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Olive

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  • Botanical: Olea europaea
  • Family: Oleaceae
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Olive

Botanical

Olea europaea

Family

Oleaceae

Known as

Olivenbaum, Olive

Old Use

medical, culinary, industry

Parts Used

fruit, leaves

Aroma

exotic, fruity

Medicinal

abdominal pain, cramps stomach, dandruff, diabetes, digestion, fever, gastrointestinal, hair loss, stomach pain, skin rashes, oily hair, ulcers, gastric acidity

Heart & Circulation

high blood pressure

Infection & Inflammation

eye inflammation, fever, flu

Mind & Nerves

anxiety, fatigue (exhaustion), neuralgia, stress relief

Stomach & Intestinal

digestion, flatulence, gastritis, gastrointestinal, glucose lowering, gastric acidity, gastric inflammation, heartburn

Skin & Hair

abscess, acne, dandruff, dermatitis, dry skin, hair loss

Properties

antiseptic, astringent, cholagogue, febrifuge, sedative

Description

This much-branched evergreen tree varies in size from 2 to 15 m high. The leaves have an opposite, decussate arrangement, and are entire, 3 to 7 cm long and 0.8 to 2.5 cm wide; the apex is acute with a small hook or point, and the base is attenuate to cuneate. Leaf margins are entire and recurved, the upper surface is grey-green and glossy, and the lower surface has a dense covering of silvery, golden or brown scales. Domatia are absent; venation is obvious on the upper surface and obscure on the lower surface; the petiole is up to 10 mm long. Fruit are borne in panicles or racmes 50 to 60mm long. The calyx is four-lobed, about 1mm long. The corolla is greenish-white or cream; the tube is 1 to 2mm long; lobes are about 3mm long and reflexed at the anthesis. The two stamens are fused near the top of the corolla tube, with bilobed stigma. The globose to ellipsoid fruit is a drupe, 6mm in diameter and 15 to 25 mm long; it is fleshy, glaucous to a dull shine when ripe, and purple-black. The tree usually flowers in spring. The wood is much-prized and durable, with a strong smell similar to bay rum, and is used for fine furniture and turnery.

Properties & Uses

The oil from the pericarp is cholagogue, a nourishing demulcent, emollient and laxative. Eating the oil reduces gastric secretions and is therefore of benefit to patients suffering from hyperacidity. The oil is also used internally as a laxative and to treat peptic ulcers. It is used externally to treat pruritis, the effects of stings or burns and as a vehicle for liniments. Used with alcohol it is a good hair tonic and used with oil of rosemary it is a good treatment for dandruff. The oil is also commonly used as a base for liniments and ointments. The leaves are antiseptic, astringent, febrifuge and sedative. A decoction is used in treating obstinate fevers, they also have a tranquillising effect on nervous tension and hypertension. Experimentally, they have been shown to decrease blood sugar levels by 17 - 23%. Externally, they are applied to abrasions. The bark is astringent, bitter and febrifuge. It is said to be a substitute for quinine in the treatment of malaria. In warm countries the bark exudes a gum-like substance that has been used as a vulnerary. The plant is used in Bach flower remedies - the keywords for prescribing it are 'Complete exhaustion' and 'Mental fatigue'.

Other Uses

The non-drying oil obtained from the seed is also used for soap making, lighting and as a lubricant. The oil is a good hair tonic and dandruff treatment. Maroon and purple dyes are obtained from the whole fresh ripe fruits. Blue and black dyes are obtained from the skins of fresh ripe fruits. A yellow/green dye is obtained from the leaves. Plants are used to stabilize dry dusty hillsides. Wood - very hard, heavy, beautifully grained, takes a fine polish and is slightly fragrant. It is used in turnery and cabinet making, being much valued by woodworkers.

Olive fruits are widely used, especially in the Mediterranean, as a relish and flavouring for foods. The fruit is usually pickled or cured with water, brine, oil, salt or lye. They can also be dried in the sun and eaten without curing when they are called 'fachouilles'. The cured fruits are eaten as a relish, stuffed with pimentos or almonds, or used in breads, soups, salads etc. 'Olives schiacciate' are olives picked green, crushed, cured in oil and used as a salad. The fruit contains 20 - 50µ vitamin D per 100g. The fruit is up to 4cm long. The seed is rich in an edible non-drying oil, this is used in salads and cooking and, because of its distinct flavour, is considered a condiment. There are various grades of the oil, the finest (known as 'Extra Virgin') is produced by cold pressing the seeds without using heat or chemical solvents. The seed of unpalatable varieties is normally used and this oil has the lowest percentage of acidity and therefore the best flavour. Other grades of the oil come from seeds that are heated (which enables more oil to be expressed but has a deleterious effect on the quality) or from using chemical solvents on seed that has already been pressed for higher grades of oil. Olive oil is mono-unsaturated and regular consumption is thought to reduce the risk of circulatory diseases. The seed contains albumen, it is the only seed known to do this. 

Cautions

none known

Distribution

An extensive native range from South Africa, through Africa, the Middle East, Pakistan, India to China. Subtropical dry forests of Olea europaea cuspidata are found in the Himalayan subtropical broadleaf forests ecoregion. In areas where it is not native, such as Australia, it is classified as a noxious weed. It is spread mainly by birds eating the fruit.

Constituents

hydrophilic (phenolic acids, phenolic alchohols, flavonoids and secoiridoids) and lipophilic (cresols) phenolic compounds

For educational purposes only This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.