Olive leaf extract is a tincture made from the leaves of the olive tree. While it is the same tree that provides the health-giving olive oil, olive leaf extract is distinct in that it has its own set of health benefits and qualities.
Olive leaves have been used in traditional remedies for centuries to help with season immune challenges and digestive issues. The hype may be due to the benefits of the known polyphenols, or plant compounds, that are abundant in the leaves, including oleuropein and hydroxytyrosol.
What Are Polyphenols?
Polyphenols are plant compounds that are believed to offer health benefits. One of the main polyphenols found in olive leaves is oleuropein, which is thought to have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Antioxidants are important compounds our bodies use to ward off the damaging effects that free radicals have on our cells. And when a compound is anti-inflammatory, it may help reduce internal chronic inflammation that is a result of free radical activity, among other things.
The other main polyphenol in olive leaves, hydroxytyrosol, which has a unique set of health benefits. Recent studies show it might offer protection from heart health issues and immunity issues. It is thought these health effects may be due to it’s potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects as well as protection from LDL, or “bad” cholesterol buildup.
Other research points to the effects of both polyphenols as having antiviral and antibacterial properties. This may be why it is associated with helping to lessen the duration of symptoms of respiratory illness among high school athletes. Because of this, supplementing with olive leaf extract is believed to have helped athletes return to play sooner than without it. (1)
Olive Leaf Extract Benefits
Because olive leaf extract contains the above-mentioned polyphenols, it may offer the same health benefits, such as protection from other health issues and quicker healing time from upper respiratory illness. But there are some other benefits, too, which may be why it has historically been used as a traditional medicine.
Olive leaf extract may help protect those with high blood pressure. In one 8-week study, participants with stage 1 hypertension were administered either 500 mg of olive leaf extract or 12.5 to 25 mg of a blood pressure medication called captopril. Blood pressure was lowered in both groups, indicating that olive leaf extract was just as effective at lowering blood pressure as the medication, captopril. (2)
In another study, a study of 46 overweight, middle-aged men were given either a placebo or olive leaf extract. After 12 weeks, the olive leaf extract group showed improvements in pancreatic responsiveness as well as improvements in insulin sensitivity, as compared the to placebo group. This indicates that it is effective at helping to reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Olive leaf extract seems to have protective properties that can contribute to health. This dietary supplement can be a healthy addition for anyone who wants to improve their health. As with any supplement, talking with your doctor is recommended, especially if you take medications.
1 Somerville V, Moore R, Braakhuis A. The Effect of Olive Leaf Extract on Upper Respiratory Illness in High School Athletes: A Randomised Control Trial. Nutrients. 2019;11(2):358. Published 2019 Feb 9. doi:10.3390/nu11020358
2 Susalit E, Agus N, Effendi I, Tjandrawinata RR, Nofiarny D, Perrinjaquet-Moccetti T, Verbruggen M. Olive (Olea europaea) leaf extract effective in patients with stage-1 hypertension: comparison with Captopril. Phytomedicine. 2011 Feb 15;18(4):251-8. doi: 10.1016/j.phymed.2010.08.016. Epub 2010 Oct 30. PMID: 21036583.