fighting properties mean you can incorporate it into your hair and beauty regime safe in the knowledge that you will be promoting your body’s own capacity to stay strong and well.

Beyond physical health, diets which are high in unsaturated fats such as olive oil, have also been shown to lead to better mental health than that experienced by people who consume a higher proportion of saturated fats.

It may come as no great surprise that eating a lot of processed food and saturated fats like butter, cake, and greasy fries can contribute to feelings of depression and lethargy. Replacing less healthy fats in your diet with olive oil is one very simple way to raise the proportion of healthy fats you consume, leading to a more balanced diet, lifestyle, and state of mind.

Olive Oil Recipes you can try yourself

There are many ways you can choose to make olive oil a part of your regular diet. Some people choose to use it as a replacement for other, less healthy fats by using it in their cooking and baking. You might find yourself inspired to try authentic Mediterranean cuisine, where olive oil is the main source of dietary oil-based fat. You will also benefit from the wide range of vegetables and grains used in traditional Italian fare. Olive oil is a highly flexible item to have in your kitchen.

For a range of olive oil recipes which can be slotted into your usual meal planning, browse the recipe ideas from California Olive Ranch

If you’d like to try switching out saturated fats in your home baking, try an olive oil cake based on traditional Mediterranean recipes

For a truly Italian way to enjoy olive oil with bread, read this discussion and recipe from the Tuscan Traveler

Olive Oil home remedies for your Skin

skin

Because it is such a gentle natural substance with antioxidant properties, olive oil makes a wonderful cleanser. There is no need to splurge on expensive products for removing make-up, which can contain alcohol and other chemicals likely to dry out or damage your skin.

Olive oil has a calming and moisturizing effect, and is far less likely to trigger any dermatological reaction than nut-based oils. Olive oil is particularly effective at removing eye make-up, as its oily nature breaks down stubborn products like waterproof mascara, allowing them to be removed gently without scrubbing at the skin.

Olive oil can be applied to cotton pads and used to gently wipe off make-up like a regular cleanser, but is also ideal for a relaxing deep cleanse. Pour a little olive oil into the palms of your hands and allow it to warm up a little before patting it all over your face. You can then use your fingertips and the lengths of your fingers to give yourself a face massage, with gentle tapping and swooping movements from the center of the face outwards. This home treatment will leave you feel relaxed and help drain toxins from your skin.

For a more substantial cleanser, you could try replicating the mixture used in the recipe mentioned below, which uses entirely natural and easy to find products.

Start by grating beeswax until you have about a tablespoon full. Place this into a small bowl held over a pan of simmering water – do not use the microwave for this as it could catch fire. Once the beeswax has melted, take it off the heat and stir in a tablespoon of honey followed by a tablespoon of olive oil. The mixture will set a little as it cools, and can be used as a highly effective, anti-bacterial cleanser. Apply it with fingers or cotton pads before washing off with warm water and a soft cloth.

Olive Oil home remedies for your Hair

Olive-Oil-Treatment

We are constantly being told about a huge array of expensive, synthetic products which promise to give you red carpet hair in exchange for a considerable sum of money and a complicated shower routine. But there’s really no need to fall for the hype – many of these products contain chemicals which will weigh hair down, making it appear lifeless and requiring yet another expensive treatment to pep it back up again.

It’s fine to enjoy the occasional luxury product, but over-use of commercial hair products can actually damage the hair and the follicle, impacting your body’s natural facility for growing long, healthy hair.

Olive oil has traditionally been used as a hair treatment in all of the parts of the world where it grows, and its moisturizing qualities and fatty acid content make it ideal for various types of hair treatment.

If you have an itchy scalp or tend to suffer from dandruff, rub some olive oil into your roots and leave it to sit for around 15 minutes before washing out with plenty of shampoo. If you warm the oil first by carefully heating it in a bowl over a pan of simmering water, this can be a very relaxing way to unwind and recreate a spa experience at home. (Just be sure to check the temperature before pouring it onto your head!)

Olive Oil Hair Products

The healthy fats in olive oil make it ideal for protecting the shaft of your hair from damage caused by heat styling, or general wear and tear. Smoothing a tiny amount into the ends of your hair before styling will protect against split ends and keep your locks looking naturally smooth and shiny.

If you’re creating a slick ponytail or bun, the tiniest smidgen of olive oil rubbed into your fingertips is also perfect for smoothing down fly-aways and polishing your overall look. Don’t overdo it though, or your hair will just end up looking greasy.

1 http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/Cholesterol/Pages/Introduction.aspx

2 http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs394/en/

3 http://cholesterol.about.com/cs/faq/f/difference.htm

4 http://www.worldlifeexpectancy.com/cause-of-death/coronary-heart-disease/by-country/

5 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vitamin_E_deficiency

6 Martin‐Moreno, Jose M., et al. “Dietary fat, olive oil intake and breast cancer risk.” International Journal of Cancer 58.6 (1994): 774-780.

7 http://www.breastcancer.org/symptoms/understand_bc/statistics

8 http://www.oliveoiltimes.com/olive-oil-health-news/olive-oil-prevent-skin-cancer/10302

9 Abuznait, Alaa H., et al. “Olive-oil-derived oleocanthal enhances β-amyloid clearance as a potential neuroprotective mechanism against Alzheimer’s disease: In vitro and in vivo studies.” ACS chemical neuroscience 4.6 (2013): 973-982.

10 http://www.worldlifeexpectancy.com/cause-of-deaeth/alzheimers-dementia/by-country

11 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23449131

12 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15777988

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Angie Briggs has been a health and fitness writer since 2006. Her articles have been published on eHow, LIVESTRONG.COM and GardenGuides. She graduated from Thompson Institute with a diploma as a computer support specialist and received certification from CareerStep as a medical transcriptionist and medical language specialist.

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