You’ve heard of olive leaf extract, but aren’t sure what the olive leaf benefits are? This article will discuss the science behind olive leaf extract, what it can do for your health, and how you can easily incorporate it into your daily routine.
What Is Olive Leaf Extract?
The first known use of olive leaves is ancient, specifically in Ancient Egypt where its oils were used to mummify kings (no doubt effective because of the oil’s antimicrobial qualities). In the intervening years, olive leaves have been used in traditional medicine across the world. In Japan, olive leaves are used for stomach conditions and intestinal diseases; in Greece an extract of the leaves can be taken to help treat high blood pressure; and in Italy olive leaf extract is used to help reduce fever. Olive leaves are the leaves of the olive tree, and its pitted fruit the olive brings great benefits as well, including being used to make the ever healthful olive oil.
Modern Olive Leaf Benefits
Olive leaf extract is associated with anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory, antiviral, and neuroprotective qualities. There are metabolic and cardiovascular olive leaf benefits, including improving blood glucose levels, reducing cholesterol levels, and lowering blood pressure, all of which help to decrease the risk of developing hypertension, diabetes, stroke, and heart attack. Want to learn more? Read on for the full details!
Balance Blood Sugar
Olive leaf extract can help stabilize blood sugar and is a great option for those who are managing type 2 diabetes. A study showed that olive leaf extract slowed the digestion of starches and helped normalize glucose homeostasis in rats. It also showed that humans with type 2 diabetes who took at least 500 milligrams of olive leaf extract per day had a significant reduction in their fasting insulin levels.
Another animal study demonstrated that olive leaf extract might counteract the bad metabolic effects of poor diets, as a group of rats fed the same high-carb, high-fat diet as the control group were found to have a reduction in the majority of their negative symptoms due to the addition of olive leaf extract. Researchers point out that this is an indication of olive leaf extract’s power to reverse the oxidative stress and chronic inflammation that can trigger the worst metabolic symptoms.
Lower Blood Pressure
Olive leaf extract can significantly lower blood pressure in those with hypertension. One study even showed that in some circumstances olive leaf extract was more effective than the prescribed blood pressure medication Captopril. It also lowered the participants’ triglyceride levels, another case in which olive leaf extract prevailed over Captopril. It’s evident olive leaf extract can help heart health, as high triglyceride levels contribute to atherosclerosis, a known cause of heart attack or stroke. Olive leaf extract also makes a showing in lowering “bad” LDL cholesterol in animals as well as humans.
Natural Herpes Treatment
The antiviral properties in olive leaf extract can help treat the herpes simplex type-1 virus, or oral herpes. For those who want a more natural remedy for managing their herpes condition, olive leaf extract showed notable antiviral strength against HSV type-1 in this lab study.
Research shows that the anti-inflammatory polyphenols in olive leaf extract can guard against free radicals that damage our DNA and are precursors to many types of cancer. The main polyphenol in olive leaf extract is oleuropein, which has shown promise in preventing soft tissue, skin, and breast cancers. While more clinical trials are still being done, the early research is encouraging.
Cold and Flu Protection
A research review on olive leaf extract reveals that the compounds in olive leaves can interact with the protein in virus particles and inhibit their ability to infect humans. They can slow the replication and proliferation of viruses that are known to cause influenza, lower respiratory infection, and the common cold. Moreover, olive leaf extract stimulates phagocytosis, which is the process that happens when our phagocyte cells engulf and eliminate foreign particles discovered in our bodies, like viruses and bacteria. Olive leaf tea can even help a sore throat when you gargle with it, possibly due to its anti-inflammatory qualities.
Speaking of those anti-inflammatory aspects of olive leaf extracts, olive leaves and their derivatives have long been used to fight the side effects of inflamed joints due to conditions like rheumatoid arthritis. In an animal study on osteoarthritis, olive leaf extract brought about a significant reduction in swelling, and is still being studied in human cases of disease treatment for conditions like rheumatoid arthritis and cancer.
Antibacterial and Antifungal
The antimicrobial effect of olive leaf extract is quite powerful in a lab setting, killing dermatophytes and E. coli on contact. Dermatophytes can cause nail, hair, and skin infections, while E. coli is well known for causing severe diarrhea and candida, the overgrowth of which can cause fungal infections in humans. Olive leaf extract can also slow certain parasitic infections, which is why it has been used to treat malaria in countries across the world since the 1800s.
Protection Against Alzheimer’s
There are consistently lower levels of dementia in the Mediterranean region, and some schools of thought attribute this to olive leaves. Oleuropein is a neuroprotective polyphenol that may counteract the amyloid plaque that develops in the brain, interrupting cell function and characteristic of Alzheimer’s disease. Olive leaf extract has also been shown to reduce the damage caused by stroke in the emotional center of the brain, the hippocampus, possibly due to olive leaf extract’s antioxidant effects.
Olive Leaf Extract: Any Side Effects?
Because olive leaf extract is so good at lowering blood pressure, it might work too well to lower blood pressure in those who are already taking prescription drugs to help lower blood pressure or manage their diabetes. Always consult with a doctor or trusted medical professional when it comes to mixing treatments or adding to one’s supplemental routine (this is the safest way to avoid side effects).
Should You Take an Olive Leaf Extract Supplement?
Olive leaf extract is available for purchase in liquid or capsule form, and while the liquid form of the extract leads to faster absorption, capsules are a very easy way to ensure you’re not taking too much or too little, as they come in standardized measurements with recommended dosage instructions. Recommendations are often between 500-1,000 milligrams per day, a range that has been studied and shown to be beneficial in human clinical trials. Higher amounts can be tolerated too, just choose your brand with care and ask your doctor if you’re looking to treat anything specific that you’re already taking medication for.
The Mediterranean Diet
As an alternative to taking the olive leaf extract, changing your eating habits to incorporate the Mediterranean diet can also bring you the benefits of olive leaf. The Mediterranean diet includes minimally processed whole foods like fruits, vegetables, fish, nuts, seeds, and, of course, olive oil.
This diet is greatly associated with reduced risk of diabetes, Alzheimer’s, breast cancer, cardiovascular disease, and more… basically all of the benefits scientifically linked above to olive leaf extract. By eliminating processed and refined foods from your diet and adding the health benefits of extra virgin olive oil, you can get all the good sides of olive leaf without having to worry about taking a supplement—the active ingredient will already be on your plate! Oleuropein is what gives olive oil its pungent flavor.
Olive Leaf: An Extraordinary Extract
Olive leaf extract brings benefits across the board, and if you want to include it in your life, it’s as easy as adding a supplement or including more high-quality olive oil in your diet. Let the scientific research guide your decision-making, and consider what the olive leaf can do for you!