Olive leaf: The natural immune-booster

Olives are a staple of many diets today, and it's not hard to see why. Along with the pleasantly distinctive flavour, the olive fruit is also thought to be responsible for some substantial health benefits.

Olive oil in particular has been praised for its role in helping to reduce high cholesterol levels and blood pressure, which are two risk factors for cardiovascular problems. In recent years, olive oil has even been gaining traction as a beauty ingredient for the skin.

However, did you know that the leaves of the olive tree could also play a significant role in better health?

Fresh olive leaves have been used for years as a traditional medicinal ingredient, and new research supports the use of olive leaf for treating some modern day health concerns. In particular, the leaves may be instrumental in providing anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits to the body.

Olive leaf history and benefits

The olive tree (Olea europaea) has been grown for thousands of years across much of Europe and Northern Africa. It was first used as a health remedy in ancient Egypt and even played a key role in the mummification process of Egyptian royalty at the time.

Over the years, many cultures used the leaves in traditional medicines. During the 1800s, olives leaf tea was used to heal patients suffering from malaria and related fevers. Today, researchers have linked olive leaves to strong antimicrobial, cardiovascular and antioxidant benefits.

Olive leaf may actually inhibit the growth of viruses, bacteria, yeast and parasites – which supports its historical use as a remedy against malaria. Studies have found that olive leaf can help to prevent the creation of viruses by damaging the organism’s cell membrane. It also disrupts the production of critical amino acid proteins, which the virus requires to thrive and multiply. This ability to suppress the activity of disease-causing organisms could help boost the body’s natural immune system, the first line of defence against common illnesses.

As well as this, olive leaf is thought to have powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits. Australian researchers found olive leaf extract had over twice the antioxidant capacity of green tea, milk thistle and several other medicinal herbs.

Olive leaf is also beneficial for the heart. It helps to widen blood vessels and stop platelets (a specific type of blood cell) from clogging up vital arteries, promoting healthy blood flow around the body.

The secrets of the olive leaf

The main ingredient behind this long list of physical benefits is thought to be oleuropein, a polyphenol thought to be directly responsible for many of the leaf’s health-boosting properties. Polyphenols are specific types of antioxidant chemicals.

Oleuropein is found in the leaves and fruit of the olive tree, but the leaf has a much higher concentration of the polyphenol than other parts of the tree. As well as being responsible for the antimicrobial, antioxidant, antiviral and anti-inflammatory effects of the leaves, oleuropein is also the secret behind olive oil’s slightly bitter and tangy taste.

It may even help to mitigate the effects of different cancers in the body, although further research is needed to confirm this. In mice with soft tissue sarcoma, one study found that oleuropein inhibited the growth of cells associated with human tumours and cancers.

Taking olive leaf extract as a preventive agent may help to boost your health, not only in winter but all year round. Initially, some people may experience symptoms including mild headaches, rashes, fatigue, diarrhoea or muscle and joint pain after consuming olive leaves. This is a natural consequence of the body responding to the effects of the leaf, and an indication that the body is successfully eliminating toxins.

Drinking plenty of water during the first couple of weeks can ensure the kidneys and lymphatic system are ready to handle the flow of toxins as they are removed from the body. Alternatively, building up to the recommended dose with gradual steps can also be helpful for reducing these effects.

Comvita Olive Leaf Complex is an effective dietary supplement that supports the body’s natural defence system against winter ailments and promotes year-round health and vitality.  Buy it now from our secure on-line shop.

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What’s your favourite product from the olive tree (eg olives, olive oil, supplements)?

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Sources

http://www.sciencedaily.com/articles/p/polyphenol_antioxidant.htm

http://www.hematology.org/About/History/50-Years/1525.aspx

http://www.thorne.com/altmedrev/.fulltext/14/1/62.pdf

http://issg.org/database/species/ecology.asp?si=1585&fr=1&sts=&lang=EN

http://www.lef.org/magazine/mag2013/jun2013_Unexpected-Benefits-of-Olive-Leaf-Extract_01.htm

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3002804/

http://www.comvita.co.nz/ingredients/aboutoliveleaf.html