Just about everyone is familiar with the health benefits of olive oil – the first pressing of oil from olives, referred to as extra virgin olive oil, is not only highly prized among chefs across the globe, but it’s been credited with playing a key role in the Mediterranean diet, known as one of the healthiest diets you can eat. It’s easy to cook with, has a delicious flavor and is quite versatile too.
But another part of the olive tree is less known, yet it provides incredible benefits: the olive leaf. This traditional medicinal herb with therapeutic uses that date back centuries has become popular among health advocates and can be used in a variety of medicinal applications, thanks to its powerful plant compounds that contain natural polyphenolic antioxidants.
There have even been references to using the olive leaf as medicine in the Bible: “The fruit thereof shall be for meat, and the leaf thereof for medicine.” (Ezekiel 47:12)
In traditional Moroccan medicine, it was used to help stabilize blood sugar and control diabetes, while ancient Egyptians utilized preparations of it in the process of mummification. Centuries later, in the early 1800s, people were using crushed oil leaves in beverages in order to reduce fevers, and about the mid-19th-century, they were used in tea to treat malaria.
Thanks to recent scientific studies that have proven many of its health benefits, the olive leaf has become increasing popular and appreciated not only in olive-growing countries like Italy, Spain, France, Morocco and Lebanon, but well beyond.
One of the primary substances in olive leaf is a compound known as oleuropein, and it’s been attracting the attention of scientists for over 100 years – it offers antifungal, antiviral and antibacterial activities. Lab studies have discovered that the extract of the olive leaf is effective for battling microorganisms like fungi, bacteria, protozoa and viruses, among others that cause a host of diseases.
Olive leaf offers a number of proven health benefits, including these.
7 Remarkable Benefits of Olive Leaf Extract
1. Reducing cancer risk
Olive leaves can play an essential role as part of a natural cancer treatment, as well as reducing the risk of developing the disease. This is due to its ability to stop the angiogenic process, which triggers tumor growth. The substance oleuropein delivers a potent antiangiogenic and antioxidant effect by preventing the reproduction and migration of advanced tumor cells.
Research conducted out of the University of Ioannina in Ioannina, Greece in 2009 found that the extract of olive leaves had high antioxidant potency that was able to inhibit cancer and endothelial cell reproduction. It was also able to slow the growth of cells linked to brain cancer, urinary bladder cancer and breast cancer.
2. Lowering blood pressure
Olive leaf extract also offers anti-hypertensive properties that can address hypertension, lowering blood pressure and ultimately helping to lower the risk of potential heart complications. In 2011, experts at the University of Indonesia evaluated its effectiveness as compared to a common prescription medication given to those with high blood pressure or hypertension known as Captopril. The patients were given 500 milligrams of olive leaf extract twice each day for a period of eight weeks and experienced dramatically reduced diastolic and systolic blood pressure.
The researchers noted that while both the medication and extracts were able to prevent high blood pressure, the olive leaf extract treatment also offered another benefit: reducing triglyceride levels. As Captopril comes with a number of potential side effects like loss of taste, dizziness, and dry cough, those who took olive leaf extract were able to enjoy the medicinal benefits without the side effects.
3. Fighting off “superbugs”
As you may already know, antibiotics that were once highly effective become ineffective as bacteria mutate and develop a resistance to them. Some bacterial strains, such as MRSA, have become a huge problem in hospitals where they’ve become antibiotic-resistant, earning them the name “superbugs,” and they can be lethal.
The good news is that bacteria can’t become resistant to natural antibacterial substances as they’re generally made up of a number of complex substances which all work together to produce wanted results and simple bacteria cannot mutate around them. Olive leaves have been able to resist bacterial attacks for thousands of years.
One of the most important benefits of olive leaves is its ability to battle infection, including pneumonia, hepatitis B, meningitis, malaria, tuberculosis, candida, and gonorrhoea. The leaves are even known to fight ear infections, urinary tract, and dental infections.
Research conducted in 2003 found that the extracts of olive leaves offer antimicrobial properties that effectively battle fungi and bacteria. In fact, they were able to kill nearly all bacteria tested, such as candida albicans, Escherichia coli cells, and dermatophytes.
4. Younger-looking, healthier skin
Olive leaf extract offers many benefits to the skin. In fact, according to a 2008 study published in the International Journal of Cosmetic Science, researchers found that using the oleuropein extract of olive leafs was able to significantly reduce skin reddening, improve blood flow and dehydration, better than Vitamin E. In the study, participants used a gel containing oleuropein after undergoing ultraviolet radiation treatment.
Olive leaf has even been scientifically found to protect against skin cancer, according to a study published in International Journal of Cancer in 2011. In the study that was conducted on mice, olive leaf extract was able to dramatically inhibit cell reproduction as well as induce early apoptosis, which is programmed cell death, in a tissue culture of skin cancer cells. Scientists also found that treating established tumors in mice with olive leaf extract lessened tumor volume. The Japanese researchers from the Division of Biochemical Pharmacology discovered that olive leaf extract given to mice with UV radiation damaged improved skin elasticity and thickness.
For humans, thanks to the high level of antioxidants in olive leaves as well as its ability to eliminate toxins, it’s known to have the ability to reverse years of skin damage, including signs of aging, to help one’s skin become healthier and look younger too.
5. Boosting the immune system
Thanks to its antiviral properties, olive leaves may not only treat dangerous viruses, but it might even be able to help fight off the common cold. Studies have shown that the extracts of olive leaves can battle a host of disease-causing microbes, including some viruses that are known to cause respiratory infections and the flu.
Powerful substances that are found in olive leaves work by destroying organisms that invade the body, preventing viruses from replicating and causing an infection. In 2003, a study out of the New York University School of Medicine, even found that treating patients with olive leaf extract was able to reverse many HIV-1 infection-associated changes.
6. Arthritis relief
Arthritis is an inflammatory joint disease known to cause pain and swelling in the joints. As olive leaf offers anti-inflammatory properties, it’s quite effective for naturally relieving the symptoms of arthritis. Its natural anti-inflammatory effects have demonstrated high potency as a NSAID (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medication), similar to ibuprofen. The extract of the leaves, as mentioned, is also a well-known immune enhancer with powerful antioxidants, and has been shown in studies to offer beneficial effects on both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
A 2012 study out of China’s Dalian Medical University, found that the extract of olive leaves was able to significantly reduce paw swelling in rats that had arthritis. The researchers noted that the positive effects were due to the extract’s ability to reduce inflammation in the joints. Other research has found that it helps to relieve chronic pain associated with osteoarthritis – something that an estimated 20 to 27 million people from the U.S. suffer from. It also helps to decrease the production of cytokines and enzymes, which are markers for the inflammatory process, according to an Italian study published in 2014.
The researchers from that study concluded that “Olive oil and olive leaf extract are renowned natural traditional remedies used for the treatment of different conditions, including dermatitis, wound healing and treatment of burns, stomach and intestinal pain, malaria-induced fever, different infections, alopecia, rheumatic pain, otitis, rickets, distortions, sciatica, hypertension, as a diuretic, as a laxative and as an aphrodisiac.
“In light of the unique combination properties of oleuropein, it looks like we should ‘go back to the future’ and continue to exploit this key dietary component of the Mediterranean diet to promote human health.”
7. Improving brain function and fighting Alzheimer’s disease
It has long been proven that those who follow a Mediterranean diet and keep physically and mentally active, are less likely to suffer from dementia. Olives, in particular, appear to play a key role in this regard, as well as the olive leaf.
The olive leaf has been shown to offer powerful effects on brain function. Research has found that one of the main compounds in the leaf, oleuropein, is able to lessen the symptoms or occurrence of brain age-related conditions like dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. The studies have revealed that there is a link between free radical damage and Alzheimer’s and because olive leaves contain high levels of antioxidants, it can help battle that damage caused by free radicals and even protect the brain against memory loss.
PhD. student Syed Haris Omar out of Wagga Wagga, Australia’s CSU School of Biomedical Sciences decided to examine the potential benefits of olive fruit and leaf compounds for preventing Alzheimer’s, investigating to see if it can help inhibit the processes believed to cause memory loss and the early progression of the disease.
“The health benefits of a Mediterranean diet, of which olives are a major ingredient, are well recognised,” Omar explained. “This prompted to me investigate if olive compounds may be an effective therapeutic agent in the prevention of Alzheimer’s disease.”
Omar’s test tube experiments found that the phenolic compounds in olive leaves were able to inhibit the enzymes thought to be responsible for the formation of amyloid beta plaques, which is one of the hallmarks of Alzheimer’s. His cell line experiments also showed a reduction in amyloid beta-induced cell toxicity.
“A treatment group of the transgenic mice were fed the olive leaf extract and a control group was not,” Omar explained. “Observing the behaviour of the mice in a maze test, I was able to compare the learning memory function of the treated and un-treated groups. On the basis of some statistical performance, there was a no significant difference between the two groups in terms of memory improvement, while the treatment group of mice showed slight cognitive improvement.”
“Even though these results are promising and give the future research direction, we still have much to learn about the enzyme modifying activities of olive bisphenols and the progression of Alzheimer’s disease,” he added.
There are said to be an estimated 5.4 million Americans of all ages with the disease currently, and that number is growing quickly. Of the 5.4 million diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, approximately 5.2 million are age 65 or older, though an estimated 200,000 people have younger-onset Alzheimer’s, meaning they’re under the age of 65.
Where To Buy Olive Leaf Extract