Olive Leaf: Health Benefits, History, and How to Use

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olive leaf health benefitsJust about everyone has heard of olive oil and its benefits. But, a lesser-known part of the olive tree (Olea europaea), the olive leaf, also holds significant advantages for your health.

The olive leaf is used as an herbal tea, an extract, or a powder. Similar to olive oil, each form of olive leaf contains potentially bioactive compounds with antihypertensive, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antiatherogenic, hypoglycemic, and hypocholesterolemic properties.

As a result, many studies show that olive leaf health benefits include boosting immunity; treating diabetes, high blood pressure, arthritis, and cancer; and improving cardiovascular health and brain function. This article will explain the origins of the leaf and the many olive leaf health benefits.

What is Olive Leaf Extract?

The olive tree is part of the Oleaceae family that also includes species like the true ash trees, Forsythia, jasmine, and lilacs. It is an evergreen tree or shrub that is native to Africa, Asia, and the Mediterranean. A tree that is about 26 to 49 feet in height will produce silver-green colored leaves that grow about 4 cm to 10 cm long and 1 cm to 3 cm wide.

The plant metabolite oleuropein is the most prominent bioactive compound in olive leaves, which can make up to 6 to 9 percent of the olive leaf dry matter. Oleuropein has attracted attention since the early 1900s due to its antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal properties. Other bioactive compounds in olive leaves include related flavonoids, polyphenols, triterpenes, and secoiridoids, which are all natural antioxidants.

Interesting Facts and History of Olive Leaf

Researchers believe the olive tree originated approximately 6,000 to 7,000 years ago in the region of ancient Persia and Mesopotamia. Olive leaf was referenced as medicine in the Bible. In traditional Moroccan medicine, it was used to control diabetes and stabilize blood sugar. Egyptians utilized olive leaf for mummification. In the early 1800s, crushed olive leaves were used in beverages for lowering fevers, and in the mid-nineteenth century, it was used in a tea for malaria treatment.

5 Health Benefits of Olive Leaf

Today, olives remain a staple food in countries like Italy, France, Spain, Morocco, Syria, and Lebanon, due to its many health benefits. The olive leaf is also becoming increasingly well known outside common olive-growing regions.

What are the olive leaf health benefits? Studies have found that the oleuropein in olive leaf may prevent cardiovascular disease, shrink tumors in animals, and naturally lower blood pressure. The antiviral properties of olive leaf could also help it prevent the common cold and treat viruses that cause influenza and other respiratory conditions. Studies also suggest that olive leaf extract reduces chronic pain linked with osteoarthritis, and decreases the production of the markers responsible for inflammation—enzymes and cytokines.

The following are five olive leaf benefits that you should know about explained in detail.

1. May Prevent Cancer Growth

Olive leaves may be significant in cancer treatment due to their potential to stop the angiogenic process that triggers tumor growth. The oleuropein in olive oil has anti-angiogenic and antioxidant effects, which work to inhibit the migration and reproduction of advanced tumor cells. In a study published in the journal Molecular Nutrition and Food Research in 2009, the strong antioxidant ability of olive leaf extract inhibited cancer and endothelial cell reproduction. Olive leaf extracts also slowed cell growth linked with brain cancer, urinary bladder cancer, and breast cancer.

2. May Treat Diabetes

A study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food in 2013 indicates that olive leaf extract inhibits AGE (advanced glycation end products) formation as a preventive and treatment method for diabetic patients. AGEs are substances that can factor in diabetes development and other chronic diseases. Olive leaf also has hyperglycemic effects that help control blood sugar levels in the body. The polyphenols in olive leaf in particular may delay sugar production, which helps cause diabetes.

3. Improves Heart Health

Olive leaves have been used as an herbal tonic for supporting heart health for thousands of years. Oleuropein and oleuropein’s principle product, hydroytyrosol, found in olive leaves, have both been found to reduce properties of coronary heart disease. A study published in the Journal of Nutrition in 2010 found that rats treated with olive leaf extracts had improved or normalized cardiovascular, metabolic, and hepatic signs. The study suggests that olive leaf extracts can reverse chronic inflammation and cardiovascular stress.

4. Lowers Blood Pressure

A study published in the journal Phytomedicine in 2011 compared the effectiveness of olive leaf extract to the hypertensive medication called Captopril. For the study, 500 mg of olive leaf extract was given twice daily for an eight-week period. As a result, the olive leaf extract significantly decreased systolic and diastolic blood pressure. Both the Captopril and olive leaf extract prevented high blood pressure; however, the olive leaf also reduced bad cholesterol. Numerous side effects such as dry cough, dizziness, and loss of taste may result with Captopril use.

5. Kills Fungi and Bacteria

Olive leaf also fights infections, including candida, pneumonia, meningitis, chronic fatigue, malaria, gonorrhea, hepatitis B, tuberculosis, shingles, ear infections, urinary tract infections, and dental infections. A 2003 study published in Mycoses in 2003 also found that olive lead extracts would kill nearly all bacteria examined, including Escherichia coli (E. coli) cells; Candida albicans that causes genital and oral infections; and dermatophytes that causes hair, skin, and nail infections.

How to Use Olive Leaf

Want to know how to use olive leaf? The easiest way is to purchase olive leaf extract online or at a local health food store. It is best to buy an organic product that is free from pesticides. Olive leaf extract is sometimes found in skin creams; try adding a few drops to your own lotion or face wash.

If you have access to an olive tree, then use the leaves to make tea. To do so, wash the leaves thoroughly and bake at about 150° F until they become dry. You will then crush the leaves and remove the stalks. Steep a tablespoon of the dried leaves in boiled water for about 10 minutes. Drinking a cup of olive leaf tea daily is a great way to acquire many of its health benefits.

Olive Leaf Precautions

There are many olive leaf health benefits in tea or extract form, and in clinical studies, it has not shown any serious side effects. Occasionally, olive leaves may cause dizziness in people with low blood pressure because it may lower it even further. Stomach irritation is another possible side effect, especially if the tea or dose is too strong. In this case, dilute the extract with carrier oil like coconut oil, or add some more water to the tea.

Other possible side effects include acid reflux, heartburn, and diarrhea. Also, do not take olive leaf extract if you are breastfeeding or pregnant unless under guidance of your doctor. Diabetics and people on blood thinners should also speak to their doctor when planning to try olive leaf extract for the first time.

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Kimura, Y., et al., “Olive leaf extract and its main component oleuropein prevent chronic ultraviolet B radiation-induced skin damage and carcinogenesis in hairless mice,” Journal of Nutrition, November 2009; 139(11): 2079-2086, doi: 10.3945/jn.109.104992.
Markin, D., et al., “In vitro antimicrobial activity of olive leaves,” Mycoses, April 2003; 46(3-4): 132-136. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12870202.
Susalit, E., et al., “Olive (Olea europaea) leaf extract effective in patients with stage-1 hypertension: comparison with Captopril,” Phytomedicine, Feb. 15, 2011; 18(4): 251-258, doi: 10.1016/j.phymed.2010.08.016.
Poudyal, H., et al., “Olive leaf extract attenuates cardiac, hepatic, and metabolic changes in high carbohydrate-, high fat-fed rats,” Journal of Nutrition, May 2010; 140(5): 946-953, doi: 10.3945/jn.109.117812.
Kontogianni, V.G., et al., “Olive leaf extracts are a natural source of advanced glycation end products inhibitors,” Journal of Medicinal Food, September 2013; 16(9): 817-822, doi: 10.1089/jmf.2013.0016.
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