An herb entry from the Ancient Herbs and Modern Herbs book by James K. Sayre, Copyright, 2001. All rights reserved.


Olive - Olea europaea (Olea oleaster) (Olea lancifolia) (Olea gallica) - family: Oleaceae (Olive Family).

The fruits of this tree has been cultivated as a food source for over six thousand years in the eastern Mediterranean lands which are now Syria, Israel and Lebanon. The Olive is a small evergreen tree that grows to about thirty feet high. It may live several hundred years; a few specimens are alleged to be over one thousand years old. Over time, it develops very picturesque lower limbs and a quite bumpy main trunk. It has leathery elliptic-to-oblong-shaped dark green leaves. It has clusters of small fragrant whitish flowers which are followed by fruits that ripen from green to black. Each olive fruit contains a hard pit or stone (the seed). Its fruits are commonly seen canned in an unripened form (Green Olives) or ripened form (Black Olives). Both Green Olives and Black Olives must first be cured with brine or sodium hydroxide to remove their bitterness (due to the presence of a glycoside called oleuropein) to render them edible. The fruits are the source of olive oil, a food with many uses. The term "virgin" refers to oil obtained in the first pressing of the Olives. The Green Olives are often processed to remove the pit or stone and then sometimes are stuffed with Pimentos. Traditional Mediterranean area folk use of olives as a remedy for constipation and for intestinal parasites. Modern American folk use of oil for avoiding arteriosclerosis and atherosclerosis. Modern American folk use of oil to possibly ward off memory loss. The leaves of the Olive have been used as a traditional Mediterranean area folk remedy for anxiety, constipation, fever, high blood pressure and high blood sugar. Modern European folk use of leaf tea as a remedy for diabetes. Extracts of the olive leaf are now being marketed in North America as a remedy for high blood pressure and high blood glucose. Olive oil is used in the production of skin creams. Listed in the United States Pharmacopoeias from 1820 to 1970. Native to the Mediterranean area. Naturalized in California. Cultivated in California and in the Mediterranean area. Many cultivars exist.



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Web page last updated on 22 May 2003.