Olive Leaf Benefits

Olive Leaf
Latin Name

Olea europaea L. folium

Also Known As

Olive leaf

Origin

Mediterranean Basin from Portugal to the Levant, the Arabian Peninsula, and southern Asia as far east as China

Parts Used

Leaves

Traditional Use and Health Benefits

The Olive Leaf was so important to the Ancient Egyptians that they regarded it as a symbol of heavenly power. Not only did they extract the oil to mummify their kings, it was used as a powerful defender against a wide variety of maladies too.

This tree was so important it was referred to as the “Tree of Life” in the bible, held in such high esteem that Moses is said to have excluded olive tree growers from military service.

Fast forward to the 1880’s when it was utilised to counteract malaria, and then in the early 1900’s scientists isolated a bitter compound, “oleuropein”, that was thought to give the olive tree its disease resistance. And so through the later 1900’s oleuropein was found to lower blood pressure in animals, increase blood flow in the coronary arteries, relieve arrhythmia and prevent internal muscle spasms.

Olive Leaf Benefits

Heart Health

The first way Olive Leaf can benefit the heart is by its ability to foster significant drops in elevated blood pressure – extracts have been shown to both prevent and treat high blood pressure. One particularly fascinating study was conducted among identical twins with borderline hypertension (blood pressure in the range of 120-139 mmHg over 80-89 mmHg). Studies of identical twins virtually eliminate genetic variations which may impact study results. After 8 weeks, placebo recipients showed no change in blood pressure from baseline, but patients supplemented with 1,000 mg/day of olive leaf extract dropped their pressures by a mean of 11 mmHg systolic and 4 mmHg diastolic. The supplemented patients also experienced significant reductions in LDL cholesterol.

Secondly, Olive Leaf supports arterial health – the endothelial cells that line the arterial walls play a key role in maintaining blood flow and pressure, with endothelial dysfunction being one of the earliest stages of hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis). Olive Leaf can fight endothelial dysfunction on many levels; it increases the production of nitric oxide – a signalling molecule that helps to relax blood vessels. This powerful leaf also has multi-targeted anti-inflammatory effects which may help to prevent the oxidisation of LDL cholesterol which can damage arteries and, again, lead to atherosclerosis.

Finally, polyphenol compounds found in olive leaves have been shown to help directly prevent the formation of arterial plaques (and thereby reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke) in two ways. First, they reduce the production and activity of a series of “adhesion molecules.” These substances cause white blood cells and platelets to stick to arterial walls, resulting in early plaque formation. Second, they reduce platelet aggregation (clumping) by multiple mechanisms, which in turn reduces the risk that tiny clots will form at sites of plaque to produce a stroke or heart attack.

Diabetes

There is evidence to suggest the Olive Leaf could provide a natural alternative for diabetes. Researchers from the University of Auckland have discovered extract of this leaf has the ability to decrease insulin resistance and increase the production of insulin by the pancreas.

In a randomized, double-blinded and placebo-controlled clinical study, the researchers found that the olive leaf extract lowered insulin resistance by an average of 15% and increased the productivity of the pancreas’ beta cells – which produce insulin – by 28%.

This effect is due to the olive leaf’s hypoglycaemic properties (lowers blood sugar in the body), and its ability to control blood glucose levels. The polyphenols in this leaf play a vital role in delaying the production of sugar, which is the pre-cursor to inflammatory diseases such as diabetes.

Immune Sytem

Olive leaves have been traditionally used for centuries to support the immune system, maintain overall good health and to relieve symptoms of coughs, colds and flu. It has five times (400%) more antioxidant power than the equivalent amount of Vitamin C.

The Olive Leaf also has anti-viral properties with research showing that extracts can effectively fight against a number of disease causing microbes.  These powerful compounds destroy invading organisms and don’t allow viruses to replicate and cause infection.

Anti-Fungal

The aforementioned anti-microbial effect was tested in a 2003 study by D Markin et al. The researchers found that Olive Leaf extracts killed almost all bacteria tested. This included dermatophytes which cause infections in the skin, hair and nails; candida albicans – an agent of oral and genital infection, and Escherichia coli cells (E coli) – bacteria found in the lower intestine.

This makes Olive Leaf a wonderful herb to eliminate candida overgrowth, and an excellent anti-fungal for the treatment of athletes foot and toenail fungus.

Bone Health

Inspired by epidemiological evidence showing that people who ate a traditional Mediterranean diet were less likely to suffer from osteoporosis, Dr Veronique Coxam has led research and development of the powerfully active compounds in Olive Leaf – oleuropein and hydroxytyrosol. Her early work found showed that both of these compounds had an impact on inflammation in bones – findings since confirmed by animal studies.

Research performed by scientists at the University of Cordoba, Spain, studied the effects of a range of oleuropein concentrations on the formation of osteoblasts (a cell that secretes the substance of bone), in stem cells from human bone marrow. The researchers concluded, “Our data suggests that oleuropein, highly abundant in olive tree products included in the traditional Mediterranean diet, could prevent age related bone loss and osteoporosis.” 

Typical Use

Use 30g of Olive Leaf per litre of water then boil until the water reduces to half the amount. Drink up to 2 cups per day - one in the morning and one in the evening. Can be drunk hot or iced with a slice of lemon.

Folklore and History

Whilst anecdotal and biblical accounts of the olive leaf go back thousands of years, the first formal medical mention of the olive leaf occurred about 150 years ago - an account describing its ability to cure severe cases of fever and malaria. In 1854, the Pharmaceutical Journal contained a report by David Hanbury that included this simple healing recipe: 

"Boil a handful of leaves in a quart of water down to half its original volume. Then administer the liquid in the amount of a wine glass every 3 - 4 hours until the fever is cured."

The author said he discovered the tincture in 1943 and had used it successfully. His method became well known in England for treating the sick who were returning from the tropical colonies. He believed that a bitter substance in the leaves was the key healing ingredient - a fact now confirmed by modern science. 

Olive Leaf
Constituents

Secoiridoids (oleuropein and its derivatives), hydroxytyrosol, polyphenols (verbascoside, apigenin-7-glucoside and luteolin-7-glucoside), triterpenes including oleanolic acid and flavonoids (rutin and diosmin). 

Precautions

If you take any blood pressure medications or have low blood pressure, check with your health care professional before using Olive Leaf. 

Not recommended if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.