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Application of Olivier
Scientific Name: Olive Leaf
Other Names: Oleae europaea, Oleae folium, Olivier
Who is this for?
One of the most active chemicals found in the leaves of olive trees is known as oleuropein. In animal studies, oleuropein not only prevented the development of high blood pressure but also reduced existing high blood pressure. Although the possible reasons for these effects are not known, it is thought that oleuropein may relax blood vessels, and it may also prevent deposits of plaque that lead to arteriosclerosis or "hardening of the arteries". A few small human studies of olive leaf for controlling high blood pressure have been inconclusive and more studies are needed to confirm or deny these effects.
In other studies, olive leaf extract appeared to lower blood sugar levels in laboratory animals with diabetes. It is believed that olive leaf has a dual effect it may cause more glucose to be utilized by the body and it may also stimulate the release of insulin. Few results are available from human studies, however. More research into the possible blood sugar-lowering effects of olive leaf is needed before it can be recommended for this use.
In recently reported laboratory studies, extracts of olive leaf have shown anti-infective properties. Extracts are concentrated liquid preparations usually made by soaking chopped or mashed plant parts in a liquid such as alcohol, and then straining out the solid parts. In separate studies, contact with olive leaf extract killed specific types of bacteria and slowed the growth of some skin fungi. Another laboratory study found that an extract of olive leaf interfered with some of the infective properties of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. Much more study in animals and humans is needed to confirm or disprove the potential anti-infective effects of olive leaf extract.
When should I be careful taking it?
Very little information is available on how olive leaf might affect a developing fetus or an infant. Therefore, its use is not recommended during pregnancy or breast-feeding.
Individuals with diabetes should avoid using large amounts of olive leaf because it can lower blood sugar levels, potentially resulting in hypoglycemia (blood sugar that is too low). Symptoms of low blood sugar include shakiness, sweating, confusion, distorted speech, and loss of muscle control. If not corrected, low blood sugar can lead to unconsciousness and even death.
What side effects should I watch for?
Olive leaf may lower blood pressure by several methods, which may include the widening of blood vessels. Hypotension or blood pressure that is too low may result. Hypotension may not have any definite symptoms, but it may produce blurred vision, confusion, dizziness, or fainting.
What interactions should I watch for?
Due to its possible ability to lower blood pressure, olive leaf is believed to increase the effects of drugs that also lower blood pressure. Some blood pressure-lowering drugs are:
Due to a possible decrease in blood sugar levels, taking olive leaf may increase the effects of insulin and oral drugs for diabetes, such as:
Because olive leaf may decrease blood sugar levels, taking it with other blood sugar-lowering herbal products may result in hypoglycemia blood sugar that is too low. Herbals that may reduce blood sugar include:
Some interactions between herbal products and medications can be more severe than others. The best way for you to avoid harmful interactions is to tell your doctor and/or pharmacist what medications you are currently taking, including any over-the-counter products, vitamins, and herbals.
Should I take it?
Trees that produce olives are thought to have originated in the areas around the Mediterranean Sea. Now growing wild and cultivated in orchards throughout Mediterranean countries, they are also found in warm parts of Africa, Asia, Australia, and the Americas. Generally, cultivated olive trees are kept relatively small so that the ripe fruits can be harvested easily. They have clusters of white or yellow flowers and small narrow leaves that stay green all year. Traditionally the symbol of peace, olive branches were woven into garlands and worn by ancient Greek and Roman leaders. They were also awarded to athletes at the original Olympic games. Today, they are represented on Olympic medals and on many flags including the flag of the United Nations.
For medicinal use, olive leaves may be gathered at any time of the year. Typically, they are dried and used to make a tea or processed into extracts. At various times since the residents of a Mediterranean island named Crete are known to have been using olive leaf as medicine about 5,000 years ago, it has been used to treat a number of chronic and infective illnesses.
Dosage and Administration
Olive leaf is most often sold as capsules or liquid extracts. Extracts are concentrated liquid preparations usually made by soaking chopped or mashed plant parts in a liquid such as alcohol, and then straining out the solid parts. A typical dose is 400 mg four times a day, but dosing recommendations vary considerably. If you use an olive leaf product, follow the directions on the package that you buy.
Olive leaf tea may be made by soaking about 2 teaspoons of dried olive leaf in 5 or 6 ounces of boiling water for 30 minutes. After the solid parts are strained out, olive leaf tea may be taken up to four times a day.
The major current uses of olive leaf are to lower high blood pressure and high blood sugar, although neither of these effects has been proven through well-controlled studies.
Pregnant and breast-feeding women are advised to avoid taking olive leaf because not enough is known about its possible effects.
Taking olive leaf may result in hypoglycemia or hypotension.
Olive leaf may enhance the effects of drugs that lower blood pressure. It may also increase blood-sugar lowering effects of drugs or herbals.
Last Revised: March 1, 2004
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Lee-Huang S, Zhang L, Huang PL, Chang YT, Huang PL. Anti-HIV activity of olive leaf extract (OLE) and modulation of host cell gene expression by HIV-1 infection and OLE treatment. Biochemistry and Biophysics Research Communications. 2003;307(4):1029-1037.
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Onderoglu S, Sozer S, Erbil KM, Ortac R, Lermioglu F. The evaluation of long-term effects of cinnamon bark and olive leaf on toxicity induced by streptozotocin administration to rats. Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmacology. 1999;51(11):1305-1312.
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Somova LI, Shode FO, Ramnanan P, Nadar A. Antihypertensive, antiatherosclerotic and antioxidant activity of triterpenoids isolated from Olea europaea, subspecies africana leaves. Journal of Ethnopharmacology. 2003;84(2-3):299-305.
Zarzuelo A, Duarte J, Jimenez J, Gonzalez M, Utrilla MP. Vasodilator effect of olive leaf. Planta Medica. 1991;57(5):417-419.
(Note: The above information is not intended to replace the advice of your physician, pharmacist, or other healthcare professional. It is not meant to indicate that the use of the product is safe, appropriate, or effective for you.)