Within the modern health, fragrance, and food industries, we hear a lot about the wonders of ‘essential oils’, but many of us don’t actually know what they are and what benefits they supposedly have.
What’s more, we also don’t know which common oils count as essential oils, and which ones aren’t. One example is olive oil, which begs the question: what exactly is an essential oil (see also “How To Make The Ultimate Sugar Scrub With Essential Oils“), and does olive oil make the grade?
What Is ‘Essential Oil’?
Within the world of fragrances, an essential oil is the extracted, concentrated hydrophobic liquid extracted from certain plants.
These tend to contain volatile oils – that is, oils that are easily evaporated – and are considered ‘essential’ due to them capturing the ‘essence’ of the plant in question.
There is often confusion around this subject, and when people hear the term ‘essential’ they assume that they are something the body desperately needs and cannot do without.
This is not true, and aside from flavorings in food, they are not often designed for ingesting.
What Are They Used For?
As well as fragrances, essential oils have many different uses, including cosmetics, soaps, air fresheners, food and drink flavoring, household cleaning products, and for adding scents to incense.
They are also used in some traditional medicines, as well as for aromatherapy, and while they have not scientifically been proven to hold specific health benefits, they are still widely used throughout much of the world as a means of relaxation, spiritual balance, and health.
What Are The Essential Oils?
When it comes to essential oils, there are many that are commonly used throughout the numerous industries listed above.
The essential oils are numerous, but commonly used ones include lavender oil, juniper berry oil, lemongrass, clove oil, coconut oil, and citronella oil – the latter of which is commonly used by campers to repel flies, moths, and other outdoor flying insects (see also “Essential Oils To Repel Bees and Wasps“).
Is Olive Oil An ‘Essential’ Oil?
When it comes down to olive oil, this is not actually considered an essential oil by those within the industry, however it does have many beneficial uses within a number of different industries.
What Is Olive Oil Used For?
Olive oil has many uses within numerous industries, and there are many proven benefits to consuming it as part of a balanced, healthy diet.
For Culinary Purposes
Olive oil has long been an integral part of the Mediterranean diet, and plays an important role in establishing the characteristic flavors associated with the cuisine.
It is also one of the reasons that the Mediterranean diet is considered to be one of the healthiest in the world, and why so many experts recommend this diet for people who experience high cholesterol, heart problems, high blood pressure, and other issues that can cause long term problems.
Olive oil can be used as a cooking oil (replacing something like sunflower oil), as an ingredient within a dish, or as a dressing over the top of food, and there are numerous different varieties throughout Italy, Greece, and the Mediterranean.
For Medicinal Purposes
Olive oil has also been shown to have numerous health benefits, and it is still widely used within medicine all around the world.
These tend to be for topical skin applications, but they can also be used for:
- Earwax problems
- Ringing ears (tinnitus)
- Inner ear pain
- Lice (scalp and skin)
- Open wounds
- Minor burns
- Stretch marks from pregnancy
- Jock itch
- Tinea versicolor
- UV skin damage (sunburn)
For Religious Purposes
Perhaps unsurprisingly, olive oil has also played a large role in religious practices from all around the world – namely Christianity and Judaism.
With regards to Judaism in particular, olive oil was long used as the sacred oil used to light the menorah – the seven stemmed candelabra commonly lit through the Jewish celebration of Hanukkah.
Other Common Uses
Olive oil has also long been used as an industrial lubricant, namely for kitchen machinery like cookware, grinders, and blenders.
It has also long been used as fuel for oil lamps, as the base for soaps and detergents, and within the cosmetics industry – where it is often used as a liquid base upon which other ingredients can be added.
Does It Have Notable Health Benefits?
As mentioned above, one of the reasons olive oil is so popular in so many industries is that it has proven health benefits.
Olive oil has been shown to have strong anti-inflammatory properties, which can have numerous impacts on various chronic ailments – such as arthritis and fibromyalgia.
Olive oil is the main reason why the Mediterranean diet is considered so healthy, and one reason for this is because the oil is laden with healthy fats.
This makes it a healthy alternative for other common cooking oils and dressings.
Using olive oil can also help avoid high blood pressure, heart disease, and can even help to reduce the risk of strokes (see also “Sensitization – What Is It And How To Reduce The Risk“).
The healthy fats within olive oil also means that it is not associated with weight gain and obesity – things that are indeed associated with other processed fats.
This means that it is a great alternative for those who are trying to not only eat more healthily, but lose weight in the process.
Other Health Benefits
There is also some speculation amongst scientists that olive oil might have applications towards degenerative conditions like Alzheimer’s disease, although research surrounding this is limited at present.
And there we have it, everything you need to know about olive oil, and whether or not it is considered an ‘essential oil’.
It’s true that olive oil has numerous benefits – ranging from the dietary, to health, and even to cosmetic use – which is why it remains such a popular and widely used substance throughout the world.
So if you are looking to improve your diet and health, then why not try olive oil?