Olive oil is unctuous, slightly bitter, and heating; it increases pitta (bile) and is nourishing. It contains proteins, minerals, and olein. Olive oil is popular in Middle Eastern countries and the West, where it is used as a medium for cooking and in salad dressings. Some scientific research done in Europe shows that olive oil can work as a preventative against osteomalacia (softening of the bone). It stops infections, has a beneficial effect on the flora of the digestive tract, activates the flow of bile, and stimulates fat metabolism.
Olive oil can be used for massage, although it is sticker and heavier than other massage oils. In India olive oil is rare and costly because it is imported. For this reason it is used only in medicinal massage. Ayurvedic doctors (vaidyas) and Muslim doctors who follow the Greek system of medicine (hakims) prescribe olive oil massage for relief from gout, arthritis, muscular pains, sprains, and polio. It is praised as being hotter and more nourishing than sesame or mustard oil, and as good for the body as almond oil.
Since olive oil is heavy and absorbs solar radiation, massage with it before a sunbath would make the body more receptive to sunlight. Its stickiness and heaviness can be reduced by adding a little sesame oil; a few drops of a fragrant essential oil such as jasmine, rose, or lavender makes it an ideal massage oil. It is especially beneficial to infants, children with weak constitutions, and the elderly. It strengthens the muscles, skin, and nerves; it also cures swelling and enhances pigmentation. It is not good for the hair, however. Whenever olive oil is used for head massage, an herbal shampoo or soap-nut powder (reetha), should be used to wash out. (Reetha can be found in some health food stores and in Indian groceries.)