If you speak to my friends and family, they will tell you have I have been talking about olive leaf extract for years. Some of them tried it themselves – I’m sure just to shut me up – but they have been pleasantly surprised. I have known about this herbal remedy since I attended a workshop a few years ago in Robertson, Cape Town, about the health benefits of olive leaf extract which, as the name suggests, comes from the leaves of the olive tree (Olea europaea). I was intrigued that this leaf had so many health benefits. The presenter shared how her children seldom got sick despite being exposed to all the common infectious diseases that was contracted by their peers at school. They remained healthy and even won prizes annually for not missing a day of school.
I wanted to know more and I wanted to try it out. So, after that workshop, I returned home and bought a bottle. I couldn’t help cynically smiling at the caption, “A natural alternative to health for acute & chronic conditions”. The overview seemed too broad, many advertisers claiming that it is a natural, non-toxic tablet that can be used as an alternative or a supplement to remedies normally taken for colds and flu; kidney, genital, respiratory, digestive or other acute infections. It sounded way too good to be true, but I was keen to find out for myself.
Despite my skepticism, my distaste for anti-biotics and a range of other Western medicine which comes with an equal range of nasty side-effects was greater, so I decided to try this wonderous remedy to boost my immune system as the winter months crept in. I never got the usual cold or flu symptoms at all that winter. When I felt a niggle of some ailment, I’d simply follow the instructions on the bottle and increase the dose. My symptoms usually improved markedly after a few hours on the higher dosage.
Since then, which was about 18 years ago, my “medicine” cupboard is permanently stocked with olive leaf tablets. It is my first port of call no matter my symptoms – from a sore throat to a bladder infection. A few years ago, I got a long-lasting urinary tract infection, the bacteria seemed to enjoy taking up residence in my body. For some reason, I did not believe the olive leaf extract would help for something that serious. Although there is no recommended daily allowance for olive leaf extract (which comes in capsules, tablets, softgels, and tinctures), I usually took a daily dose of two tablets, but it didn’t seem to touch this infection. I thought it would be wiser to seek “proper” medical care. The usual Western medicine go-to remedy (antibiotics) was prescribed but sadly it had no effect. Back to the doctor, of course, another strain of anti-biotics was prescribed. After the third course of antibiotics, I decided to read the olive leaf instructions more carefully as I was not prepared to try every strain of antibiotics and in the process rid my body of all its good bacteria in an attempt to kill the stubborn bad bugs.
For chronic conditions, one can up the dose to two tablets every two hours for as long as required. What did I have to lose – all the potent antibiotics hadn’t helped nor did they kill me, so I went on an olive leaf extract binge and took two tablets every two hours that day. It worked! By the following morning, the burn, headaches, lethargy, and overall ill-feeling was a thing of the past.
I had a similar experience recently. I’m not sure why I even took the first course of antibiotics prescribed, but I did and although they eased the symptoms, the infection remained. Before returning to the doctor’s rooms, I decided to repeat the protocol I followed years before. Two olive leaf tablets every two hours. Voilà, it worked again!
Since I’ve had such success with olive leaf extract, I would like to share some of the health benefits of this wonderous alternative remedy which has been used in traditional medicine for years. Historically, olive leaf extract has been used for the prevention or treatment of inflammation, infections (such as colds and flu, Candidiasis, urinary tract infections, shingles), diarrhoea, allergies, and even diseases such as Alzheimer’s, chronic fatigue syndrome, osteoarthritis, and osteoporosis. The main component in olive leaf extract – oleuropein – has antioxidant, antibacterial, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, and immune-stimulating properties.
Since there is a lack of clinical trials testing the health effects of olive leaf extract, some initial studies have supported a few of the benefits I listed above. However, there are some key findings on its health benefits from available research, such as:
With its antiviral properties, it has been used in holistic medicine to treat certain viruses. Laboratory testing revealed that olive leaf is effective in fighting herpes, rotavirus, and mononucleosis. It may also be effective in fighting influenza and HIV. There is also strong anecdotal evidence that proposes olive leaf’s efficacy in treating cold sores, although the research is limited to cell cultures and has not been systematically investigated yet.
A small study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food found that olive leaf extract may aid in diabetes control. Although the study sample was small, those participants who were given the olive leaf extract daily as opposed to the placebo over 14 weeks showed a significantly greater decrease in their blood sugar levels. More research is needed of course, but this study replicates earlier animal studies and shows potential in treating type 2 diabetes.
High blood pressure
A 2017 study in the European Journal of Nutrition found that phenolic-rich olive leaf extract reduces blood pressure. Although this was also a small study of only 60 prehypertensive subjects carried out over six weeks, it too showed promise of olive leaf extract as a treatment for high blood pressure. The participants were given 136 mg oleuropein, 6 mg hydroxytyrosol, or a placebo. Their blood pressure was monitored during this time, the result showing significant reductions in blood pressure, total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and inflammatory markers in the treatment group.
In animal studies, olive leaf extract has been shown to prevent obesity. The results have not been replicated in human trials, but researchers believe that it works by regulating the expression of genes that affect weight gain. Olive leaf may also act as an appetite suppressant.
Side effects & interactions
As with any medication or remedy, there are usually some side effects when using olive leaf extract or it may interact with other medication. However, due to the lack of research, not much is known about the safety and regular use of supplements containing olive leaf extract.
Some concerns noted are that olive leaf extract may trigger mild side effects like stomach pain and headaches. There have been reports of people developing an allergy to olive leaf extract. People who are allergic to plants in the Oleaceae family (e.g. olive trees, ash trees, jasmine, forsythia, privets, lilacs), may experience severe respiratory allergic reactions from the pollen from the olive leaf.
If you are taking medication for blood pressure, do not take olive leaf extract without first consulting with your medical practitioner as it can cause your blood pressure to drop too low. Similarly, people taking insulin or other blood sugar medicine should avoid taking olive leaf extract as it may cause hypoglycaemia.
Those undergoing chemotherapy should also talk to their doctor before taking olive leaf extract. Due to its antioxidant properties, it could interfere with the actions of certain chemotherapy drugs.
My experience with olive leaf extract has been extremely positive. So much so that I even add it to my dog’s diet when he has ingested something he shouldn’t have or picked up some nasty bug. A few drops of the tincture have reversed his symptoms and resulted in a quick turnaround from a lethargic, sick dog to a bouncy puppy after a day or two of taking the drops. I used it regularly for my previous two Yorkies who lived well into 14 and 15 years of age. However, despite my positive experiences with this extraordinary remedy, it is important to remember that supplements haven’t been tested for safety and dietary supplements or functional medicine are largely unregulated. The product may also deliver doses that differ from the specified amount for each herb.
You must always speak to your medical practitioner before taking any supplement that may interfere with prescribed medication. If you are eager to try olive leaf as an alternative form of medicine, it would be wise to experiment with a small dose first to see if it causes any adverse reaction. If you have pollen allergies to the Oleaceae family, be sure to tread with extreme caution or rather avoid using olive leaf extract completely.
If your local health store doesn’t stock olive leaf extract or you’d like to conveniently purchase it online, you can do so via the advert banner below or by clicking here.
DISCLAIMER: The information contained in this article is for informational purposes only. No material contained herein is intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment before undertaking a new health care regime, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read.
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Authored by Delilah Nosworthy
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