When you think of olive oil, what’s the first association that you make with it? That it’s lovely for dipping bread into, or drizzling on a salad?

Most people know that olive oil is full of monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs!) which lower cholesterol and have additional benefits like improving blood clotting and regulating insulin, but few really do their research on why it’s so good for us. Extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO) is an anti-inflammatory and natural antioxidant that keep cells and blood vessels healthy and strong, and it’s a great source of Vitamin E and beta carotene. Some researchers have claimed that a diet rich in EVOO—such as a Mediterranean diet that’s also rich in vegetables, legumes, and whole grains—can also lower one’s risk of cancer rather significantly.

Olive oil has been shown to improve bone health, cognitive (brain) function, and digestive health: with the latter, EVOO seems to help slow the growth of “bad” bacteria in the gut, while encouraging the growth of beneficial belly flora—much like active-culture yoghurt.

Apparently the best type of oil you can use is extra-virgin oil from Spain, though it’s best not to heat it up: lower-grade olive oils are better for actual cooking, while EVOO is best for dipping and drizzling, so keep that in mind if you plan to incorporate more olive oil into your life.

With all of these great internal benefits from olive oil, it’s understandable that few would even consider using this amazing oil for anything other than a condiment. In actuality, it has some wonderful uses that go beyond its popularity as a dressing for your favourite greens:

1. Olive oil as skincare

Skin can get dry and scaly in wintertime, so consider using olive oil to moisturise it back to its full glory: the next time you take a bath or shower, massage some olive oil into your skin while it’s still damp, and you’ll notice results almost immediately. For particularly dry feet and hands, slather on the oil just before bed and then put on cotton socks and gloves to keep the oil in place as you sleep. The results you’ll see in the morning will be downright astonishing.

You can use olive oil as a lip conditioner, to moisturise and soften cuticles around your nails, and can even be dabbed onto babies’ bottoms to help ease diaper rash.

This stuff is also great for your hair: a bit of oil can be rubbed into the scalp an hour before washing to help alleviate dandruff, and can also be applied to the ends of your hair if they’re dry and splitting. Pets can benefit from topical olive oil as well, particularly on rough paw-pads.

2. Oil-pulling therapy

Oil-pulling is an ancient Ayurvedic technique that has been lauded the world over for its therapeutic benefits. Basically, a tablespoon of oil is gargled and swished around the mouth for 15-20 minutes a few times a day, and then spat out.  How does this help your body? Apparently it acts like a detoxifier, drawing all kinds of bacteria, mucus, and toxins out of your body in much the same way that oil in your car’s engine collects all the dirt and debris within it. People have claimed that it can alleviate everything from arthritis and allergies to chronic fatigue and PMS.

3. Hairball relief

Hopefully this isn’t something you suffer from, but it works wonders for pet cats: adding ½ a teaspoon to your cat’s food every day can help to either prevent or alleviate hairball issues, and will also make their coats softer and more lustrous.

4. It adds moisture to cakes

With its Vitamin E content and dense moisture, olive oil not only makes cakes, cupcakes and muffins rich and moist, it also extends the life of them as it keeps them from drying out too quickly. Olive oil will also add extra nutrients to the cakes, and can be used in lieu of butter to make them lower in calories and more heart-friendly.

5. As wood polish

In addition to all of these amazing benefits, you can also use olive oil to polish wooden furniture and floors, though it seems like a terrible waste to use such a great oil for this sort of thing. If you’re going to go this route, make sure to use a low grade of oil so you don’t break the heats of all the craftspeople who work so hard to press the extra-virgin stuff.

Featured photo credit:  Olive oil and olives via Shutterstock

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