It may be said that the olive is, along with the grapevine (Vitis vinifera) and wheat (Triticum aestivum), one of the most important species in the Mediterranean culture. It grows in all the countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea. Its ancestor, the wild olive, grows in Italy, Spain, and throughout the Mediterranean region. Its olives are much smaller than those of the cultivated variety and not very useful. There are many varieties of cultivated olive trees. Andalusia is the region with the highest density of olive groves in the world. Due to the oleuropeoside content of its leaves, the water they are cooked in can lower blood pressure. Olive oil is one of the products used most in herbal medicine, as a base for ointments and pharmaceutical preparations. Dioscorides mentions the olive tree in Book I and says that applied as a poultice, its pounded leaves can heal sores and “sacred fire”. It is curious that later Dioscorides says that very ripe, black olives are bad for the stomach. He also mentions the remedy of smearing diseased gums and loose teeth with wild olive oil until they go white. The olive was the sacred tree of the goddess Athena, patron saint of Athens, who gave it to the city; the olive was used to crown the champions of the Olympic games in Ancient Greece; and kings and leaders were anointed with its oil.
Ramón Morales Valverde
(Extract from the commentary volume of Mattioli's Dioscorides illustrated by Cibo)