Benefits of Olive Oil for Arthritis (2024)


By Linda Rath | Updated Feb. 24, 2023

While tasting extra-virgin olive oils in Sicily nearly two decades ago, Gary Beauchamp, now emeritus director of the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia, noticed a ticklish, peppery sensation in the back of his throat. It was nearly identical to the “sting” he’d felt when swallowing liquid forms of ibuprofen and aspirin during earlier research. Subsequently, studies revealed that a compound in the oil called oleocanthal prevents production of pro-inflammatory COX-1 and COX-2 enzymes, much as ibuprofen does.

According to Paul Breslin, professor of nutritional sciences at Rutgers University, the intensity of the “throaty bite” in extra-virgin olive oil is related to the amount of oleocanthal it contains. He explains that extra-virgin olive oils from Tuscany or other regions that have the same variety of olives have the highest oleocanthal level.

Many aficionados consider them among the finest olive oils in the world. Extra-virgin olive oil, often shorthanded to EVOO, is at the top of the olive oil hierarchy. It’s made from a single cold pressing of the olives, without heat or chemicals, to retain its flavor and nutritional value. Virgin olive oil is the second pressing. “Pure” or “light” olive oils, extracted using heat and solvents, are less expensive and poorer in quality.

What Can’t EVOO Do?

Oleocanthal isn’t the only polyphenol in olive oil; at last count, there were about 30 of these natural compounds. They’re found only in plants and some are unique to EVOO. All are known to have anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anti-allergy and anti-cancer effects. Hundreds of studies over several decades have found that EVOO can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, age-related cognitive decline, type 2 diabetes and cancer.

EVOO and Arthritis

Extra virgin olive oil has also been studied for its protective benefits in inflammatory autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis and lupus. Human, animal and lab experiments have shown that the polyphenols in EVOO effectively combat inflammation and improve arthritis symptoms in joints and throughout the body. Some experts think EVOO is the main reason the Mediterranean diet helps prevent a host of chronic diseases, though no one has yet determined how much someone must consume to be effective. In Mediterranean countries, the average person eats about 20 liters or roughly five gallons of EVOO a year; in the U.S., despite EVOO’s growing popularity, it’s a fraction of a gallon.

Authenticity Alert

More than a decade ago, researchers at the University of California, Davis, tested eight of the most common supermarket EVOOs in the U.S. and found 70% of imported brands “failed to meet sensory [and other] standards” that would qualify them as EVOO. California and Australian EVOOs, on the other hand, met standards and lived up to their claims.

Myth Busting

The age of disinformation hasn’t spared olive oil. Common misconceptions include:

  • It can’t be used for cooking or frying because it has a low smoke point. Olive oil has a smoke point of 400 degrees, well above what’s needed even for deep frying.
  • It will overwhelm other flavors. Chefs generally disagree, arguing that good EVOO will only enhance the complexity of whatever it’s paired with.
  • It isn’t perishable. Although olive oil shouldn’t be refrigerated, it starts to go rancid when exposed to light and air. It should be stored in dark or UV-coated glass containers, away from heat and light. Buy small amounts you can use within a month or two of opening.

Stay in the Know. Live in the Yes.

Get involved with the arthritis community. Tell us a little about yourself and, based on your interests, you’ll receive emails packed with the latest information and resources to live your best life and connect with others.

Benefits of Olive Oil for Arthritis (2024)


Does olive oil really help arthritis? ›

Extra virgin olive oil has also been studied for its protective benefits in inflammatory autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis and lupus. Human, animal and lab experiments have shown that the polyphenols in EVOO effectively combat inflammation and improve arthritis symptoms in joints and throughout the body.

How much olive oil per day for arthritis? ›

All you'll need are two to three tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, and you're all set. Rub the olive oil onto your sore joints twice per day to ease pain. You can also ingest the two to three tablespoons of olive oil daily, but monitor your fat intake as this oil is high in calories and “good” fat.

What is the best oil for arthritis pain? ›

They may help with arthritis because they have anti-inflammatory and anti-pain properties. Six of the more common types are eucalyptus, ginger, curcumin, copaiba, orange, and lavender. Using the oils is simple, whether you massage them into the skin or inhale them (known as aromatherapy).

How much olive oil should I take for inflammation? ›

Key among them is oleocanthal, which has been shown to work similarly to ibuprofen, an anti-inflammatory drug ( 10 ). Some scientists estimate that the oleocanthal in 3.4 tablespoons (50 ml) of extra virgin olive oil has a similar effect as 10% of the adult dosage of ibuprofen ( 11 ).

What is the strongest anti-inflammatory essential oil? ›

Thyme essential oil had the most effects, reducing COX-2 levels by nearly 75 percent . The National Association of Holistic Aromatherapy also lists many oils that may reduce inflammation, including: roman chamomile. ginger.

Is olive oil a pain killer? ›

Olives and their oil contain a substance called oleocanthal which acts like a painkilling drug, only with beneficial side effects. You would need to have four tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil to get the analgesic effects of just ten per cent of ibuprofen, which isn't so useful.

How long does it take to see the benefits of olive oil? ›

And you may see some benefits take effect in as little as 3 weeks, according to Flynn. Now that you know to look for EVOO, use these tips to choose one with plenty of those helpful polyphenols: You can absolutely buy polyphenol-rich olive oil at the supermarket.

Which olive oil is best for joint pain? ›

Extra virgin olive oil, the least refined type, is pressed mechanically rather than processed with heat or chemicals that change its properties. It contains biologically active compounds – such as the polyphenols, oleocanthal, oleuropein, hydroxytyrosol and lignans – that have been linked to reduced joint damage in RA.

What is the fastest way to treat arthritis? ›

In many cases, arthritis symptoms can be reduced with the following measures:
  1. Weight loss. Excess weight puts extra stress on weight-bearing joints. ...
  2. Exercise. Regular exercise can help keep joints flexible. ...
  3. Heat and cold. Heating pads or ice packs may help relieve arthritis pain.
  4. Assistive devices.
Aug 29, 2023

What foods help arthritis pain go away? ›

Omega-3 fats, inflammation and arthritis
  • oily fish such as salmon and sardines.
  • linseeds and linseed (flaxseed) oil.
  • canola (rapeseed) oil.
  • walnuts.
  • foods fortified with omega-3, such as margarines and eggs.
  • some fish oil supplements.

What oils should you avoid with arthritis? ›

Oil. Let's be clear: not all oils are bad for you! However, there are certain oils that have been shown to increase inflammation, namely: corn, sunflower, soy, and vegetable oil.

What oil supplement is good for arthritis? ›

Omega-3 fats are mostly found in oily fish and certain nut and seed oils. Omega-3 fats may help reduce inflammation in some forms of arthritis. Make sure you take the right dose to affect inflammation.

Can you drink water after drinking olive oil? ›

Lots of people in the Mediterranean drink about one-fourth of a cup of extra-virgin olive oil every morning. This helps cleanse the body, and gives the body a kick-start for the day. Usually, the small cup of olive oil is followed by a small glass of warm water with freshly squeezed lemon juice.

Can I drink olive oil directly? ›

Consuming small amounts of olive oil won't hurt you. However, the health benefits of drinking a tablespoon at a time — as opposed to adding it to food — are doubtful at best. No scientific evidence backs up claims of weight loss or clearer skin from olive oil shots.

Should I take olive oil at night or morning? ›

It can reduce inflammation. Those that suggest that the extra virgin olive oil intake should be on an empty stomach believe that by taking it in the morning, you will be helping your digestive system to wake up and therefore better absorb the nutrients in your system.

How much olive oil should I drink per day? ›

As a general rule of thumb, between one and two tablespoons a day is a good amount of olive oil to consume. This goes for both olive oil that you drink for health benefits and also olive oil that you consume with food as part of your regular cooking process.

Is extra virgin olive oil a good anti-inflammatory? ›

Virgin olive oil contains numerous phenolic compounds that exert potent anti-inflammatory actions. Of interest to this paper is the recently discovered phenolic compound oleocanthal. Oleocanthal is contained in virgin olive oil and possesses similar anti-inflammatory properties to ibuprofen.

Is coconut oil or olive oil better for inflammation? ›

Olive oil was also correlated with a reduction in inflammatory compounds that may contribute to the progression of CVD. Olives contain plant chemicals called polyphenols that may help reduce inflammation.

Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Horacio Brakus JD

Last Updated:

Views: 5786

Rating: 4 / 5 (71 voted)

Reviews: 94% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Horacio Brakus JD

Birthday: 1999-08-21

Address: Apt. 524 43384 Minnie Prairie, South Edda, MA 62804

Phone: +5931039998219

Job: Sales Strategist

Hobby: Sculling, Kitesurfing, Orienteering, Painting, Computer programming, Creative writing, Scuba diving

Introduction: My name is Horacio Brakus JD, I am a lively, splendid, jolly, vivacious, vast, cheerful, agreeable person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.