|Posted by Stazha on June 23, 2010 at 12:50 AM|
Homer called olive oil "liquid gold" and it 's pretty much the superstar of oils, both for food consumption and for soap making, and it has been used for centuries in both applications. Olive oil was (and is still) used as a direct skin cleanser. According to ExploreCrete.com, the Egyptians used it to remove dirt from their skin by applying the oil and then scraping it off, the oil clinging to the dirt, thus removing it. An olive oil soap factory was established as early as the 6th century in Marseilles (not suggesting it was the FIRST factory).
Now, the history of soap making is not a clear one and neither is it known for certain how anyone came to mix lye with oils and then used it to wash anything, but the uncertainty, it seems to me, suggests that it is a very old practice indeed! Take that and the abundance and significance of the olive in history (the Bible, for example) and it seems clear why olive oil would be chosen.
Here are some facts: Olive is an evergreen tree grown predominently in the Mediterranean. It grows to 27 feet tall and takes 15 years to bear olives. Most of global production of olive oil comes from Southern Europe, North Africa and the Near East with Australia and the Republic of South Africa also growing Olive trees for oil.(wikipedia)
Soaps containing only vegetable oils, olive oil in particular, are called castile soaps. Olive oil is known for its mildness on skin. "The oil has a heavy texture and can vary in color from a pale golden yellow to dark green. The purest form is from the "extra virgin" and it is lightest in color. Olive oil has many antioxidant properties. Olive oil absorbs UV radiation and is very efficient in lowering metabolism rate of the body cells. Thus assisting in repairing cells and in preventing cell damage. Olive oil is soothing and healing to all skin types". You can read about more topical uses of olive oil on eHow.com
Until I started making soap, I was unaware of the use of oils directly on skin, aside from moisturizer. Being fair skinned, oils frighten me. (I'm thinking fried chicken here) Not sure I would use it as a UV blocker! But I have enjoyed it for years in my cooking. And now, I am happy to use it in my soap. In fact, olive oil is the predominent oil used in all my soap recipes. A fine oil to mix with that wonderful goat milk!
Here's a a two part video (about 16 minutes total) from Morocco showing the process of olive oil making from the land it is grown on to the press. It's a more primitive process here and the camera is shaky but I really enjoyed watching it. And if you listen closely, you can even hear goats in the first one! Sweet!
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