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Most of us already know that olive oil, especially extra virgin olive oil, has numerous health benefits thanks in part to its high levels of plant-derived compounds, in particular oleuropein. Found in the oil, fruit and leaves of the olive tree, oleuropein is a natural polyphenol that’s known to support general wellbeing⁽⁴⁻⁵⁾ as well as healthy blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels.⁽¹⁻³⁾
What you might not know, however, is that there’s another - far more potent - source of oleuropein. It’s called olive leaf extract, and it’s a powerful antioxidant that’s high in oleuropein and other polyphenols - the naturally occurring plant compounds that help olive trees to survive and thrive.
In this article, we explore the history, uses and benefits of olive leaf extract, and how modern science has breathed new life into this age-old remedy.
Certain varieties of olive trees, including olea europaea trees from the Mediterranean, have extremely powerful defence systems, enabling them to live for centuries. Olive trees have an average life span of 500 years, but some have been known to live as long as 1,500 years!
The natural polyphenols within their leaves (including oleuropein) help these incredible trees to withstand disease, pests, droughts and extremes of temperature. Research shows that these polyphenol compounds are in part responsible for the well-known health benefits of the Mediterranean diet.
As its name suggests, olive leaf extract is a concentrated dose of these powerful, natural polyphenols, made from the leaves of olive trees. Especially when freshly picked, these little leaves pack a lot of punch - research shows these compounds have high antioxidant bioactivity and that olive leaf extract can improve blood pressure, cholesterol, blood fats and blood sugar levels.⁽¹⁻³⁾ Other research shows that the antioxidant properties of polyphenols help to support your immune system and wellbeing by combating cellular damage that causes disease.⁽⁴⁻⁵⁾
An essential part of the Mediterranean diet, olive leaves have been used as a natural remedy for at least 4,000 years. Traditional uses included immunity support (cough, colds and ‘flu), treating infections, pain, arthritis and cardiovascular support.
Jump ahead several centuries to 1854, and the first health benefits of olive leaf extract were reported⁽⁶⁾, showing that an olive leaf decoction had febrifuge (fever reduction) properties and was commonly used in Greece to alleviate symptoms of fever and malaria.
In 1908, researchers isolated the bitter compound from olive leaves, called oleuropein, now considered the superstar of natural polyphenols.⁽⁷⁾ Almost half a century later in 1955, further research discovered the anti-hypertensive (blood pressure-lowering) effect of olive leaf extract⁽⁸⁾, leading to many more research studies for a wide range of health benefits of this amazing natural product, particularly for general wellbeing, immunity and heart health.
Several scientific studies have shown that olive leaf extract can benefit cardiovascular health – helping to maintain normal healthy blood pressure, lower cholesterol and blood fats, and maintain normal blood sugar levels.⁽¹⁻³⁾ Further studies show that it is a powerful, plant-based antioxidant that may promote general wellbeing.⁽⁹⁾
Sustainably grown on our own Australian farms, our Olive Life™ fresh-picked™ Olive Leaf Extract is made using our proprietary water-extraction method to deliver liquids and capsules that are high in oleuropein and many⁽¹¹⁾ other natural flavonoids and polyphenols. In fact, our Olive Life™ Olive Leaf Complex contains up to 30 times more concentrated levels of polyphenols than extra virgin olive oil.
Which means you’d need to consume around one glass of extra virgin olive oil to get the same health benefits as just one dose of Olive Life™ Olive Leaf Extract!
Taking high-strength olive leaf extract liquids or capsules on a daily basis supports cardiovascular health in a number of ways.
Research shows that olive leaf extract helps prevent LDL (bad) cholesterol from building up in your arteries. This effect helps increase blood flow and lower blood pressure, reducing your risk of heart disease, the leading cause of death in New Zealand.⁽¹⁰⁾
Multiple clinical trials have demonstrated that Olive Life™ Fresh-picked™ Olive Leaf Extract improves key factors that reduce lifetime risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke, including:
A 2018 study showed that the antioxidants in Olive Life™ Olive Leaf Extract may help to maintain healthy blood sugar levels and reduce the body’s insulin resistance, one of the biggest risk factors for Type 2 diabetes.⁽³⁾
These beneficial effects are even more pronounced when combined with a Mediterranean style diet. One study found that a Mediterranean diet enriched with nuts or extra virgin olive oil decreased the risk of Type 2 diabetes by more than 50 per cent.⁽¹²⁾
Another meta-analysis of 29 clinical trials found that including olive oil in your daily diet could reduce the risk of Type 2 diabetes by 13%. In comparison to a low-fat diet, a diet high in olive oil was also found to help normalise blood glucose in people who already had Type 2 diabetes. In fact, the research showed that as olive oil consumption increased, Type 2 diabetes risk decreased.⁽¹¹⁾
A number of studies have shown that the potent polyphenol antioxidants in olive leaf extract may help to support the immune system by minimising free radical damage to your body’s cells.⁽¹³⁾
Both laboratory and pre-clinical studies have shown that olive leaf extract:
One clinical trial in high school athletes demonstrated that taking olive leaf extract daily reduced their number of sick days and reduced the duration of upper respiratory infections.
Research shows that compared with 55 other medicinal herbs, including milk thistle, green tea, turmeric, spirulina and ginseng, Olive Leaf Extract had the highest antioxidant activity. In fact, olive leaf extract is scientifically proven to contain up to five times more antioxidant power than Vitamin C.⁽¹⁸⁾
More research is needed, but early studies show that the oleuropein in olive leaf extract may help to prevent weight gain and reduce the risk of obesity.
In laboratory tests, oleuropein lowered body fat and weight gain in animals fed high-cholesterol and high-fat diets.⁽¹⁵⁾ It also reduced food intake, suggesting olive leaf extract may also help to manage appetite and reduce overeating.
Olive leaf extract is just one part (albeit a vital one) of the Mediterranean diet. Due to the higher intake of olive oil and less processed foods, this way of eating tends to help you feel fuller for longer and is easier to stick with than most fad diets.
If you’re interested in a diet that offers long-term, sustainable weight loss while also improving your wellbeing and heart health, then ask your doctor if following the Mediterranean diet and taking olive leaf extract supplements daily is right for you.
While many formulations are made from dried leaves, Olive Life™ olive leaf extract is made from leaves freshly harvested at sunrise to lock in the naturally occurring polyphenols. Olive Life™ Olive Leaf Extract is water-extracted and concentrated on the same day to deliver 136mg of oleuropein and a host of other beneficial olive polyphenols in each daily dose, providing a powerful, plant-based antioxidant boost for natural cardiovascular and wellbeing support.⁽¹⁻⁷⁾
Grown sustainably on our Queensland farms, our olive trees have been selected to have particularly high levels of health-giving polyphenols, including oleuropein. By using only fresh leaves, our products are scientifically designed to retain the balanced combination of antioxidant and protective compounds found naturally in the original fresh leaf.
Note: The contents of this blog are for educational purposes and are not intended to offer personal medical advice. You should seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider if you have any questions regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking it because of something you have read on this website.
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