September 20, 2021 | Dr. Linda J. Dobberstein, DC, Board Certified in Clinical Nutrition
Olive trees have been a treasured commodity in European and Mediterranean countries for thousands of years. In addition to the delicacies of olives and rich olive oil, the leaves of olive trees are also prized. Olive leaves have been used as a tea, extract, or powder for centuries in Mediterranean folk medicine.
Olive Leaves and Oleuropein
Olive leaves contain several antioxidants like the polyphenol - oleuropein, flavonoids, triterpenes, and other beneficial compounds. Compared to olive oil and the fruit, olive leaves provide the richest source of oleuropein.
The content of oleuropein in olive leaves ranges between 1 – 14 percent. By comparison, oleuropein content in olive oil, fruit, and byproducts of olive oil production contains 0.005 to 0.87 percent. Olive leaves have higher polyphenol content because of their natural defense mechanisms necessary to manage insects or environmental pathogens.
Superior Antioxidant Support
Several benefits of olive leaf extract oleuropein have been identified which testifies for its traditional historical use. Oleuropein provides superior antioxidant free radical scavenger support and modulation of inflammatory compounds. Centuries of traditional use as a health tonic have been validated by research.
A Variety of Immune Support Benefits
Olive leaf extract has been traditionally used for immune support. Cell and animal studies suggest that olive leaf extract affects proteins within virus particles, which interfere with replication. It also enhances phagocytosis, the process which immune cells use to engulf and remove unwanted particles.
Cells exposed to oleuropein showed increased production of immune compounds gamma-interferon, CD8, and Natural Killer cells. Immune modulatory effects occurred with T-regulatory cells and TH17. Beneficial nitric oxide levels were increased, which supports blood vessel dilation.
A 2019 animal study demonstrated the effects of olive leaf extract on gut flora balance. Obese rats in the study were fed a high fat diet with olive leaf extract and compared with a control group. A high fat diet was used to simulate stress effects of the Western diet on gut flora, interleukin and TNF-alpha, blood vessel lining integrity, and insulin management.
The challenged group fed olive leaf extract experienced less stress and gut flora dysbiosis. Positive blood sugar management and leptin metabolism was seen in adipose tissue, liver, and gut. Antioxidant effects were also noted within blood vessel linings.
Immune and Skin Health
A 2021 study found that olive leaf extract helped to modulate immune balance and support skin barrier integrity. Oleuropein polyphenols modulated T-cell/B-cell balance, histamine, Th1 and Th2 balance which enhanced skin quality and reduced skin irritation and itch sensation.
Brain and Immune Support
A great 2020 study demonstrated olive leaf extract provided antioxidant support for brain-immune support. Antioxidant enzymes and anti-inflammatory cells within microglial cells were upregulated in rats given olive leaf extract. Microglial cells are housekeeping immune clean-up cells in your brain. The polyphenols of olive leaf extract also provided antioxidant support to the myelin sheath, the fatty insulation layer that surrounds nerves for protection and neurotransmission speed.
Heart Health and Metabolism
The Mediterranean Diet focuses on use of olive products to enhance heart health and metabolism. Olive leaf polyphenols, especially oleuropein, have been used to support healthy blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar metabolism.
A 2017 randomized controlled trial evaluated 60 healthy adult middle-age men. For six weeks, participants received 136 mg of oleuropein and 6 mg of hydrotyrosol, components of olive leaf extract versus a placebo. Results showed that olive leaf extract consumption enhanced healthy cholesterol and blood pressure levels.
Blood Sugar and Uric Acid
Recent studies demonstrated the benefits of olive leaf extract for various metabolic functions in the body. A systematic review of several randomized controlled studies evaluated the statistics and effects of olive leaf extract in glucose metabolism. Results showed that the animals supported with olive leaf extract experienced positive effects with insulin and blood sugar management. Secondary benefits were noted with cholesterol and triglyceride metabolism.
Studies have shown that oleuropein enhances glucose uptake into cells. Other research shows that oleuropein helps protect cells and tissues from the stress of AGE or advanced glycation end products from mismanaged blood sugar. Additional research has demonstrated that dietary polyphehols found in olive leaf extract help modulate oxidative stress on blood platelets, which also aids cardiovascular health and blood flow.
Oleuropein has also been found to inhibit the activity xanthine oxidase, an enzyme related with uric acid production and purine metabolism. Uric acid levels increase in response to dietary fructose intake. Fructose rich foods include high-fructose corn syrup, honey, agave syrup, invert sugar, maple-flavored syrup, molasses, palm or coconut sugar, sorghum, juice, apples, asparagus, grapes, peas, watermelon, and zucchini.
Traditional folk-use with olive leaves and current research have proved olive leaf extract safety for ongoing use. We offer olive leaf extract standardized for 20% oleuropein content in the supplement Super Immune Booster. This product has been a favorite of mine and many, many customers for than 25 years for its immune support and other benefits. I hope it’s a favorite of yours too!