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The benefits of olive leaf

What are the benefits of olive leaf extract and how is it used?

Today, olive leaf is commonly taken as a liquid extract, however its use dates back to ancient times. Olive leaf extract has many benefits including antioxidant, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory potential. The benefits of olive leaf are extensive. Find out some more on the history of olive leaf and its uses.

In ancient times, the olive tree was vital to many aspects of everyday life: the oil of the fruit was used as fuel for lamps, for cleansing and moisturising the skin, to cook with and as a base for medicines; the wood was highly prized by craftsmen for use in carving; and the leaves of the olive tree were used as a medicine for the treatment of common ailments. People from southern Europe, north Africa and the Middle East have used olive leaves to treat disease and help maintain health.

Traditionally administered in the form of an infusion or tea, olive leaves were used to treat fevers and to encourage the healing of wounds. Contemporary olive leaf products are mainly taken in the form of a liquid extract prepared using fresh leaves.

Olive chemistry

Olive leaf extract contains the powerful phenolic antioxidants oleuropein, hydroxytyrosol and tyrosol. There are also several other antioxidant compounds present in olive leaf extract. Interestingly, the antioxidant effect of oleuropein, the main antioxidant found in olive leaf extract, is much stronger when tested in combination with the other antioxidant compounds than in isolation. This confirms the belief of herbalists that purified and concentrated extracts of plants are inferior to whole fresh plant extracts.

 

The benefits of olive leaf as medicine

Olive leaf has a number of benefits, namely it’s medicinal potential. Here is an overview of the various properties of olive leaf and the benefits they present for health and wellbeing.

 

Antioxidant

With an antioxidant potential several times greater than that of vitamins C and E, olive leaf extract is potentially an effective treatment in diseases thought to be related to free-radical damage and oxidative stress, such as heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease and arthritis. Olive leaf extract may also aid in the prevention of cancer, slow ageing and protect skin from the damaging effects of sun exposure.

Antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal

Olive leaf extract has been found to have antibacterial activity against several common bacteria that cause illness in humans, including H. pylori bacteria, which causes stomach ulcers, and multi-drug resistant Staphylococcus bacteria, which can cause severe life-threatening infections. These effects have been shown to occur at surprisingly low concentrations, indicating that taking olive leaf extract orally may be an effective treatment for certain bacterial infections.

Antiviral effects of olive leaf extract have been demonstrated in the laboratory against a number of human viruses, including those which cause the common cold, flu, cold sores, herpes and HIV. While the treatment of viral infections with olive leaf extract is now widespread, there have not yet been any clinical studies showing whether it is an effective antiviral when taken orally. The antifungal properties of olive leaf extract seen in the laboratory indicate it may also be an effective treatment for yeast infections and fungal skin conditions.

Anti-inflammatory

The antioxidant compounds in olive leaf extract can reduce the amount of inflammation in the body, indicating it may be a useful treatment in people suffering from rheumatoid arthritis and other autoimmune diseases. There has been limited research examining the effect of olive leaf extract on arthritis, however a study using a combination of olive oil (which contains the same antioxidants as olive leaf extract) and fish oil produced a reduction in pain and increased mobility after just 12 weeks. If using olive leaf extract to treat arthritis, it is therefore advisable to increase your fish intake or also use fish oil supplements at the same time.

Heart health and high blood pressure

Inflammation and damage to the blood vessels caused by free radicals is thought to be a driving factor in the process of heart disease and other cardiovascular diseases. The combined antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-hypertensive (blood-pressure-reducing) effects of olive leaf extract make it an ideal treatment for anyone with high cholesterol, risk factors for heart disease or a strong family history of heart attack or stroke.

Large population studies in Europe looking at the type of dietary fat consumed have shown that people who consume a diet rich in olive oil have a reduced risk of heart disease and high blood pressure. The antioxidants found in olive oil and olive leaf extract have been shown to reduce blood pressure in animals and the long history of using medicines made from olive leaves to reduce blood pressure both indicate that olive leaf extract may provide significant benefit for people with high blood pressure and heart problems.

Using olive leaf

The ageing of the global population will bring with it many new challenges in healthcare due to an increase in the prevalence of chronic diseases such as dementia, Alzheimer’s disease and diabetes. The long-term intake of natural extracts or foods with powerful antioxidant properties is thought by many professionals to be the best way to prevent many of these chronic diseases. As many people do not manage to achieve the recommended serves of fruit vegetables each day, the regular use of high-antioxidant plant extracts can provide an alternative source of antioxidants.

For longevity, the recommended dose of olive leaf extract is 5ml taken twice a day, however to treat high blood pressure or arthritis the dose may need to be increased to three times a day.

If you are currently taking blood pressure or blood sugar regulating medication you should speak with your healthcare professional before using olive leaf extract. Olive leaf extracts made from freshly picked leaves have been shown to have higher levels of antioxidants and may be superior to other products using dried plant material.

Gerard Elms is a naturopath and nutritionist with a practice in Surry Hills, Sydney. He specialises in men’s health, weight loss and digestive problems. T: (02) 9211 3811, E: gerard@theelmtree.com.au

The WellBeing Team

The WellBeing Team

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