Olive oil has many valuable uses beyond cooking, from personal care to home improvement, natural remedies and beyond.
It's long been reported that there are a number of health benefits of olive oil. As a foodstuff it has a high concentration of monounsaturated fatty acids, which studies show promote "good" cholesterol (HDL) while lowering "bad" cholesterol (LDL). Olive oil is also known to be gentle on the digestive system, and even may help prevent gallstones and soothe ulcers. Good quality olive oil contains valuable vitamins and nutrients, and it is loaded with antioxidants, which many believe help protect the body from cancer.
These days there are an increasing array of organic and boutique olive oils offered for sale, some of them quite pricey. In general, the less processed an oil the more nutrients it contains, although the more expensive it tends to be. "Extra virgin" olive oil comes from the first pressing of olives, and retains the most flavor and aroma. Most better brands are also advertised as "cold pressed," meaning they aren't heated up beyond room temperature during processing. Unsurprisingly, high heat can damage the flavor and nutrients in the oil. "Virgin" olive oil generally comes from the second pressing. Cheaper brands sold as "regular" or "pure" olive oil are made with chemical refining and filtering, which standardize and neutralize flavors and acid contents. They have lower nutrient levels as a result.
To help protect the fragile environments of the Mediterranean and elsewhere, it's a good idea to buy organic olive oil when you can. It also will tend to be of high quality and flavor, great for spaghetti, oven-roasted vegetables, fresh salads and many other dishes.
It's true that you won't be consuming the olive oil in a number of the uses below, and part of the point of this post is to help you save money by suggesting alternative uses to things you already have, so you don't have to make a trip to the store and buy some additional products to get the job done. Therefore, we'd understand if you preferred to use the cheapest, lowest-grade oils for some of these tips. You probably aren't going to crack open that vintage bottle of herb-infused oil your aunt brought you back from Tuscany in the event that you have a squeaky door. But since readers seemed to find everyday alternative uses for vodka, vinegar and ketchup useful, we thought we'd look into olive oil:
1. Get Healthy Skin (And Fight Cancer!)
Some of the most exciting news, according to Baumann, is that olive oil also contains at least four different antioxidants, which can help "neutralize damaging free radicals that can lead to skin aging and skin cancer." Baumann writes that in studies mice that drank extra virgin olive oil developed less skin cancer after exposure to UV light.
Olive oil can also provide a safe and natural lubricant for a close shave. As a soothing aftershave, rub in an extra teaspoon of the stuff after rinsing off. In fact, some products from The Art of Shaving are based on olive oil. Similarly, olive oil can soothe chapped lips. Make your own balm by mixing olive oil and melted beeswax in a 1:1 ratio (add an essential oil if you want a nice fragrance). According to the handy new Website AltUse, you can moisturize your cuticles by soaking in olive oil mixed with water, or apply olive oil directly to cuticles before applying polish or buffing nails.
2. Tame Tangled and Damaged Hair
In his new book Clean Body, Zen Cleaner Michael de Jong suggests treating your tresses by kneading a few tablespoons of olive oil into your scalp and hair. "Swathe your oiled-up curls with a shower cap and take a thirty minute breather...snooze, toss back a latté, whatever. Then just shampoo as usual to reveal a refurbished mane that even Fabio would envy," he writes.
3. Care for Your Pets!
4. Ease Snoring
Others have noted that downing a teaspoon of olive oil can help soothe a scratchy or ticklish throat.
5. Polish Furniture and Metal (and Condition Leather)
Pour just a few drops on a soft cloth, wipe away the dust, scuffs and fingerprints, and make your desk shine. In fact this technique works well for a range of wooden furniture and objects. You can also condition and revitalize leather goods, such as baseball mitts, by rubbing in olive oil. Let set for 30 minutes, then wipe away any excess.