Virgin olive oil (VOO) is credited as being one of many healthful components of the Mediterranean diet. Mediterranean populations experience reduced incidence of chronic inflammatory disease states and VOO is readily consumed as part of an everyday dietary pattern. A phenolic compound contained in VOO, named oleocanthal, shares unique perceptual and anti-inflammatory characteristics with Ibuprofen. Over recent years oleocanthal has become a compound of interest in the search for naturally occurring compounds with pharmacological qualities. Subsequent to its discovery and identification, oleocanthal has been reported to exhibit various modes of action in reducing inflammatory related disease, including joint-degenerative disease, neuro-degenerative disease and specific cancers. Therefore, it is postulated that long term consumption of VOO containing oleocanthal may contribute to the health benefits associated with the Mediterranean dietary pattern. The following paper summarizes the current literature on oleocanthal, in terms of its sensory and pharmacological properties, and also discusses the beneficial, health promoting activities of oleocanthal, in the context of the molecular mechanisms within various models of disease.