The History of Olive Oil and Wellbeing
The Tree of Life – the olive tree
The Olive tree is unique for its incredibly long lifespan and for the influence it has had on history, culture and economies. It often referred to as “the Tree of Life” because of the gifts it bestows of light, heat, food and shelter and for the healing properties of olive oil.
Olive trees, olives and olive oil has been part of human life and culture for millennia. There is evidence of olive pressing in Neolithic times (around 7000 BCE) in the Levant. Paintings and artifacts from the time of Minoan Crete (4000/3000 BCE) show the ancient Minoans cultivated olive trees, used olive oil in their daily lives and revered these trees in their spiritual lives.
An early industrial olive press believed to be 2,500 years old was discovered close to the modern city of Urla in Turkey. It has been reconstructed as an educational museum with an active press showing how archaeologists believe the press was operated to make oil.
Ancient Islamic, Judaic and Christian texts refer to the olive tree and olive oil as sacred. Olive imagery appears in many cultural traditions. The “olive branch “ brought back to the Ark by the dove and given to Noah in the Old Testament of the Christian bible is one of the best known. It has come to symbolise peace. The use of olive oil for religious anointing is a frequent use throughout history as is its use in lamps to provide of light against the darkness,
Great writers from Homer, Hippocrates and Pliny wrote of its healing and anointing properties. Kamal Ataturk was a great advocate of modern olive production. Thomas Jefferson one of the founding fathers of the United States of America and author of the Declaration of Independence was a strong believer in the beneficial aspects of olive oil, importing it annually from Aix en Provence, in France. He introduced olive trees to the USA in the hope of providing nourishment for the poor, particularly African slaves. It took many years but now there is a thriving olive oil industry in California.
An olive tree stands close to the Parthenon to this day – legend has it that it was a gift from the Goddess Athena to the city that still bears her name – Athens. Homer 800 BCE referred to olive oil as “liquid gold” and Hippocrates 400BCE believed that olive oil was “the great healer”. The Prophet Mohammed is said to have recommended “eat olive oil and anoint yourselves with it, for it is from a blessed tree”. More recently Turkish poet Nazim Hikmet wrote: “you must take living so seriously that… even at seventy, you’ll plant olives trees”.
The longevity of the olive tree and its ability to remain productive is remarkable. Thousand -year old trees – called millennial trees – still exist today in Sicily, Crete, Cyprus, and other remote areas of the Mediterranean. A tree at Kavusi, Crete is documented to be more than 3000 years old. It is huge, with a trunk nearly 5 metres in diameter, and is still bearing fruit. It is registered as a natural treasure.
How does a tree live so long? How can it remain fertile? Can it make those who consume its oil live long and well too?
Well being – the benefits of Olive Oil.
The health benefits of fresh olive oil, in particular Extra Virgin Olive Oil are well documented. It is a key component of the Mediterranean Diet which is recommended for good health. Not only is it a natural monosaturated fat with very low fatty acids but fresh Extra Virgin Olive Oil is rich in polyphenols (some of which are unique to olives) which are powerful antioxidants and have anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties.
Scientific research has shown that the polyphenols in fresh olive oil are supportive of our immune system and protective of respiratory and cardiac health.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil is not only good for you it improves the taste and nutritional quality of your food.