You may already know the benefits of cooking with olive oil. A key component of the healthy Mediterranean diet, olive oil is loaded with antioxidants and has a high concentration of monounsaturated fatty acids, which help to promote “good” cholesterol (HDL) and to lower “bad” cholesterol (LDL) in our bodies. You may already have tried it as a delicious alternative to butter by dipping your crusty bread in it at dinner time.
Historians believe that the cultivation of the olive – and its oil – began around 5000 B.C. on Crete and its neighboring islands. The ancient Greeks believed the goddess Athena gave the olive tree as a gift to mankind, and the Greeks used olive oil in religious rituals. The poet Homer, author of The Iliad and The Odyssey, called olive oil “liquid gold” and during the 6th and 7th centuries B.C., the Greek Laws of Solon prohibited the cutting down of olive trees upon punishment of execution.
The Romans also revered olive oil and, with the spread of the Roman Empire, it became a valuable trade commodity and spread throughout ancient world.
Although these cultures did cook with olive oil and enjoyed eating the fruit itself, they used olive oil for many other purposes, as well. As you seek to simplify your lifestyle and find multiple purposes for items in your home, it’s time to consider all the many time-tested alternative uses for olive oil. Here are a dozen of them for you to consider:
1. Moisturize your skin: Cleopatra probably used olive oil as a part of her daily beauty regimen. It contains linoleic acid, which helps prevent water from evaporating. You can apply olive oil directly to your skin as a moisturizer, or you can add a bit to a warm bath. Try targeting it on specific dry areas on your body, such as your elbows.
2. Condition your hair: Olive oil is also great for your hair. Comb a small amount through your hair to combat the frizzies. It also can help restore damaged hair. Try warming a half cup (1/2 cup) of olive oil and then working it through your hair. Cover your hair with a plastic shower hat (or a plastic grocery bag will do), then wrap your head in a towel. Wait 45 minutes, then shampoo and rinse thoroughly. You will notice your hair is smoother and shinier.
3. Ease an earache: Olive oil can be used as a natural remedy for earaches. Using a dropper, place three drops of lukewarm olive oil into the ear canal. Then plug the ear loosely with a cotton ball. You also can dip a cotton swab in the oil to gently cleanse the outside ear cavity to help remove excess wax.
4. Lubricate your skin for shaving: Men and women can try olive oil as a natural lubricant for a close shave. It also is soothing to apply an extra teaspoon or so to the skin after shaving.
5. Soften your lips and cuticles: Olive oil can soothe chapped lips and prevent further chapping. Place a few drops directly on your lips or make your own lip balm by mixing one part olive oil with one part melted beeswax. You can add an essential oil if you would like your balm to have a fragrance. Similarly, you can soften your cuticles by soaking your fingers in water mixed with olive oil, or you can apply olive oil directly to your cuticles before a manicure.
6. Fix squeaky doors: Do you usually reach for WD-40 when you have a squeaky door or cabinet hinge? Instead try wiping the hinge with a cotton ball moistened with olive oil or squirt the hinge with an olive oil-filled spray bottle. It’s quick and effective as a lubricant, and it doesn’t contain hydrocarbons so it’s better for the environment. Olive oil even can free a stuck zipper. Instead of breaking a nail or fretting about that zipper, use a cotton swab to dab some olive oil onto the teeth of the zipper. The oil generally gets it back to working order quickly and easily.
7. Remove labels and stickers: Olive oil can help remove the annoying residue from labels or stickers on jars or other hard surfaces. Dab a little olive oil onto the label, wait a few minutes, and you should be able to peel the sticker and what’s left of the glue right off.
8. Polish your furniture: With olive oil and lemon juice, you can create your own furniture polish that’s just as good as or better than what you can buy at the store. Combine two parts olive oil and one part lemon juice (or white vinegar) in a clean spray bottle. Shake to mix, spray, and then wipe off with a clean, dry cloth. Olive oil is non-toxic, petroleum-free and gentle on your fine furniture.
9. Clean and polish leather: Olive oil also is an excellent product to clean and polish leather shoes or leather furniture. Just pour a little on a soft cloth and buff your leather shoes or boots with it. You will find they will soon feel supple and soft. You can also apply olive oil in the same way to your leather couch or chair and to leather gloves. Try it on a baseball mitt that may have gotten stiff with age or lack of use. Rub some olive oil into the glove and let it set for about 30 minutes. Then wipe away any excess oil.
10. Remove paint: The next time your hands are covered in paint or car grease, try washing them with one teaspoon olive oil combined with one teaspoon salt or sugar. Rub the mixture into your hands and between your fingers for a few minutes. Then wash with soap and water. Not only will the paint or grease come off, but your skin will feel smooth and soft. If you get almost as much paint in your hair as you do on the walls, try moistening a cotton ball with some olive oil and gently rubbing it into your hair.
11. Ease Snoring: Is there a snorer in your home? Many people have found success in cutting down on their snoring by taking a sip of olive oil before heading to bed. It lubricates the throat muscles. Similarly, give it a try to help soothe a scratchy throat.
12. Lessen the pain of a burn: Keep olive oil handy to soothe the pain of a mild kitchen burn or a burn from the sun. Apply oil gently to the affected area or keep a mixture of equal parts olive oil and water in a container that has a tight lid. Shake well; then apply to the skin.
Now that you are aware of some of the many ways you can use olive oil for your family, you will probably discover some more uses of your own. You’ll want to keep a bottle or two handy in your home.