The olive leaf was first used medicinally in Ancient Egypt, where it served as a symbol of heavenly power. Since then, olive leaves have been used therapeutically in the human diet as an extract, herbal tea and powder.
Olive leaf contains many potentially bioactive compounds that have antioxidant, antihypertensive, anti-inflammatory and hypoglycemic properties — similar to the well-known olive oil benefits.
More and more studies are proving that olive leaf extract is a powerful medicinal tool, with benefits including immune system support, increased energy and promoting healthy blood pressure. Because of the promising scientific studies indicating its medicinal potential, olive leaf continues to gain recognition for its various health benefits.
What Is Olive Leaf Extract?
Olive leaf extract comes from the leaves of the olive tree, called Olea europaea. The olive tree is part of the Oleaceae family, which also includes species such as lilacs, jasmine, Forsythia and the true ash trees. It’s an evergreen tea or shrub that’s native to Asia, Africa and the Mediterranean. Researchers believe that the olive tree had its origin approximately 6,000–7,000 years ago in the region corresponding to ancient Persia and Mesopotamia.
Typically a short tree that rarely exceeds 26 to 49 feet in height, the olive tree flowers are small, white and feathery, and the leaves are a silver-green color. The olives are harvested in the green-to-purple stage and the seed of the olive is commonly referred to as the pit, and in Britain, it’s called a stone.
In the early 1800s, crushed olive leaves were used in drinks to lower fevers, and a few decades later, they were used in tea as a treatment for malaria. In Moroccan medicine, olive leaf is infused in order to stabilize blood sugar and control diabetes. These medicinal benefits of olive leaf extract comes from the plants powerful compounds.
One bioactive compound present in olive leaves is the secoiridoid oleuropein, which can constitute up to 6–9 percent of dry matter in the leaves. Other bioactive components include secoiridoids, flavonoids and triterpenes. These are plant metabolites that provide health benefits through cell signaling pathways and antioxidant effects.
Oleuropein, one of the primary compounds in olive leaf, has attracted attention since the early 1900s because of its antiviral, antibacterial and antifungal properties. Studies have found that oleuropein, which is a polyphenol, is a potent antioxidant that helps to lower blood pressure naturally and prevent cardiovascular disease. Oleuropein also displayed anti-cancer functions when it made tumors in animals regress or disappear.
1. Lowers Blood Pressure
A 2011 study evaluated the effectiveness of olive leaf extract in comparison to Captopril, a medication that is given to patients with hypertension or high blood pressure. Five hundred milligrams of olive leaf extract, taken twice daily for eight weeks, significantly reduced systolic and diastolic blood pressure.
While both olive leaf extracts and Captopril were able to prevent high blood pressure levels, the olive leaf treatment also resulted in a reduction of triglyceride levels (reducing bad cholesterol); plus, unlike olive leaf, there are a number of possible side effects when taking Captopril, including dizziness, loss of taste and dry cough.
2. Improves Cardiovascular Health
Olive leaves have been used as an herbal tonic to support cardiovascular function for thousands of years. High doses of olive leaf extract have been shown to help reduce elevated LDL-cholesterol levels and assist in the maintenance of normal blood pressure.
Oleuropein, the main glycoside present in olive leaf, and hydroxytyrosol, the principal product of oleuropein that is present in olives and olive leaf extract, have both been linked to reduction of coronary heart disease and certain cancers.
A study done at the School of Biomedical Sciences in Australia examined rats that were fed a high fat and high carbohydrate diet for 16 weeks. The rats that were not treated developed signs of elevated abdominal and hepatic fat deposition, collagen deposition in heart and liver, cardiac stiffness and oxidative stress markers.
The rats that were treated with olive leaf extracts had improved or normalized cardiovascular, hepatic (liver function) and metabolic signs. This study suggests that olive leaf extracts may be able to reverse cardiovascular stress and chronic, disease-causing inflammation in humans.
3. Fights Diabetes
One study conducted in Greece measured the effects of olive leaf extracts on the formation of advanced glycation end products (known as AGEs), which are substances that can be a factor in the development of diabetes and many other chronic diseases. Inhibiting AGE formation is a preventive and therapeutic target for patients with diabetes, and a 2013 study found that olive leaf extract did just that, working to improve diabetes symptoms naturally.
Olive leaf extracts have hyperglycemic effects, meaning they reduce blood sugar levels in the body. The olive leaf also controls blood glucose levels in the body. The polyphenols in olive leaf play a vital role in delaying the production of sugar, which causes inflammatory diseases like diabetes.
A 2017 review published in Moleculesfound evidence to confirm the interactions and combined benefits of olive polyphenols that are found in olive leaf extracts. These polyphenols were able to induce an improvement in blood glucose in prediabetes.
There’s also some evidence on animals to suggest that olive leaf may aid weight loss by regulating the expression of certain genes that role a role in weight gain. But to be sure about olive leaf for weight loss, more research is needed.
4. May Reduce the Risk of Cancer
Olive leaves may play an important role in fighting cancer because of their ability to stop the angiogenic process, which stimulates the growth of tumors. The compound oleuropein has an antioxidant and anti-angiogenic effect by inhibiting the reproduction and migration of advanced tumor cells.
A 2009 study conducted in Greece showed, for the first time, that olive leaf extracts have strong antioxidant potency and inhibit cancer and endothelial cell reproduction. Olive leaf extracts slowed the growth of cells associated with breast cancer, urinary bladder cancer and brain cancer.
5. Improves Brain Function
Another olive leaf benefit is its positive effects on brain function. Studies show that oleuropein, one of the main components in olive leaf, reduces the symptoms or occurrence of age-related disorders, such as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
Research suggests that there is a connection between free radicals and Alzheimer’s. Because olive leaf is an antioxidant, it helps to combat the damage caused by free radicals and protects the brain from memory loss. Using olive leaf infusions or extracts is a safe and effective way to treat Alzheimer’s disease naturally.
An in vivo study published in Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity found that oleuropein is able to induce autophagy, achieving a decrease of aggregated proteins and a reduction of cognitive impairment. Basically, this means that because of this compound, olive leaf extract promotes the orderly degradation and recycling of our cellular components.
6. Treats Arthritis
Arthritis is a joint disease that causes swelling and pain in the joints. The key word here is swelling — which means inflammation. Because the olive leaf is an anti-inflammatory agent, it works as a natural arthritis remedy.
A 2012 study found that olive leaf extracts significantly reduced paw swelling in rats with arthritis; this is because the extracts were able to reduce the inflammation that was present in the joints. Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis, impacting more than 33 million American adults. This occurs when the cartilage between the bones and the joint wears down, which allows the bones to rub together rather than giving them the protection and cushion of cartilage.
Studies have shown that olive leaf extracts cuts down on the chronic pain that is associated with osteoarthritis, and it reduces the production of cytokines and enzymes that are markers for the inflammatory process.
7. Kills Bacteria and Fungi
An important olive leaf benefit is its ability to fight off infections, including candida infections, meningitis, pneumonia, chronic fatigue, hepatitis B, malaria, gonorrhea, shingles and tuberculosis. It also naturally treats ear, dental and urinary tract infections.
A study done in 2003 proved that olive leave extracts have an antimicrobial effect against bacteria and fungi. This suggests that olive leaf works as a natural antibiotic, due to it’s ability to fight some bacterial infections. In the study, the olive leaf extracts killed almost all bacteria tested, including dermatophytes (causing infections on the skin, hair and nails), candida albicans (an agent of oral and genital infections) and Escherichia coli cells (bacteria found in the lower intestine).
And a 2017 study found that olive leaf extract works as an antimicrobial agent that controls foodborne pathogens, including E. coli and salmonella.
8. Boosts Immune System
The olive leaf has antiviral properties, giving it the ability to fight or prevent the common cold, as well as treat dangerous viruses. Research shows that olive leaf extracts effectively fight against a number of disease-causing microbes, including some of the viruses that cause influenza and other respiratory infections.
The powerful compounds found in olive leaves destroy invading organisms and don’t allow viruses to replicate and cause an infection. In fact, the olive leaf is so beneficial to our health that treatment with olive leaf extracts reversed many HIV-1 infection-associated changes in a study done at the New York University School of Medicine.
And a 2019 study found that when olive leaf extract was given to high school athletes for nine weeks during their competitive season, there was a significant 28 percent reduction in sick days taken by those supplementing with olive leaf.
9. Protects Skin
Olive leaf has the power to reverse years of damage to your skin and the signs of aging. Because of olive leaf’s antioxidant properties, it helps to prevent certain types of cell damage, especially those caused by oxidation. Foods and herbs that contain antioxidants are great tools for the health of your skin and cells.
The Division of Biochemical Pharmacology in Japan found that olive leaf extract, when given to mice with UV radiation damage, decreased skin thickness and skin elasticity, which are signs of skin damage. The treatment also inhibited skin carcinogenesis and tumor growth.
Some more olive leaf benefits may include:
diminished food cravings
joint pain relief
improved wound healing