The leaf of the olive tree (Olea europaea) has been used medicinally for centuries throughout the world, where it has been used to treat various ailments, including infectious disorders of bacterial, fungal, and viral origin.
Olive leaf contains several bioactive compounds, including phenolic compounds such as oleuropein, hydroxytyrosol, and other antioxidants that contribute to its potential health benefits.
In studies, the olive leaf plant materials and compounds isolated from the leaves have shown a wide range of pharmacological activities in vitro (outside of a living organism) and in vivo (inside a living organism).
Olive leaf may be taken both as a preventative and a herbal treatment for particular ailments when needed. It can used as an herbal tea, a powder, or as a commercially available olive leaf extract.
What is the Difference Between Olive Leaf Extract and Olive Leaf Tea?
Olive leaf extract is a highly concentrated form of the beneficial compounds found in the leaves and is typically produced by an extraction process using solvents such as water or alcohol to concentrate the bioactive compounds.
Olive leaf extract is available in various forms, such as liquid extracts, capsules, or powders, and they often contain standardized amounts of specific active compounds.
In terms of consumption, olive leaf extract is often used as a supplement for its potential health benefits or medicinally for particular incidences and is taken in specific doses as directed on the product label.
Olive leaf tea is generally milder, and a less concentrated form of the beneficial compounds found in the leaves. It is made by steeping dried olive leaves in hot water, similar to how traditional herbal teas are prepared. The strength and potency of the tea can vary depending on the amount of leaves used how long they are steeped in water.
Olive leaf tea is typically consumed as a beverage, and is enjoyed for its soothing properties, mild flavour and beneficial antioxidant effects. This makes it a more casual and accessible way to incorporate olive leaf into a regular health routine.
What Are the Health Benefits of Olive Leaf?
Olive leaf extract has a long history of use as a herbal medicine. It contains bioactive compounds with the following properties – antihypertensive (reduces blood pressure), antioxidant (prevents oxidation or cell damage), anti-inflammatory (reduces risk of inflammation), antiatherogenic (prevents blockage of arteries), hypoglycemic (reduces blood sugar), hypocholesterolemic (reduces total cholesterol and LDL ‘bad’ cholesterol levels), gastroprotective (protects digestive system), neuroprotective (protects central nervous system), antimicrobial (inhibits microorganism growth), anticancer (reduces risk of cancer), antinociceptive (reduces sensation of pain).
As a result, many studies show that olive leaf has many health benefits such as boosting immunity; treating diabetes, high blood pressure, arthritis, and cancer; and improving cardiovascular health and brain function.
While scientific research on olive leaf extract is still ongoing, here are some of the potential health benefits that have been associated with its use:
1. Antioxidant properties
Olive leaf extract contains powerful antioxidants, such as oleuropein and hydroxytyrosol, which help protect the body’s cells from oxidative damage caused by free radicals.
Antioxidants have been linked to a reduction in the risk of chronic diseases and play a role in preventing conditions such as heart disease, cognitive decline, cancer, and osteoporosis.
2. Improved cardiovascular health
Olive leaf extract may help lower blood pressure by relaxing blood vessels, reducing inflammation, and improving blood flow. It may also have cholesterol-lowering effects, helping to maintain healthy cholesterol levels. This is consistent with the observation that olive leaves have been used as an herbal tonic for supporting heart health for thousands of years.
The compounds oleuropein and hydroytyrosol in olive leaves have both been found to reduce properties of coronary heart disease.
- A study published in the Journal of Nutrition in 2010 found that rats treated with olive leaf extracts had improved or normalized cardiovascular, metabolic, and hepatic signs, and suggest that olive leaf extracts can reverse chronic inflammation and cardiovascular stress.
- Research shows that olive leaf extract helps prevent LDL (bad) cholesterol from building up in arteries (atherosclerosis, or narrowing of the arteries), helping increase blood flow and lowering blood pressure, reducing the risk of heart disease. A 2015 study using animal assessed the effects of olive leaf extract on cholesterol levels. Rats who took the extract for eight weeks had significantly decreased cholesterol levels.
- A similar 2008 study on humans compared the effects of using olive leaf extract with lifestyle advice in 40 identical twins with high blood pressure. After 8 weeks, it was found that olive leaf extract significantly lowered LDL cholesterol levels within the twin pairs in a dose-dependent manner, meaning that larger doses had a greater effect.
- A study using rats also points to olive leaf extract’s effectiveness in helping restore a normal heartbeat in those with arrhythmia.
3. Blood Pressure Reduction
Olive leaf extract may help treat hypertension, or high blood pressure.
- A 2011 study compared the effectiveness of olive leaf extract to the hypertensive medication Captopril. Researchers randomized people with stage 1 hypertension to take either 500 mg of olive leaf extract or 12.5–25 mg of Captopril, a medication for high blood pressure, twice daily for an eight-week period.
- The result was that both Captopril and olive leaf extract significantly decreased systolic and diastolic blood pressure, preventing high blood pressure; but the olive leaf extract also reduced bad cholesterol. A lower blood pressure can reduce your risk of stroke and heart attack.
- Another study from 2017 found that olive leaf extract successfully lowered blood pressure. Researchers randomized people with stage 1 hypertension to take olive leaf extract containing 136 mg of oleuropein or a placebo each day. After 6 weeks, the people who took the olive leaf extract had much lower blood pressure than those who took the placebo.
4. Immune system support
Olive leaf has been used traditionally to help fight off infections, including bacterial and viral infections.
Studies have indicated that olive leaf extract may have antiviral properties and can help inhibit the replication of certain viruses.
The polyphenol compound oleuropein found in olive leaf displays antioxidant activity, anti-inflammatory, as well as antiviral, and antimicrobial effects. Olive leaf is used to fight infections, including candida, pneumonia, meningitis, chronic fatigue, malaria, gonorrhea, hepatitis B, tuberculosis, shingles, ear infections, urinary tract infections, and dental infections.
- A 2003 study published in Mycoses also found that olive lead extracts killed nearly all bacteria examined, including Escherichia coli (E. coli) cell, Candida albicans that causes genital and oral infections; and dermatophytes that causes hair, skin, and nail infections.
- One study found that antiviral and antimicrobial properties of olive leaf extract reduced the ability of the herpes virus to invade surrounding cells. To treat herpes, 1 to 2 drops are put into a cotton ball and then placed on the sore.
5. Anti-cancer properties
Olive leaves may be significant in cancer treatment due to their potential to stop the angiogenic (new blood vessel formation) process that triggers tumour growth. Stopping a cancer from growing its own blood vessels potentially slowdown the growth of the cancer or sometimes shrinks it.
The compound oleuropein in olive oil has anti-angiogenic and antioxidant properties, which has the effect of inhibiting the migration and reproduction of advanced tumor cells.
- In a study published in the journal Molecular Nutrition and Food Research in 2009, the strong antioxidant ability of olive leaf extract inhibited cancer and endothelial cell reproduction. Olive leaf extracts also slowed cell growth linked with brain cancer, urinary bladder cancer, and breast cancer.
6. Anti-inflammatory effects
Chronic inflammation is associated with many health conditions, such as arthritis, diabetes, and certain cardiovascular diseases. Olive leaf extract contains compounds that possess anti-inflammatory properties, potentially helping to reduce inflammation in the body.
7. Blood sugar control
Researchers found that the antioxidants in olive leaves can lower blood sugar levels and help stabilise them to maintain healthy levels, and also reduce the body’s insulin resistance, one of the biggest risk factors for diabetes.
Research suggests that olive leaf extract may have a positive impact on blood sugar levels. It may help improve insulin sensitivity and glucose metabolism, which is beneficial for individuals with diabetes or those at risk of developing the condition.
- Olive leaf extract may also help reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. In a 2013 study, researchers randomized 46 middle-aged overweight men to take either olive leaf extract or a placebo. After 12 weeks, the group taking olive leaf extract group had significant improvements in insulin sensitivity and pancreatic responsiveness compared to the placebo group. The reduction of insulin sensitivity and pancreatic responsiveness are considered to be important factors in the development of type 2 diabetes.
- A study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food in 2013 indicated that olive leaf extract may be a possible preventive and treatment method for diabetic patients, as it inhibits AGE (advanced glycation end products) formation, these substances can factor in the development diabetes and other chronic diseases. They also found that olive leaf also has hypoglycemic effects that help control blood sugar levels in the body, and the polyphenols in olive leaf may delay sugar production, which helps cause diabetes.
- A review of olive leaf extract and type 2 diabetes found that olive leaf oil extract can help improve insulin secretion in cells. Animal studies have shown that olive leaf extract may reduce hyperglycemia (high blood sugar), reduce hyperinsulinemia (too much insulin in the blood), reduce blood glucose, plasma malondialdehyde, and other signs of oxidative stress (an imbalance of free radicals that can harm the body), reduce cholesterol, decrease serum glucose, and increase serum insulin, but more human studies are required.
8. Weight management
Studies suggest that olive leaf extract may prevent obesity by regulating the expression of genes that affect weight gain, and may also aid in reducing food intake.
- In animal laboratory tests, it was found that the polyphenol compound oleuropein which is present in olive leaves lowered body fat and weight gain, both in a 2016 study using obese rats fed a high-cholesterol diet, and in another study from 2014 using mice fed a high-fat diets. It also reduced food intake, suggesting olive leaf extract can also help manage appetite and overeating.
These findings suggest that oleuropein may have the potential to reduce weight gain and lower the risk of obesity, but further research is necessary to confirm this possible health benefit in humans.
Note: It is not clear whether olive leaf extract can interact with other medications. People who are taking prescription medications, especially blood pressure medication or blood thinners, or have diabetes should check with a doctor before taking olive leaf extract.
How to Dry Olive Leaves for Making Tea
Olive leaf tea is made by steeping dried olive leaves in hot water, similar to how traditional herbal teas are prepared.
The leaves are usually air-dried or dehydrated to removes the moisture and preserve them for later use.
Here’s the step-by-step process to dry olive leaves:
- Harvest leaves – from a pesticide-free olive tree select healthy leaves that are free from any signs of disease, damage, or pests. It’s best to harvest the leaves in the morning when the dew has dried, but before the sun gets too hot. Cut short sprigs (stems with leaves) from the tips of branches as they’re easier to process than single leaves.
- Clean leaves – wash the leaves thoroughly to remove any dirt, debris, or insects. Gently rinse them under cool running water and pat them dry with a clean towel.
- Prepare leaves for drying – Once the leaves are clean and dry, remove them from the stems by gently sliding fingers along the stem in the opposite direction of leaf growth. Discard any damaged or discoloured leaves.
- Air drying the leaves – dry the leaves by spreading them out in a single layer on a clean, dry surface such as a paper towel, drying rack, clean cloth, or mesh screen. Space leaves evenly for proper air flow. Place the leaves in a well-ventilated area away from direct sunlight and moisture.
- Drying time – Allow the leaves to air dry for several days until they become brittle and crumble easily when crushed. It may take a few days to a couple of weeks for the leaves to dry, depending on the climate, season of the year, indoor temperature and humidity.
- Storing the leaves – the dry olive leaves should be stored in an airtight container, such as a glass jar or airtight plastic bag, in a cool, dry, place, away from sunlight, heat, and moisture, to retain the quality for several months. Remember to label the container with the name of the herb and the date it was stored to keep track of the freshness.
A food dehydrator set to a low temperature of around 38-49°C (100-120°F) can also be used to dry olive leaves quickly.
If attempting this with an oven that can run such low temperatures, leave the door slightly open to allow moisture to escape, and be careful to avoid high heat, as it can damage the active compounds in the leaves and compromise their quality.
How to Make Olive Leaf Tea
Drinking a cup of olive leaf tea daily is a great way to derive its many health benefits. To make olive leaf tea, you’ll need a supply of dried olive leaves.
Here’s a simple method for preparing olive leaf tea:
- Crush or break up the dry leaves into smaller pieces using your hands, or a mortar and pestle. This helps release the flavors and beneficial compounds during the steeping process.
- Boil up enough water as needed.
- Add a tablespoon of the dried leaves into boiled water
- Allow to steep (sit) for about 10-15 minutes to extract the flavour and beneficial compounds from the leaves.
- Strain using a fine-mesh strainer or a tea infuser to remove the olive leaves.
- Pour the tea into cups or teapots for serving.
- Enjoy! Serve the olive leaf tea while it’s still warm, and allow to cool if it’s a bit too hot!
The strength and taste of olive leaf tea can be adjusted for personal preferences.
- A longer steeping time, or using more leaves produces a stronger tea.
- The flavour of the olive leaf tea can be enhanced by adding a touch of honey, lemon, or other herbal teas to suit your taste preferences.
Feel free to experiment with these to achieve the desired flavour and strength of olive leaf tea.
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