Olea europaea L. Oleaceae Olive Distribution: Europe, Middle East. Dioscorides (Beck, 2005) regarded the olive as a panacea, curing all manner of cutaneous afflictions from shingles to sores
- Dr Henry Oakeley
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eye problems to bleeding and for cleaning gums, but the sap he regarded as a deadly poison, an abortifacient, but good for curing leprosy if applied topically. Other 16thC herbalists repeat Dioscorides but by Lindley’s time (1836) the bark had also acquired a reputation as a quinine substitute, so used for fevers. Its virtues have gradually descended to becoming an addition to salads and for lubricating ear wax, although the leaves are still used in herbal medicine. The great medicinal advantage of the oil is that ‘it does no harm’. Olive fruit takes much longer to ripen in northern latitudes, which is why we see it in mid-winter still on the tree at the Royal College of Physicians'. It was presented to the College as a token of friendship by the Society of Apothecaries. Photographed in the Medicinal Garden of the Royal College of Physicians, London.