The olive tree has a long history of use both as food and as a medicine.
While olives get all of the attention as the fruit of the olive tree, new research indicates that olive leaf provides a wide array of health benefits.
The benefits of olive leaf are numerous as it’s said to support the immune system, lower blood pressure, and fight bacteria, among other benefits.
In this article, we will look at the health benefits of olive leaf, its safety, and its history.
Table of Contents
- What is Olive Leaf?
- Health Benefits of Olive Leaf:
- Olive Leaf Safety:
- Naming & Taxonomy:
- History & Traditional Use:
What is Olive Leaf?
The olive tree is a perennial in the Oleaceae family of plants. The scientific name for this tree is Olea europaea.
It was traditionally found in the Mediterranean basin, but it can now be found growing in warm climates throughout the world.
Olives, the fruit of the olive tree, are used to make olive oil – one of the most beloved culinary foods on the planet.
Olive leaf, on the other hand, is the leaf of the olive tree. It has been used medicinally for centuries. In fact, the olive leaf and olive tree have been mentioned in the Bible and in ancient Greek texts.
Research shows that olive leaf benefits the immune system. It’s also been shown to help reduce high blood pressure. It also has strong antimicrobial properties.
It’s thought that the benefits of olive leaf are due to its oleuropein content. Oleuropein is a powerful natural antioxidant.
We’ll dig into all of these benefits of olive leaf below.
Health Benefits of Olive Leaf:
There are many purported health benefits of olive leaf. Below is a review of the top health benefits of olive leaf.
1. May Decrease Blood Pressure
Clinical research indicates that olive leaf extract may help to lower both systolic and diastolic blood pressure.
Maintaining blood pressure is important for overall health as it ensures that each organ system receives adequate blood flow. Hypertension, also known as high blood pressure, is a condition that can damage your arteries by making them less elastic, which decreases the flow of blood and oxygen to your heart and leads to heart disease.
Systolic blood pressure shows how much pressure is exerted while your heart is beating. Diastolic blood pressure is a measurement of the pressure between beats.
In an 8-week double-blind, randomized study of individuals with stage-1 hypertension, olive leaf extract (500mg taken twice daily) was compared against Captopril. Captopril is a pharmaceutical drug used to treat high blood pressure, it’s known as an ACE inhibitor. In the comparative study, the olive leaf extract group had a reduction in systolic blood pressure rate of ~11.5 and a ~4.8 reduction in diastolic blood pressure.
These results were comparable to the Captopril group, which had a reduction of ~13.7 and ~6.4 respectively. The researchers noted that taking olive leaf extract was similarly effective as Captopril at reducing blood pressure, with the added benefit that the olive leaf group had decreased triglyceride levels.
A clinical trial involving 60 pre-hypertensive participants looked at the impact of taking 142mg daily of a purified extract containing oleuropein and hydroxytyrosol. A control group took a placebo. After six weeks the results showed that the group given the oleuropein and hydroxytyrosol had a 3-4 point decrease in both systolic and diastolic blood pressure.
Another clinical trial involving 40 pre-hypertensive identical twins looked at the effects of olive leaf extract on blood pressure. Individuals were given either 500mg or 1,000mg of a polyphenol-rich olive leaf extract over 8 weeks. The 500mg group showed a 6mmHg decrease in systolic blood pressure and a 5mmHg decrease in diastolic blood pressure. The 1,00mg group showed a 13mmHg decrease in systolic blood pressure and a 5mmHg decrease in diastolic blood pressure.
A human clinical trial looked at the effectiveness of a combination of olive leaf and hibiscus (Hibiscus sabdariffa) in individuals with hypertension. There were 134 study participants who were divided into three groups, a Captopril group (i.e. a standard pharmaceutical approach), a low dose hibiscus/olive leaf group, and a high dose hibiscus/olive leaf group. The results were similar across the three group,s with 16.4/9.9 mmHg (p < .0001), 15.4/9.6 mmHg (p < .0001), and 14.9/9.4 mmHg (p < .0001) with captopril, low-dose hibiscus/olive leaf extract, and high-dose hibiscus/olive leaf extract.
A meta-analysis study found that 500-1,000mg of olive leaf extract daily appears to be helpful in reducing blood pressure.
An open pilot study (non-controlled, non-randomized) involving 663 pre-hypertensive individuals found that taking two capsules per day (100 mg/d of oleuropein and 20 mg/d of hydroxytyrosol) helped to reduce systolic and diastolic blood pressure by 13 and 6.6 mmHg respectively.
Summary:Clinical research indicates that olive leaf extract helps to lower blood pressure, although additional research would be beneficial in further confirming these findings.
2. May Support Heart Health
Olive leaf extract benefits heart health by working to reduce blood lipid levels. Olive leaf’s lipid-lowering effect is commonly attributed to the polyphenols oleuropein and hydroxytyrosol. Due to the presence of these polyphenols’ properties, olive leaf is considered one of the best herbs for circulation.
It’s thought that this lipid-lowering effect is due to oleuropein and hydroxytyrosol, two polyphenols found in olive leaf.
Cholesterol and triglycerides are fat molecules that are found in the blood. They are essential for human life and are involved in many bodily functions, including facilitating the absorption of fat double vitamins. However, elevated lipid numbers are linked with a higher risk of cardiovascular disease.
A clinical trial involving 60 individuals found that taking a supplement containing oleuropein and hydroxytyrosol over 6 weeks helped to reduce total plasma cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and triglyceride levels.
Another study found that olive leaf worked to reduce total cholesterol (HDL and LDL) by ~5(mmol/L) over the course of 8 weeks.
A double-blind, randomized trial found that taking 500mg twice daily of olive leaf extract worked to reduce triglycerides by 23% over the course of 8 weeks.
Another study found that a combination of hibiscus and olive leaf extracts worked to reduce triglyceride levels by 17.6 points over the course of 8 weeks. This combination was also found to reduce LDL cholesterol by 7.4 points.
A study found that olive leaf tea helped to reduce LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels in pre-diabetic individuals.
Summary:Research indicates that the polyphenols in olive leaf, primarily oleuropein and hydroxytyrosol may help to reduce blood lipid levels.
3. May Improve Immune Health
Olive leaf benefits the immune system through its strong antimicrobial properties.
Oleuropein, one of the key phytochemicals in olive leaf, has been shown to have strong antimicrobial activity against both Gram-negative and Gram-positive bacteria. It’s thought that oleuropein’s phenolic structure produces an antibacterial effect by damaging the bacterial membrane and/or disrupting cell peptidoglycans.
A small clinical trial involving 32 high school athletes found that taking olive leaf extract (standardized to contain oleuropein) helped to reduce total sick days over the course of 8 weeks.
Additionally, olive leaf extract has been shown to have antibacterial activity against:
- Staphylococcus aureus
- Salmonella enteritidis
- Bacillus cereus
- Klebsiella pneumonia
- Escherichia coli
Research has also shown that oleuropein exhibits significant antiviral activity against respiratory syncytial virus and para-influenza type 3 virus
Summary:Research shows that olive leaf has strong antimicrobial properties, which may help to boost immune health.
4. May Promote Healthy Skin
The olive and its phytochemical constituents are beneficial for skin health due to their strong antioxidant activity.
Oleuropein, hydroxytyrosol, and squalene are the three phytochemicals in olive leaf that benefit skin health.
Oleuropein has been shown to protect skin against UVB-induced damage. Oleuropein also acts as a free radical scavenger at the skin level, which helps to keep the skin looking young and healthy.
New research indicates that hydroxytyrosol may help to reduce inflammation in the skin, which can help to prevent atopic dermatitis (i.e. eczema).
Squalene is a triterpene that appears to be critical for reducing free radical oxidative damage to the skin.
A small pilot study involving 20 participants with aging skin applied an olive leaf extract-containing cream to their face twice daily for 8 weeks. At the end of the study, the participants were shown to have increased water retention in their skin as well as fewer wrinkles. It appears that olive leaf extract can help to hydrate the skin.
Summary:Olive leaf and its various constituents appear to be beneficial for skin health.
5. May Support Brain Health
The benefits of olive leaf may extend to brain health.
One of the major drivers of cognitive decline is oxidative stress. it’s thought that increasing antioxidants in the body can help to mitigate this.
More than 200 different phenolic antioxidants have been found in the olive plant (fruit and leaf). It’s thought that these antioxidants have a neuroprotective effect on the brain.
Summary:It’s theorized that the strong antioxidant activity in olive leaf benefits brain health via its neuroprotective effects. Human clinical trials are needed to verify this.
6. Other Benefits
Other purported olive leaf health benefits include:
- May Stabilize Blood Sugar – A small human clinical trial found that oleuropein helped to reduce postprandial blood sugar levels.
While these various other health benefits of olive leaf are interesting, human clinical trials are needed to corroborate these findings.
Summary:Olive leaf has been tied to a wide variety of health benefits. Human clinical trials are needed to verify these findings.
Olive Leaf Safety:
Olive leaf has been shown to be safe to consume. Toxicity studies show that olive leaf extracts are generally safe and do not show toxic effects even at high doses.
Pregnancy & Lactation:
Safety has not been conclusively proven for pregnant or nursing women. Consult with your personal physician prior to consuming olive leaf.
Standard dosing for olive leaf is as follows:
Capsules: Olive leaf is generally taken as an extract standardized to contain oleuropein. Generally, 500-1,000mg per day is the recommended dose for a physiological dose.
The olive tree is widely cultivated around the world, especially in the Mediterranean region. There are currently no sustainability issues.
In fact, consuming olive leaves is a sustainable practice in and of itself as olive leaves are a byproduct of the popular olive oil industry.
Naming & Taxonomy:
The olive tree’s scientific name is Olea europaea. It’s a perennial tree that belongs to the Oleaceae family of plants.
The genus Olea got its name from the Greek word “elaia” and the Latin word “oleum”.
The olive tree is native to Mediterranean Europe, Asia, and Africa. It is short and squat and rarely exceeds 8–15 m (26–49 ft) in height.
Olive leaf is rich in a variety of different phytochemicals, including oleuropein, hydroxytyrosol, and squalene.
Olive leaf is much richer in these phytochemicals than olive oil. In comparison, olive leaves contain between 1–14% oleuropein compared to 0.005% to 0.12% in olive oil
The most abundant phenolic compounds present in olive leaves are verbascoside, apigenin-7-glucoside, luteolin-7-glucoside, hydroxytyrosol (HT), tyrosol, and the secoiridoid oleuropein, with secoiridoids being uniquely present in plants of the Oleaceae family.
History & Traditional Use:
The olive tree has played an important ecological, economic, and cultural role in Early Mediterranean civilizations, especially for its usefulness as a source of food.
The olive tree and its fruit are also important in the context of religion. Olives are mentioned multiple times in the Bible, both in the New and Old Testaments.
The olive tree and its various parts (fruit, leaves) have been traditionally used to reduce blood sugar, cholesterol, and uric acid.
Additionally, parts of the olive tree have also been used to treat diabetes, hypertension, inflammation, diarrhea, respiratory and urinary tract infections, stomach and intestinal diseases, asthma, hemorrhoids, rheumatism, laxative, mouth cleanser, and as a vasodilator.
Olive leaf appears to be a safe and well-tolerated herb.
Common usage tells us that this herb is helpful for heart health. Research indicates that it may be useful for immune health as well as healthy aging.
It also appears that this herb has strong anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties.
It’s worth looking into olive leaf if you are needing support in any of these areas. As always, make sure to consult your doctor before making any changes to your diet or adding any new dietary supplements.