Jeddah, (IINA) – Olives have been mentioned seven times in the Holy Qur’an and their health benefits have been propounded in Prophetic medicine.
The olive, like the date, holds great value in ancient and modern culture. In the Mediterranean culture, “it has served as everything from money to medicines for several thousand years,” OnIslam reported.
The dove holding an olive branch in its mouth has become a universal symbol of peace. It is said to have originated in the story of Prophet Noh (May Allah be pleased with him).
The oil of this blessed tree has also been cited as a symbol of goodness and purity.
The cosmetics industry, natural health practitioners and the culinary world are unanimous on the benefits of this delectable fruit, which bursts with flavor and health. The olive industry, which produced 460 million gallons of olive oil in 2000-2001, has grown tremendously as consumers worldwide are alerted to the benefits of this amazing fruit.
The olive tree is a hardy tree that grows to less than 10 meters. Temperatures below freezing are damaging to the trees. It is an evergreen tree with leaves that are pale green above and silvery below. The bark is pale grey and the flowers are numerous, small and creamy-white in color.
The fruit of the tree is a drupe with fleshy fruit and a hard stone. The color of the fruit varies from green (unripe) to black (ripe) as it passes through its growth stages. As the tree ages, it produces more fruit.
Olives are cultivated through grafting, the method routinely used to propagate fruit trees. The stem or bud of one plant is joined to the stem or bud of another to form a new plant. While it can take more than five years for a tree to start producing fruit, trees can be harvested annually and continue to produce fruits until they become old and hollow.
From this ‘blessed’ tree hardly anything is wasted as the fruits are eaten or used to produce olive oil, the leaves possess medicinal value and the wood of the tree is highly valued for carpentry work.
World olive oil consumption is rising at about 1.5 percent per year. The Mediterranean basin provides 99 percent of all olive oil.
Since the 1950s, the benefits of the Mediterranean diet, rich in olive oil, have been extolled. While it has always been promoted as being beneficial in lowering cholesterol levels (Assmanm and Wahrburg), it is now increasingly being linked to lowering blood pressure.
The medicinal and cosmetic uses of olive products are truly astounding. The oil is extremely nutritious and is recommended by dieticians to “improve the balance of fats within the blood” (Adams, 2001) as well as in lowering cholesterol levels.
A study by Dr. Ferrara and his colleagues of the Frederico II University of Naples, Italy (Ferrera et al., 2000) compared the effects of two similar low-fat diets on the blood pressure of hypertensive patients. One diet was enriched with extra virgin olive oil, high in monounsaturated fatty acids while the second was enriched with the same amount of sunflower oil with a high content of polyunsaturated fatty acids.
The patients on the former diet, all hypertensive, showed significant reductions in their blood pressure, thereby indicating that a diet, rich in olive oil, is not only associated with lower levels of cholesterol, but with lower blood pressure as well. The DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) eating plan, which promotes a diet low in sodium and high in unsaturated fats, also recommends olive oil (National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, 2003).
Another medical benefit of olive oil relates to the maintenance of a healthy digestive system. Oxford University’s Institute of Health found that “olive oil may have a protective effect on the development of colorectal cancer” (Stoneham et al., 2000).
The benefits of the olive extend to its use as fuel for lamps.
The olive tree does not only have nutritional, medicinal and cosmetic value. Along with all of creation, it also fulfills a religious function as a sign (ayah) of Allah.