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Health Benefits of

olive oil

Olive oil is the main derivative of an olive tree or Olea europea, an evergreen tree that originated from the Mediterranean Basin. The high content of essential fatty acids, fat-soluble vitamins, and phenols impart numerous health benefits to olive oil. (1)


Antimicrobial Activity

Olive oil is a rich source of polyphenols that carry antimicrobial properties. The polyphenolic compounds decrease ATP production and disrupt the microbial proteins, DNA, and membrane potential. This hinders the normal growth of microorganisms and prevents them from causing harm to the human body. Guo et al. investigated the inhibitory effects of polyphenolic extract from the olive oil, on the bacteria Listeria monocytogenes. (2)

Olive Oil for Dysmenorrhea

Pelvic pain during menstruation or dysmenorrhea arises due to two reasons. Firstly, increased calcium concentration in the smooth muscles of the uterus leads to increased uterine contraction and pain. Secondly, increased activity of cyclooxygenase 2 (COX-2) produces prostaglandins which cause hyper contraction of the uterus that leads to inflammation and pain. Oleocanthal is a polyphenolic compound found in olive oil. Oleocanthal reduces prostaglandin-induced uterine contractions. Oleocanthal also blocks the calcium channels in the uterine smooth muscle, thus inhibiting uterine contractions caused by calcium ions. (3)


Figure 2 this graph demonstrates the effects of different concentrations of basil oil on the frequency of migraine headaches


Figure 3The graph shows the effects of increasing concentration of oleocanthal (OC) on the action of prostaglandins.

Figure 4KCl promotes the opening of calcium channels whereas oleocanthal blocks the calcium channels. The graph shows how oleocanthal decreases the strength of uterine contractions by inhibiting calcium influx.

Analgesic Activity of Olive Oil

Oleocanthal inhibits the activity of COX-1 and COX-2 which are important enzymes of the prostaglandin synthesis pathway. Prostaglandins elicit pain by increasing the sensitivity of free nerve endings for pain as well as decreasing the threshold of pain. By inhibiting prostaglandin synthesis, oleocanthal reduces pain in inflammatory and oxidative stress conditions. (4)

Anti-inflammatory Activity of Olive Oil

COX-2 is the principal enzyme in the inflammatory processes and catalyzes the formation of prostaglandins PGE2 and PGI2 and other inflammatory mediators. These prostaglandins cause vasodilation, increase vascular permeability, facilitate leukocyte attachment to the vessel walls, as well as increase the sensitivity of sensory nerve endings to pain. These effects give to the cardinal signs of inflammation including redness, edema, and pain. Oleocanthal inhibits prostaglandin synthesis by blocking the activity of both COX-1 and COX-2. It alleviates the symptoms of arthritis, earache due to inflammation, myositis and muscle ache, acne-associated inflammation, and other inflammatory conditions. (5,6)

Olive Oil for Skin Ulcers and Inflammation

  1. Nipple Sores

Breastfeeding women may experience nipple irritation that hinders the normal lactation process due to pain and ulcers. Phenolic compounds in olive oil heal the skin and inhibit inflammation. Women who use olive oil for nipple sores experience relief from pain and find it easier to lactate after using the oil.

  1. Pressure Ulcer

The skin undergoes necrosis as the soft tissue is compressed between bone and a hard external surface for longer periods, this is known as a pressure ulcer or bed sores. Regular massaging of olive oil reduces the incidence of developing pressure ulcers, particularly in bedridden patients.

  1. Diabetic Foot Ulcer

Diabetic wounds result as increased blood sugars impair the blood flow to several body parts. Diabetic foot ulcers are common diabetic wounds that become gangrenous if paid no attention. Consistent application of olive oil results in a reduction in the depth and severity of the wound in diabetic patients.

  1. Perineal ulcers

Mothers who underwent episiotomy during vaginal birth experience pain and inflammation of the surgical wound. Olive oil is beneficial for healing the episiotomy wound and alleviating in the mothers.

  1. Diaper Dermatitis

Diaper dermatitis is a common ailment among neonates and infants, as their skin is in contact with urinary and fecal particles for a longer duration. This causes infections and necrosis of the skin. Olive oil massage of the skin helps to prevent and treat inflammation due to its antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties.

  1. Atopic Dermatitis or Eczema

Eczema is a hypersensitivity reaction characterized by an itchy rash on the skin. Oleocanthal is an analgesic compound that reduces pain in eczema. The anti-inflammatory properties of squalene in olive oil modulate the inflammatory reaction and facilitate wound healing. (7)


  1. 1.            Jimenez-Lopez C, Carpena M, Lourenço-Lopes C, Gallardo-Gomez M, Lorenzo JM, Barba FJ, et al. Bioactive Compounds and Quality of Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Foods. 2020;9(8).

  2. 2.            Guo L, Sun Q, Gong S, Bi X, Jiang W, Xue W, et al. Antimicrobial Activity and Action Approach of the Olive Oil Polyphenol Extract Against Listeria monocytogenes. Frontiers in Microbiology. 2019;10.

  3. 3.            Chiang YF, Hung HC, Chen HY, Huang KC, Lin PH, Chang JY, et al. The Inhibitory Effect of Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Its Active Compound Oleocanthal on Prostaglandin-Induced Uterine Hypercontraction and Pain-Ex Vivo and In Vivo Study. Nutrients. 2020;12(10).

  4. 4.            Beauchamp GK, Keast RS, Morel D, Lin J, Pika J, Han Q, et al. Phytochemistry: ibuprofen-like activity in extra-virgin olive oil. Nature. 2005;437(7055):45-6.

  5. 5.            Lucas L, Russell A, Keast R. Molecular mechanisms of inflammation. Anti-inflammatory benefits of virgin olive oil and the phenolic compound oleocanthal. Curr Pharm Des. 2011;17(8):754-68.

  6. 6.            Hekmatpou D, Mortaji S, Rezaei M, Shaikhi M. The Effectiveness of Olive Oil in Controlling Morning Inflammatory Pain of Phalanges and Knees Among Women With Rheumatoid Arthritis: A Randomized Clinical Trial. Rehabil Nurs. 2020;45(2):106-13.

  7. 7.            Taheri M, Amiri-Farahani L. Anti-Inflammatory and Restorative Effects of Olives in Topical Application. Dermatol Res Pract. 2021;2021:9927976.

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