Olive Leaf ExtractJuly 21, 2009 Written by JP [Font too small?]
When you walk into a health food store you have a few different ways of acquiring information about prospective products. You can look product labels, ask for guidance from a store employee, or peruse the books that are often sold alongside nutritional supplements. There’s no question that you’ll get some information from all three of these resources. Part of what you’ll learn will likely be accurate and some of it will be based mostly on well meaning, but anecdotal and/or preliminary information. When I worked in the natural health industry, I experienced a similar advisory experience whenever a customer asked about olive leaf extract.
Perhaps the most common application of olive leaf extract (OLE) is to support the body in fighting infections. Not surprisingly, OLE tends to sell best during the typical cold and flu season. While there is evidence that OLE possesses antimicrobial properties, there’s actually very little scientific data supporting its use against the common cold and influenza. In fact, a recent summary published in the journal Alternative Medicine Review could only cite one study from 1977 as proof of its seasonal immune boosting properties. (1) This doesn’t mean that OLE is ineffective in this application, it simply emphasizes the fact that most of the evidence to support this use is based on personal testimonials and not controlled studies.
There are however several other health conditions that do appear to respond to OLE. Ironically, these are generally not the medical issues that come to mind when olive leaf is discussed. Here’s a brief overview of what the past several years of research have taught us about OLE:
- Cancer – Olive leaf components are now being studied in human cancer trials because of their potential ability to combat tumor growth. Substances found in OLE such as flavonoids, oleanolic acid and phenols have shown preliminary activity against bladder, breast, colon and gastric cancer, as well as leukemia. (2,3,4,5,6,7)
- Diabetes – Phytochemical antioxidants in OLE have demonstrated properties that lower blood sugar and prevent diabetes related cardiovascular damage. This effect may also be related to cancer in that elevated blood sugar levels have recently been associated with an increased risk of a variety of cancers (see image below). (8,9,10,11,12)
- Heart Disease – Olive leaf extracts may benefit the cardiovascular system in a variety of ways: a) decreasing LDL “bad” cholesterol, triglycerides and increasing HDL “good” cholesterol”; b) protecting the kidneys and liver via antioxidant action; c) lowering high blood pressure; and d) improving circulation through healthy platelet aggregation. (13,14,15,16,17)
There are two other positive points that I found while reviewing the medical literature: 1) OLE is building a good track record with regard to taming inflammation. A chronic state of low level inflammation may contribute to all of the previously mentioned conditions and more. OLE has exhibited anti-inflammatory action in various sites throughout the body. (18,19,20) This indicates promise in the management of everything from arthritis to vascular dementia. 2) A recent safety review determined that olive leaf extract appears to be safe, even when used in rather large dosages. (21)
In my opinion, the current status of olive leaf extract is actually quite promising. The trouble is that the information being presented to most consumers doesn’t quite match up with the hard data. It could very well be that the many anecdotal testimonials about OLE will one day prove to be accurate. I’m certainly rooting for that to be the case. Until then, I hope that you’ll continue to research and expand your knowledge about what is actually known about this ancient remedy and what is still left to be discovered.
Note: Please check out the “Comments & Updates” section of this blog – at the bottom of the page. You can find the latest research about this topic there!
Tags: Cancer, Inflammation, Olive
Posted in Diabetes, Heart Health, Nutritional Supplements