By Sue Rodgers

SPAIN is the world’s largest producer of olive oil and some 75% is produced here in Andalucia.

The olive is a native of the Mediterranean region and is an integral part of the healthy Mediterranean diet.

But the ancient olive tree is also now being studied for its many varied medicinal benefits.

A liquid extract of olive leaves has shown it to have doubled the anti-oxidant capacity of green tea and quadruple that of Vitamin C.

While other studies have found that olive waste can produce 2.5 times the energy generated by burning wood.

Olives have been cultivated since pre-historic times, and are best known for providing oils and fruits for culinary purposes, as well as for use in lamps.

Less familiar are the medicinal benefits, which include making use of the leaves and bark as well.

As a herb, olive is antiseptic, astringent and is known to lower blood pressure and fevers.

The oil is a laxative and an emollient and can be used to ease constipation and soothe peptic ulcers.

The Romans of course used olive oil to cleanse their skin as part of their bathing ritual.

Mediterranean women with their glorious glossy hair have known for centuries the value of applying warm olive oil to revive dry lifeless hair.

The bark can be harvested as required and used fresh in an infusion, to relieve colic, however I warn you this is not for the faint-hearted.

Let’s just say the taste is an acquired one!

Similarly the leaves can always be harvested and made into an infusion – simply put a small handful of leaves in a mug and pour boiling water over it, and allow to infuse for 10 minutes – then drink to help reduce high blood pressure.

As it has a mildly irritating effect on the gut it is best drunk with a meal.

One things for sure, the humble olive is far more than simply a bar snack.

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