Everyone is familiar with the small, evergreen olive tree, Olea europea, that produces delicious olive fruit, oil and green-greyish coloured leaves, but less of us are aware of the benefits that olive leaf can provide. Can you cross your heart and promise you knew that olive leaves may assist in supporting your cardiovascular system?
Olive leaf has been present for thousands of years, with the Ancient Egyptians regarding it as a symbol of heavenly power and using it in the mummifying process, and as an early reference to peace in the story of Noah’s Ark in the Christian Bible. Researchers believe that the olive tree had its origin approximately 6,000–7,000 years ago in ancient Persia.
The medicinal use of olive leaf dates back to the early 1800s, when the leaves were crushed, boiled and subsequently drunk to help relieve fevers. This action, plus many more, are predominantly due to its active constituents of oleuropein, hydroxytyrosol and elenolic acid. They are also found in olive fruit and olive oil and provide the bitter, astringent flavour characteristic of the foods. However, they are much more abundant within the olive leaf and olive leaf extract.
We can tell you’re eager to find out just how can olive leaf help us now. Mummifying ourselves seems a tad over-the-top these days, so where does olive leaf fit in?
How can olive leaf help?
Maintaining healthy blood pressure:
Olive leaf extract has shown the ability to assist in naturally maintaining normal blood pressure in healthy individuals. Oleuropein aids the cardiovascular system by relaxing and dilating blood vessels by affecting calcium within muscle cells in arterial walls. This decreases the force of contraction needed to pump blood around the body, thereby supporting normal blood pressure.
Supporting immune system function:
Olive leaf has traditionally been used to enhance the immune system, particularly when a cold or flu is involved. This traditional knowledge is supported by lab studies investigating oleuropein, hydroxytyrosol and elenolic acid and their individual and combined anti-microbial activity against a variety of bacteria, yeast and fungi. The most exciting action may be the anti-viral activity olive leaf extract exhibits.
Fighting against free radical damage:
Olive leaf harbours antioxidant properties that help protect the body from the activity of free radicals and are attributed to its hydroxytyrosol and oleuropein content. Hydroxytyrosol is the most efficient free radical scavenger in olive leaf. Who knew this ancient tree had so many tricks up its leaves!