The History Of Extra Virgin Olive Oil

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How We Have Used Extra Virgin Olive Oil With Its Amazing Health Benefits For Centuries

Updated 21st October 2021

Extra Virgin Olive Oil Through History
Extra Virgin Olive Oil Through History

There can’t be many foods that have endured such world-wide constant popularity as Extra Virgin Olive Oil.  Indeed, for many of us, it is hard to imagine a time when a bottle of the best olive oil you can afford was not a permanent feature in our kitchen stores.

The oil derived from the humble olive tree has been a vital source of nutrition and flavour in our diets for centuries, first discovered for use thousands of years ago in the classical era across several Mediterranean civilisations.

According to the World History Encyclopaedia, cultivation of the olive spread from Asia Minor to Iberia and quality olive oil became a great trading commodity right through to the Roman period and beyond.  

Extra Virgin Olive Oil : A Secret Of The Ancients

The secret of extra virgin olive oil as a natural, effective moisturizer was known by the ancient Greeks and Romans. Soaps were not around in the times of the Roman Empire. Instead when Romans went to bathe they rubbed olive oil all over their bodies and then scraped it off with a strigil, carrying away all the dirt and grime with it and leaving the skin silky and moisturized.

In richer patrician households, olive oil was often scented like a perfume, which would leave behind a sweet smell after it was gone. Like now, they would even pour some olive oil into their private baths to relax in them, to soften their skin and relax with some good aromatherapy. They knew that this natural oil, all by itself, was all they needed to use to keep their skin looking young.

What they will not have known is that the chemical composition of extra virgin olive oil is very close to that of human skin. Because of this similarity, your skin may absorb extra virgin olive oil more easily than it would a commercial moisturizer. 

As an important commodity, the Romans made many improvements in olive tree cultivation, olive oil extraction and olive oil storage. Olive oil was used for not only food and cooking, but also lighting, sacrificial offerings, ointment, and ceremonial anointment for priestly or royal office. They valued olive oil to such an extent that it was even accepted as payment for taxes.

The olive has also raised to prominence for its cultural associations as a branch of peace and as the victor’s crown in the ancient Olympic Games.

The History Of Extra Virgin Olive Oil For Cooking

Olive oil was used in both cooked and uncooked dishes throughout the history of the Mediterranean. Home referred to this wonderful product as ‘Liquid Gold’ and olive oil was a major part of the diet.

One of three ‘core food plants’ in the Mediterranean Diet, alongside wheat and grapes, extra virgin olive oil is a liquid fat commonly used in cooking.  Olive oil, and in particular the high quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil has endured in popularity to become a food that is internationally popular today. 

This is partly due to it having the highest percentage of monounsaturated fats which are healthy for the heart of any type of edible oil.

It has also proven itself over the centuries to be the most versatile of cooking ingredients, used widely across many countries as a dip, and based for salad dressing, to enhance flavours of food though roasting and even as a topping for ice cream!

Modern olive oil history point to the Renaissance, where Italy becomes the largest producer of olive oil in the world, renowned for its rich and flavourful oils that graced the tables of nobles and royalty throughout Europe.

The History Of Olive Oil for Healing

Another of its most famous ancient ambassadors, Hippocrates was the first known medical practitioner to use olive oil based ointments to treat wounds and traumas.  This popularity progressed through the centuries and, by the middle ages, olive oil had become a frequent ‘go-to’ remedy for sore throats, cuts and bruises.

In Rome, olive oil was used for nearly everything in relation to their health. Roman medicine takes heavily from Greek doctors, who influenced European medicine for centuries, and Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine writes about over 60 different conditions or ailments that can be treated with olive oil, including skin problems, burns and wounds, ear infections, gynecological problems, healing surgical scars, and much more. As olive oil culture is embedded within the fabric of society many uses of olive oil are used as home remedies today.

Olive Oil Medicinal Uses

“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food”


The Roman doctor Galen, who was born in Greece, was also credited with the invention of cold cream, using olive oil as his base for in instead of the modern day mineral oil. It has been in used for over a thousand years for soothing skin and relieving sunburns. Olive Oil Culture & Islam

The olive tree and olive oil are mentioned seven times in the Quran, and the olive is praised as a precious fruit. Olive trees and olive-oil health benefits have been propounded in Prophetic medicine. The Prophet is reported to have said: “Take olive oil and massage with it – it is a blessed tree” Olive Oil As A Cure.

Early Middle Eastern civilisations relied on Olive Oil to cure everything. To this day, many in the region drink olive oil daily to keep the body running efficiently. Warm olive oil is commonly used in the west to soothe earache.