Olive oil is popular in the alternative health world. Researchers have shown dozens of health benefits associated with the use of olive products and the larger role of the Mediterranean diet in human health. Olive leaf extract is one of many olive products that may help boost health. Discover more about olive leaf extract including its health benefits and side effects right here.
What is Olive Leaf Extract?
Olive leaf extract is derived from the leaves of the olive tree known as Olea europeae I. The plant is native to the Mediterranean region and contains powerful ingredients such as oleuropein, oleacein, and phenolic compounds. The product is commonly sold as a supplement and is derived from the same olive leaves as extra virgin olive oil and other olive products.
Olive leaf products are integral to the Mediterranean diet. The powerful ingredients of olive oil may have beneficial effects on heart health, the immune system, and overall human health.
Health Benefits of Olive Leaf Extract
High In Antioxidants
Olive extract contains high amounts of antioxidants that help to protect natural cellular processes. Antioxidant activity has been shown to fight off free radicals and toxins that cause oxidative stress — the process through which natural processes deteriorate. These antioxidant properties offer benefits from anti-aging to potential anti-cancer properties (1).
Olive leaf extract is known mainly for its heart health benefits. The powerful natural ingredient may help to lower risk factors of heart disease such as high cholesterol and high blood pressure.
Human and animal studies show that ingredients in olive leaf may help to lower high cholesterol and improve total cholesterol levels. A study published in Phytotherapy Research found that rats who ate a high-fat diet in combination with olive leaf extract had lower LDL cholesterol also known as bad cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (2).
A human study published in Phytotherapy Research also examined the cardiovascular health benefits of olive leaf extract. The study consisted of 40 pairs of twins who had high blood pressure. Researchers found that participants who had higher doses of olive leaf extract had significant reductions in bad cholesterol levels (3).
Olive extract may also have effects on blood pressure, which can be a risk factor of cardiovascular disease including heart attack. A human clinical trial published in Phytomedicine examined the effects of olive extract on patients with early-stage hypertension. The study aimed to investigate the efficacy of olive leaf extract compared to a common blood pressure medication known as Captopril. Researchers found that a twice-daily dose of 500 milligrams of olive leaf extract was similarly effective in lowering blood pressure levels when compared to the standard medication. Researchers also found the olive leaf extract was better at reducing triglyceride levels compared to Captopril (4).
A second study published in the European Journal of Nutrition investigated the effects of olive extract on plasma lipids, lipid profiles, and blood pressure. Researchers found that participants who took the extract had lower blood pressure levels and reduced inflammatory markers (5).
The antioxidants in olive extract work to decrease inflammation, which helps to improve circulation and blood flow. Decreased inflammation can also help to alleviate pain caused by chronic disease such as arthritis. The anti-inflammatory properties may also have potential beneficial effects for people who suffer from migraines and chronic headaches.
Type 2 Diabetes
Olive extract may offer benefits for people who have a higher risk of developing diabetes. Most research attributes these benefits to the presence of polyphenols in olive leaves.
One such study published in PLoS examined the effects of olive extract on 46 middle-aged men who were overweight and predisposed to type 2 diabetes. Researchers found that participants who took olive leaf demonstrated improvement in insulin sensitivity compared to placebo (6).
Another study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food found that olive extract helps to decrease blood sugar levels in both animal and human models. Researchers attribute these benefits to a reduction of starch digestion and starch absorption (7).
Side Effects of Olive Leaf Extract
Olive extract is generally safe for consumption. Few side effects have been associated with the use of olive leaf extracts. The most commonly reported side effects are headache and nausea. In addition, the extract may interact with certain heart and blood pressure medications.
Always talk to a qualified healthcare professional before using herbs as part of your diet. Herbal dietary supplements like olive leaf extract may interact with medications and a doctor can help you understand any potential side effects. The Food and Drug Administration does not approve any traditional medicines including olive extract for the treatment of any ailments or illnesses.
The best way to protect health is to eat a healthy diet and get regular exercise. Try to incorporate more olive fruit into your diet or use olive oil when cooking. You can also talk to a doctor if you’d like to add an herbal olive supplement to your diet.