Saturday, December 4, 2010

Olive Oil and Skincare

Besides the presence of olive oil in cooking, another important usage of it is in beauty and skincare. It is high in antioxidants, which protect against the physical signs of aging, and it also works to moisturize the skin. These beneficial properties did not go unnoticed even in pre-Christian times. The Ancient Egyptians used olive oil for body and hair massages, while the Romans, Arabs, and Greeks made it a key ingredient for soaps, perfumes, and moisturizers. Nowadays, it can be found in products such as body lotions, soap, and shampoo. One can even use extra-virgin olive oil by itself for beauty rituals, since it is in its purest form and retains all of its nutrients.

The Olive and Religion

The olive and its oil have been central to religion, and especially to Greek Orthodoxy, since ancient times. The olive tree, for example, is mentioned more than 170 times in the Bible. One such instance occurred after the Great Flood of the Old Testament. Noah had sent out a dove to search for dry land, and the dove returned to Noah's ship with an olive branch in its mouth, a symbol of peace from God. However, the importance of the olive is not limited to Biblical times. In Orthodoxy, olive oil is used during the church ceremonies of baptisms, weddings, and funerals, which are key milestones in an Orthodox Christian's life. It also plays a significant role in the holiest of Greek holidays, Easter. In the church ceremony of Holy Unction that takes place during the week before Easter, the priest anoints each member of the congregation with oil, which is said to provide both physical and spiritual healing. This consecrated oil is called chrism, and it consists of olive oil with various aromatic essences. Olive oil is not used for religious purposes only in a church, however. Many people light vigil oil lamps before icons in their homes, as a sign of respect for the saints depicted on them.