While olive oil is famous around the world for the number of benefits it offers, olive leaf extract is less well known for impressive health effects that can make it a valuable addition to your diet. The most important health benefits of olive leaf extract include its ability to lower blood pressure, improve cardiovascular health, regulate blood sugar fluctuation, improve brain function, and strengthen immunity. It also helps to lose weight, improve the appearance of the skin, and treat arthritis and herpes breakouts.
However, before you start using a specialized supplement such as this, it is critical to first understand the source, the potential benefits, and any possible side effects.
What is Olive Leaf Extract?
Olive leaf extract is derived from the leaves of the olive tree and has been used medicinally for thousands of years. The key ingredient in olive leaf extract is oleuropein, along with other flavonoids and polyphenolic compounds, that deliver a host of health benefits for those who regularly consume this extract, regardless of what form it comes in.
Olive trees, scientifically known as Olea europaea, are some of the oldest cultivated plants. Native to the Mediterranean region, olives have been naturalized in dozens of countries and is highly valued for the oil in its fruit.
Unlike olive oil, olive leaf extract is acquired from the leaves themselves and can be prepared at home, if you have the time and willingness. Otherwise, this extract is commonly available in supplement form at natural health stores and herbalists, where the extract is acquired through steam distillation or solvent extractions. There are various other ways to benefit from the dense nutrient value of olive leaves, such as teas or tinctures, but they aren’t as efficient or potent when it comes to this extract’s health potential.
Health Benefits of Olive Leaf Extract
Let’s take a look at the most important health benefits of olive leaf extract:
The detoxifying abilities of this extract can help to eliminate toxins from the skin that can speed up the aging process. Additionally, the antioxidants found in this extract will help soothe oxidative stress in the upper layers of the skin, which can minimize the appearance of wrinkles, age spots, and other blemishes. Regular use of this extract can also improve circulation to the skin, which will speed up the growth and repair of any damaged skin cells.
Studies have found that this extract is able to increase the production and release of insulin, which will mean better regulation of your blood sugar levels. If you are at high risk for diabetes or have already been diagnosed, this extract can help manage the potential symptoms. Other active ingredients also minimize your other risk factors for diabetes, such as obesity and high cholesterol.
Lowers Blood Pressure
Research has shown that olive leaf extract can quickly and consistently lower blood pressure, which will reduce strain on the cardiovascular system and lower your risk of atherosclerosis, heart attack, stroke and coronary heart disease. One capsule supplement per day is able to effectively regulate both systolic and diastolic blood pressure.
There are a number of powerful antioxidants found in olive leaf extract, some of which have been linked to anti-cancer properties. This means that your body will be able to seek out and neutralize free radicals before they cause cell mutation or cancerous growths. The active ingredients in this extract can also slow the rate of tumor formation.
Improves Cognitive Performance
Olive leaf extract offers a strong level of protection against neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Regular use of this supplement has also been prescribed for people following strokes or other acute brain injuries, as it can reduce oxidative stress and help improve cognitive performance.
Reduces Cholesterol Levels
The compounds found in olive leaf extract are able to prevent the oxidation of LDL cholesterol, which is how plaque gets deposited in arteries, leading to atherosclerosis and increasing your risk of coronary heart disease and other cardiovascular conditions. This extract can also reduce the production of damaging compounds that can break down blood vessel walls, helping to reduce blood pressure and maintain the integrity of the heart.
Anecdotal evidence and formal studies have shown that regular use of olive leaf extract can improve digestion and soothe symptoms of constipation and bloating. This is partially due to the immune-enhancing properties of this substance, which can rebalance the bacterial levels in the gut, which improves digestion in a major way. This is particularly effective if you brew a tea made from olive leaves.
Has Analgesic Qualities
If you regularly suffer from pain, the analgesic qualities of olive leaf extract can help to reduce that discomfort and inhibit the signaling of nerve receptors from the site of the injury.
Boosts Immune System
The immunomodulatory effects of olive leaf extract are well known, and it is able to fight off a variety of fungal, viral and bacterial infections. This will stimulate the production of white blood cells in the body, in conjunction with a high level of antioxidants that will reduce oxidative stress and relieve any strain on the immune system.
In terms of reducing inflammation in the body, people have been taking this extract for sore joints and muscles for generations. It is able to inhibit the release of cytokines and other inflammatory enzymes that cause pain and discomfort in the joints, particularly for people with arthritis. This makes it an effective remedy for chronic pain of other types as well, particularly those from old injuries.
Increases your Metabolism
There are a number of fat-burning effects of olive leaf extract, primarily because it stimulates the release of adrenaline and other hormones. This can increase your overall metabolism and increase passive fat-burning, while also optimizing other bodily processes, like energy metabolism and enzyme production.
Uses of Olive Leaf Extract
The primary use of olive leaf extract is in supplement form. The capsules tend to be 500-1000 milligrams in strength, and the recommended concentration is one with 20% oleuropein. That is the active ingredient and most important component in the extract that delivers the majority of the nutrients and health benefits. It is safe to take a supplement of olive leaf extract every day, as the body doesn’t store excess amounts of the active ingredients.
The other way to benefit from this extract is to prepare an olive leaf tea. While fewer active ingredients will be released in the tea than are present in the pure extract, this can still be quite beneficial for health. Simply steep 4-5 olive leaves in hot water for 7-8 minutes to brew a cup of tea. The flavor can be a bit earthy for some people, so adding a teaspoon of honey is recommended.
Olive Leaf Extract Side Effects
There are many positive aspects to taking this extract on a regular basis, but some of the potential side effects can include inflammation, gastrointestinal problems, heartburn, drug interactions, and dizziness.
Toxin Inflammation: One of the best things about this extract is that it has potent antibacterial, antiviral and anti-fungal qualities. However, by destroying or neutralizing these pathogens, this extract can cause a number of toxins to be released by those cells. This will result in an inflammatory response by the body, which can begin a vicious cycle of the body trying to rid itself of waste material. This can result in joint pain, muscle soreness, sweating, fever, and headache.
Stomach Issues: The powerful nature of this extract can have irritating side effects in the stomach, which is why it is always recommended to take olive leaf extract with food. Even when you simply prepare a tincture or brew a cup of olive leaf tea, drinking extra water is a good idea, as this will help to flush out the excess toxins that are released by the extract, as explained above. These gastrointestinal side effects can include excessive diarrhea in some cases; if you experience these side effects, discontinue use of the supplement and speak to your doctor.
Heartburn: Some people have reported experiencing heartburn when they drink olive leaf tea or consume a tincture, but this isn’t a common side effect with people who take supplements in capsule or tablet form. You can relieve these symptoms by drinking more water or switching to capsule supplements.
Drug Interactions: The effects of this extract include raising blood sugar and decreasing blood pressure; for people who are taking medications for either of these two conditions – diabetes or hypertension – the interactions with the extract could result in complications or a lack of efficacy of the medications.
Dizziness: A small number of people report dizziness or lightheadedness after taking these capsule supplements. This seems to be concentrated in people who already suffer from low blood pressure, as olive leaf extract has a hypotensive effect on the body.