Can Olive Oil Accelerate Wound Healing (2021)?

Have you ever been running late in the morning and accidentally scaled yourself with boiling water while making a cup of coffee or tea? Or, have you burned yourself by touching a hot sheet tray or iron? Burns are common household injuries that cause swelling and blisters to form on your skin. Severe burns can cause morbidity and death in patients. The depth of a burn is classified based on the amount of skin damaged — first degree, second degree, and third degree. The healing process of burn wounds varies depending upon the severity of the burn, with extreme cases resulting in a lengthy recovery. High protein diets, along with proper medical care, help. So does a common pantry item –– extra virgin olive oil. Have you ever thought about using Extra Virgin Olive Oil to speed up your wound recovery?

Antibacterial Properties

Wound healing is a crucial process to minimize pain, scar formation, and relieve discomfort. When healing, it’s essential to keep burn wounds clean as the open-wounds can increase the risk of microbial infections. The process of wound repair includes inflammation, new tissue generation, and subsequent remodeling of neoformed tissue (1). Natural products, such as Olive Oil, honey, and aloe, have been reported to have antibacterial properties to prevent bacterial growth.
A study conducted by Saporito et al (2017) to determine whether the usage of lipid nanoparticles (solid lipid nanoparticles and nano-structured lipid carriers [NLC]) with eucalyptus or rosemary essential oils can enhance wound healing. The lipid nanoparticles used in the study were olive oil and sesame oil as the liquid lipids and cocoa butter as the solid lipid. The nanoparticles were stabilized by the surfactant lecithin to prevent lipid aggregation and the antimicrobial activity was analyzed for the reference strains Staphylococcus aureus and Streptococcus pyogenes. The researchers discovered that “NLC based on olive oil and loaded with eucalyptus oil showed appropriate physical-chemical properties, good bioadhesion, cytocompatibility, in vitro proliferation enhancement, and wound healing properties toward fibroblasts, associated to antimicrobial properties” (1). In addition, when tested in vivo, the results demonstrated that olive oil and eucalyptus oil is able to enhance wound healing after 4 days of treatment but significant lesion reduction occurred after 15 days. Therefore, it is recommended to use olive oil and eucalyptus oil to enhance the wound healing process. The Presence Of Olive Oil Has Many Beneficial Properties For The Skin. Olive oil contains a high amount of oleic acid and other nutrients that can inhibit the bacterial growth of Staphylococcus aureus and Streptococcus pyogenes.

Try the Researcher’s Recipe At Home:

  1. Obtain 75 mg of extra virgin olive oil and 150 mg of cocoa butter.

  2. Melt olive oil and cocoa butter at 40 ℃.

  3. Add 75 mg of eucalyptus oil to the mixture.

  4. Heat 150 mg of lecithin to 40 ℃ and pour into the mixture with olive oil, cocoa butter, and eucalyptus oil.

  5. Dilute and cool down the mixture with 12 mL of water at 2-8 ℃.

Consumption of Olive Oil and Wound Healing

Did you know that the consumption of olive oil can aid in wound healing? A randomized study conducted on 100 thermally injured patients with 10-20 % of their body surface area injured were given either oral olive oil or sunflower oil in their meals. The researchers evaluated the patients daily for the occurrence of sepsis, bacterial infections, and the progress in wound recovery. The researchers found that “a significant difference in the duration of wound healing (7.2 ± 0.5 vs. 8.7 ± 0.5, P = 0.04) and duration of hospitalization (7.4 ± 0.5 vs. 8.9 ± 0.4, P = 0.05) in the olive oil group versus the control group” (2). The results of the study suggest that dietary consumption of olive oil may accelerate burn wound recovery and decrease the duration of hospitalization stay.

How Does Olive Oil Accelerate Wound Recovery?

In burn patients, inflammation and oxidative stress levels are increased in their blood and tissues. When the oral and topical application of olive oil is administered, the anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties from “hydrocarbons, polyphenols, tocopherols, sterols and triterpenoids” have protective effects to accelerate wound closures (2). It Is Because Olive Oil Has Anti-Oxidants Properties. Among all oils, extra virgin olive oil contains the highest amount of oleic acid (55-83%), which is dependent on the cultivation and processing method. The high content of fatty acids helps increase wound healing tissues, increases the number of neutrophils in the wound and air pouches, and decreases the thickness of the necrotic cell layer edge around the wound (3).

3 Ways to Incorporate Olive Oil

  1. Use extra virgin olive oil as a salad dressing.

  2. Try A New Recipe That Uses Olive Oil

  3. Massage 1-3 drops of extra virgin olive oil onto the wound area daily.

Key Takeaway

The antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-bacterial properties found in olive oil help speed up wound recovery. Researchers found that mixing olive oil with eucalyptus oil can accelerate wound healing and decrease the risk of bacterial infection such as Staphylococcus aureus and Streptococcus pyogenes. Also, dietary changes amongst patients with burn injuries to include olive oil in meals resulted in improved wound recovery and decreased duration of hospitalization. Increasing your consumption of extra virgin olive oil and applying olive oil to the wound area daily could benefit your wound recovery.

Written by Joanna Chen

Reviewed by Kelly Powers, MA, RDN, a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist who takes a holistic approach to nutrition and health. Kelly is a recipe developer with a food blog highlighting whole foods, simple recipes, and her life in San Francisco. She’s the creator of 52 Weeks, a weekly meal plan program that helps users get back in the kitchen and feed themselves well. Kelly is also a co-founder of Olivaio.

Image Credit: pexels.com/@Polina Tankilevitch

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What are some of the precautions to applying olive oil to wounds?
A: Do not directly apply olive oil to open wounds. Olive oil treatment are best for wounds that have started to heal to speed up the wound healing process and prevent possible scarring. If unsure about using olive oil on your wound, consult your doctor before applying. 

Q: Is EVOO better than olive oil for wound healing?
A: Yes, EVOO would be better than regular olive oil for wound healing because it is produced without the use of heat or chemical refining, and contains the highest concentration of olive oil's beneficial compounds with no preservatives or additives that could be harmful to the body.

Q: How fast can I expect results to be seen after using olive oil for wound healing?
A: Based on the research, results of wound healing could be seen around 1 to 2 weeks of continuous use and application of olive oil a day. However, it is important to remember that your skin and wound profile is unique to yourself and that results may differ with different skin and wound types.