Olive LeafLatin Names: Olea europea
Other Names: Zaytun (Arabic, Persian); Elaia (Greek); Aceituna (Spanish); Olivier (French); Frunze de Masline (Romanian)
Taxonomy: Vegetable Kingdom; Oleaceae (Olive) family
Part Used: Whole leaf, leaf extract, resin.
Basic Qualities: Slightly cooling and drying, but otherwise very mild, balanced and temperate.
Other Qualities: Light, penetrating, mildly sedating, opening.
Taste: Bitter, pungent, slightly sweet and acrid.
Humoral Dynamics: Sanguine – reduces blood sugar, fats and cholesterol; improves the immune response and the vital function of the blood; dilates the blood vessels and improves blood circulation. Phlegmatic – mildly cuts through dampness, turbidity and phlegm. Choleric – a mild bitter tonic and stimulant to the digestion; reduces inflammation and moderates / balances the inflammatory response. Melancholic – mildly sedating; stimulates digestion and balances the functioning of the liver and spleen due to its pungent and bitter taste.
Tropism: The immune system and the immune response; liver, spleen and pancreas; arteries and blood vessels; the biological terrain; the skin.
Constituents and Pharmacology: The chief active constituent of Olive leaf, which is concentrated in the extract, is Oleuropein, which is found throughout the whole tree. It is a powerful antioxidant and free radical scavenger with a complex flavonoid chemical structure. Its clinical and therapeutic effectiveness is synergistically enhanced in concert with other vital constituents, which include various flavonoids like rutin, luteolin, apigenin and catechins. While Oleuropein is one of the most powerful antioxidants known, Olive leaf contains some twelve other antioxidants, the chief of which are elenolic acid and hydroxytyrosol. The concentration of Oleuropein in the dry Olive Leaf overages 60 – 90 mg. per gram. Besides the Oleuropein itself, its various hydrolysis products, chiefly Oleuropein aglycone, elenolic acid, beta-3,4-hydroxyphenylethyl alcohol and methyl-o-methyl elenolate, are the major molecules of interest biologically. Other active constituents include 10-hydroxyoleuropein, ligstroside and 10-hydroxyligstroside. Suffice it to say that the constituents and pharmacology of Olive Leaf, in both the constituents themselves as well as their various byproducts and metabolites, as well as the synergistic interaction between them, is extremely complex, and other constituents will be introduced during the course of this article, as necessary. Olive Leaf also contains other flavonoids, phenols and phytosterols.
Medicinal Properties: Antibacterial, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antioxidant, antiseptic, antiviral, astringent, cardiotonic, hypoglycemic, hypolipidemic, hypotensive, immunostimulant, inflamo-modulatory, lipotropic, vasodilator.
Cautions and Contraindications: Olive Leaf is inherently very gentle, mild, innocuous and nontoxic in nature; in its basic qualities and temperament, it is very balanced and temperate. Therefore, it has virtually no contraindications for any condition, and virtually no harmful interactions with other drugs and substances. Because Olive Leaf has a beneficial and lowering effect on blood sugar and serum cholesterol levels, those undergoing pharmaceutical treatment for elevated blood sugar and/or cholesterol may wish to monitor their levels of these metabolites, and the physician may have to adjust the dosage to accommodate the Olive Leaf therapy; the same can be said for those who are undergoing medical treatment for high blood pressure, since Olive Leaf is a cardiotonic and vasodilator. Although Olive Leaf is very innocuous and nontoxic in itself, those who are immunocompromised, those who harbor chronic infections, or those whose biological terrain is otherwise compromised, may experience Herxheimer or microbial die-off reactions as their biological terrain is improved and cleansed. If this should happen, merely discontinue the Olive Leaf therapy for a few days, drinking plenty of fluids and/or herb teas to ameliorate the symptoms experienced from the die-off and cleansing.
Medicinal Uses: As a broad spectrum natural antimicrobial and immunostimulant in chronic infections of all kinds, and to cleanse and improve the overall biological terrain of the organism; to lower blood sugar in type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome; to improve lipid metabolism and lower serum cholesterol and LDL (Low Density Lipoproteins); as a vasotonic, vasodilator and cardiotonic in poor circulation and mild to moderate hypertension or high blood pressure; as an anti-inflammatory and inflamo-modulatory herb in chronic inflammatory disorders; as an antiviral and antimicrobial in colds and flu; as a general tonic and protector of the organism in immune deficiency disorders, autoimmune disorders, and aging related disorders. These are the chief medicinal uses of Olive Leaf and its extract.
Preparation and Dosage: Because Olive Leaf is inherently very mild, innocuous and nontoxic, there are virtually no dosage restrictions on Olive Leaf or its extract, although two to three standard gelatin capsules of the powdered leaf or its extract is generally recommended as a good minimum dose. For more severe or recalcitrant conditions, this dosage may be increased. Teas, in the form of either infusions or decoctions, however boiled down or concentrated, can be made from the dried leaf, and drunk freely like a beverage; the standard ratio is one tablespoon of the dried leaf per cup of water. Alcoholic tinctures can also be made from the leaf, in the ratio of two to three heaping tablespoons of the cut and sifted dried leaf per cup of alcohol or spirits; the addition of a tablespoon of vegetable glycerin to the menstruum is helpful to achieve a fuller and broader extraction of all the vital constituents. The tea of the leaves, in either infusion or decoction, may be used externally as a wash.
Herbal Formulation: The inherently gentle, mild and balanced nature of Olive Leaf and its extract make it very versatile in herbal formulation; it can be added to many different herbal formulas wherever an antimicrobial, immunostimulatory, cardiotonic, vasodilatory or blood sugar / cholesterol lowering effect is desired. As a mild bitter tonic to stimulate the stomach and digestion, Olive Leaf may be added to stomachic and digestive formulas, especially to clean up residual dampness and turbidity in the digestive tract. In all formulas to stimulate immunity and to cleanse and improve the overall biological terrain of the organism, Olive Leaf is a very valuable addition.
Classic Combinations: With Milk Thistle or its extract to protect the liver in high blood sugar or cholesterol, and in natural therapy for hepatitis, either acute or chronic. With Astragalus and Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum) to stimulate, heal and balance immunity, and as an antimicrobial and immunomodulatory combination in autoimmune disorders. With Pau d’Arco (Ipe roxo-tahebo) in chronic systemic candidiasis. With Self Heal (Prunella vulgaris) for genital or oral herpes. With Fenugreek seeds to lower blood sugar and cholesterol. With Hawthorn berries, leaves and flowers to lower serum cholesterol, stimulate the heart and improve circulation, dilate the blood vessels and lower blood pressure. With Tsai Tou Vou Nou (Sideritis syriaca) or Greek Mountain Tea for colds and flu, and to control or modulate chronic inflammation.
Description: The ancient, hoary Olive tree is a botanical symbol of health, hardiness and longevity. And so, following the ancient doctrine that what you ingest as food or medicine will, through the assimilation of its inherent qualities and virtues, help you to acquire for yourself these very same strengths and virtues, the Olive Leaf and its various extracts and preparations constitute one of Nature’s best medicines and tonics for health preservation and life extension. Olive trees that are now standing in the Garden of Gethsemane outside of Jerusalem are so ancient that some even date back to Jesus Christ himself, in his fervent prayers in the garden for transcendence and delivery from the severe trials that lay ahead of him. In ancient Greece, the Olive Tree was sacred to the goddess Athena, and was symbolic of her great wisdom and benevolence. The great providence of Mother Nature can be seen in abundance in the hoary Olive tree, which all Mediterranean peoples have relied upon since time immemorial for food, oil, medicine and cosmetic purposes. To them, the Olive tree is symbolic of Life itself.
The Olive Leaf is one of Greek Medicine’s premier all-round tonics, and a tonic or restorative in the best and fullest sense of the word, for it exerts a profound tonic or regulatory effect on the following core bodily systems: the immune system and the biological terrain; the heart and circulatory system; and the liver, spleen, pancreas and metabolic system. Since these three bodily systems are so central and vital to the overall homeostasis or dynamic equilibrium of the organism as a whole, Olive Leaf and its extract would definitely be categorized in Chinese herbal medicine as a Fu Zhen herb, or an herb that supports or reinforces the normal, healthy functioning of the organism. In addition, the principal active constituent of Olive Leaf is Oleuropein, one of the most powerful antioxidants known, which protects against oxidative stress, chronic inflammatory processes, and cellular damage. Since the aging process is marked by increasing oxidative stress and cellular damage, as well as a gradual, progressive decline or deterioration of the immune, circulatory and metabolic systems of the body, Olive Leaf can be seen as one of the best anti-aging and life extension herbs that exist in Nature.
Olive Leaf is a great boon and supporter of the natural immunity of the human body due to its broad spectrum antimicrobial action against an incredibly wide range of pathogenic and infectious organisms: molds, yeasts, fungi, protozoans, bacteria and viruses of all kinds. The incredible antimicrobial versatility of Olive Leaf is due not only to its ability to directly kill the “bad guys” themselves, but also to inhibit the various mechanisms they use to replicate themselves and/or gain access to the human host. And so, Olive Leaf, even, or especially, in large doses, is one of the best botanical agents we have for cleaning up the biological terrain in those whose bodies harbor chronic, recurring or recalcitrant infections. Fighting an infection, whether acute or chronic, is a great drain on the body’s overall vitality and immunity, and a decline in the biological terrain often goes hand in hand with an overall decline in energy, vitality and immunity as we age, which makes Olive Leaf a great tonic for vitality and longevity.
Olive Leaf’s ability to fight infection and clean up the biological terrain also gives it great potential as a botanical weapon in the herbalist’s arsenal against autoimmune disorders, which are one of the great health threats to modern man. Many autoimmune disorders have at their root some lingering chronic infection or microbial pathogen, which can become cross linked with one’s own antibodies, stray proteins from various organs and tissues, industrial chemicals and oxidative free radicals is a kind of pathogenic cocktail that travels through the blood and lymph as a CIC, or Circulating Immune Complex. These CICs can then confuse the body’s immune system, getting it to attack our own organs and tissues in an overblown allergic or autoimmune reaction. By fighting these lingering pathogens and chronic infections, and thus cleaning up or improving the biological terrain of the organism, Olive Leaf can help to deactivate or defuse these CICs. As an anti-inflammatory and inflamo-modulatory herb, Olive Leaf also helps to quell, heal and balance the chronic inflammatory processes that most autoimmune disorders have in common, and which are also intimately involved in aging related disorders.
Olive Leaf is also a great remedy for the common cold, both in treatment and in prevention, and its antiviral properties are effective against the flu virus. An infusion or decoction of Olive Leaves can also be drunk as a febrifuge to break fevers. The antiviral, febrifugal and immune stimulating properties of Olive Leaf make it a valuable addition to herbal formulas to treat colds and flu. Mrs. M. Grieve in her herbal gives instructions for preparing a tea from Olive Leaves which is used in the Levant or Holy Land for treating obstinate fevers: Take two hands full of dried Olive Leaves and put them in a quart of water. Boil this down slowly until it is reduced to half a pint, strain and drink. The bark, she says, also has valuable febrifugal qualities. Avicenna says that Olive Leaves can be rubbed on the skin to prevent perspiration, and the concentrated liquid extract is a good topical treatment for fungal infection of the skin and nails.
About a thousand years ago, Avicenna correctly realized the central importance of the heart in the health of every organ and tissue in the body by pointing out that it was the one organ which, if it is healthy, the rest of the body will also be healthy, but if it is weak or diseased, the whole body will suffer as a result. Modern medicine has recognized heart disease as the leading cause of death as we age. Heart and circulatory disorders are also complications of, or part of the clinical picture of, many degenerative diseases associated with the aging process, like type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome. The antioxidants and flavonoid compounds in Olive Leaf help to protect the heart and blood vessels, maintaining their flexibility, resiliency and elasticity as we age. Olive Leaf is also a vasodilator that dilates the arteries and capillaries, improving blood flow and perfusion to the organs and tissues, which has a positive, health promoting effect in a wide range of conditions and disorders, thereby slowing or reversing the natural decline of the circulatory system as we age. Olive Leaf is even helpful in dilating the coronary arteries, improving blood flow to the heart.
One particularly deadly circulatory disorder is hypertension, or high blood pressure, which has been called the silent killer; among its many complications are heart disease, strokes and kidney failure. By dilating the arteries and blood vessels, Olive Leaf and its extract have a mild to moderate hypotensive or blood pressure lowering effect. As a natural protector and dilator of the blood vessels, Olive Leaf can form the basis of a natural health regimen in high blood pressure and other circulatory system disorders. And the great thing about it is its low toxicity and virtually no harmful interactions with any pharmaceutical medications. Because Olive Leaf’s vasodilating properties have a blood pressure lowering effect, please consult with your doctor before using Olive Leaf in conjunction with blood pressure lowering drugs, and definitely monitor your blood pressure after starting on Olive Leaf and adjust your medication levels if necessary. Even the best pharmaceutical drugs for heart and circulatory disorders do nothing to nourish, protect and support the health of the blood vessels; for this Olive Leaf is great.
As we age, and particularly past middle age, our metabolism tends to slow down, and the overall speed and efficiency with which we burn macronutrients like fats and carbohydrates for energy tend to decline. As a result, residues of excess or superfluous sugars and fats tend to build up in the blood. The body first coverts these into fats and stores them in the fat cells, but later on, it starts to store them in other places, even in vital organs and tissues. This is at the root of many degenerative aging related diseases like obesity, heart disease, atherosclerosis, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and high cholesterol. Olive Leaf has been shown to lower serum cholesterol and LDL, or Low Density Lipoproteins (bad cholesterol), and inhibit the pathological oxidation of LDL; this is due to its flavonoid and phytosterol content. The blood sugar lowering effect of Olive Leaf works by enhancing the metabolic uptake of glucose independently of insulin; however, this seems to work only in concert with glucose-induced insulin release. And so, Olive Leaf works to reduce the insulin resistance that is at the heart of type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome.
Because of its high flavonoid and antioxidant content, Olive Leaf is a good anti-inflammatory herb, particularly against the deleterious effects of chronic inflammation in the body. By helping to keep chronic inflammation in the body under control, Olive Leaf is also an inflamomodulatory herb. In his Canon of Medicine, Avicenna recommends rubbing powdered Olive Leaf on aching gouty and rheumatic joints; modern patients have found that the regular ingestion of Olive Leaf extract helps to reduce the pain of chronically aching or inflamed joints. Avicenna also recommends boiling down a decoction of Olive Leaves with the juice of sour grapes and applying the liquid to decaying teeth to help in their extraction. Avicenna also recommends Olive Leaves as a good febrifuge, especially in fevers producing deep red inflammation of the skin or mucous membranes, noxious malignant ulcers, as well as hives and herpes type lesions. As a broad spectrum antimicrobial, Olive Leaf has been used in treating influenza and the common cold; all kinds of herpes infections; chronic systemic candidiasis; Epstein-Barr virus and chronic fatigue syndrome; HIV / ARC / AIDS; and dental, ear and urinary tract infections.
In conclusion, it must be stressed that, above all, Olive Leaf is a versatile tonic or restorative herb; as such, it is most useful in constitutional improvement in a wide variety of chronic and degenerative conditions and disorders, and those typically associated with the aging process. These conditions for which it is most used include high blood sugar and high cholesterol; type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome; and heart and circulatory disease and hypertension. It is also useful as a remedy for the common cold, and to improve one’s immune resistance against colds and flu. By stimulating immunity and cleaning up the biological terrain of the organism, Olive Leaf is also a mainstay in the natural treatment of candidiasis, chronic fatigue syndrome, autoimmune disorders, immunodeficiency and HIV / ARC / AIDS. I have even heard reports of it being used as an immunostimulant in cancer therapy; although it can conceivably be of use in treating this disease, I have yet to come across any hard data confirming or quantifying its efficacy.
The Canon of Medicine by Avicenna, translated and compiled by Laleh Bakhtiar, pp. 815 - 821. @2012 by Laleh Bakhtiar, Published by Great Books of the Islamic World, Inc., Distributed by Kazi Publications.
A Modern Herbal, Volume 2 by Mrs. M. Grieve, pp. 598 – 599. @1971 by Dover Publications, New York, NY, originally published by Harcourt, Brace and Company in 1931.
DISCLAIMER: The information in this article is for educational purposes only, for general health maintenance and prevention, and is not intended to diagnose or treat any medical disease or condition. The reader assumes all personal responsibility and liability for the application of the information contained in this article, and is advised to seek the services of a physician or licensed healthcare practitioner should his or her symptoms or condition persist or worsen.