Since ancient times, the leaves of the olive tree have been used for medicinal purposes. Research suggests that extracts from olive leaves have antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties and could also help to lower both blood pressure and cholesterol.
Scientists have now identified many active ingredients which may substantiate the potentially health-promoting and life-prolonging effects of the fruits and leaves of the olive tree. The positive effect of the oil from the fruits of the olive tree results from the high content of monounsaturated fatty acids (especially linoleic acid) and polyphenols. These and other secondary plant substances are found in concentrated form in olive leaves.
Around 30 different polyphenols have now been discovered in the leaves of the olive tree. The most important among them, oleuropein, is present in a concentration up to 3,000 times higher than in olive oil. In addition, olive leaves contain the very strong antioxidant hydroxytyrosol, which has an incredible oxygen radical scavenging capacity of 27,000 micromole Trolox equivalents per gram (umolTE/g) - 10 times more than vitamin C.
This is possibly one of the reasons why the Mediterranean diet recommended by doctors and nutritionists, based on large quantities of fresh fruit and vegetables, fish, little red meat and enriched with olives and olive oil, is so healthy and enables many people around the Mediterranean to enjoy good health and vitality to a very old age.
Many effects of olive leaves purported and described in methods of traditional medicine have now been proven in tests. Whilst olive leaves should not be viewed as a miracle cure and every person is different, it is nevertheless worth considering that the following effects are attributed to olive leaves:
The treatment of high blood pressure with olive leaf extract has been known for a very long time. Scientific tests have proved that olive leaf extract is almost as effective as a well-known and widely-used pharmaceutical drug. Furthermore, the plant extract also lowered the level of triglycerides in the blood - in contrast to the pharmaceutical drug.
The same extract was tested in a Swiss study on 40 identical twins and the olive leaf extract was shown to lower blood cholesterol levels and blood pressure.
It cannot be ruled out that the active ingredients in the leaves and fruit of the olive tree protect the hearts of the population in the Mediterranean region and are therefore responsible for a lower rate of heart attacks and strokes compared to more northern regions.
We now know that oxidative damage and inflammatory processes are the cause of a whole range of diseases and also accelerate the ageing process. The combination of anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory effects should help to ensure that olive leaf extract can actually prevent arteriosclerosis and degenerative diseases of old age. In other words: It really does have anti-ageing effects.
Olive leaves and olives contain substances that inhibit blood clotting, enabling them to improve the flow properties of the blood. This could play a major role in the prevention of thrombosis and strokes, naturally potentiated by the prevention of plaques in the vessels, which are caused by inflammatory processes in veins and arteries.
Statistical studies have shown that:
In countries with high olive oil consumption, cancer rates (breast, skin, colon and prostate) are relatively lower than in countries which traditionally consume less olive oil.
Scientists at the University of Reading successfully used polyphenols from olive oil against colon cancer cells in 2007.
Olive leaf extract may improve inflammatory joint diseases, i.e. arthritis, or wear-related arthrosis.
Hildegard von Bingen (1098 – 1179), considered by many people in Europe to be the founder of scientific natural history in Germany, recommended the use of olive leaves against stomach upsets and digestive problems.
In the Mediterranean region, olive oil is traditionally used against intestinal colic and as a mild laxative.
Olive oil for skincare
Before olive oil took its place in the kitchen, it was mainly used for personal hygiene. The ancient Greeks used to rub olive oil on themselves after a bath to create warmth and prevent their skin from drying out.
Olive oil as an anti-wrinkle agent
Mix one tablespoon of olive oil with the juice of half a lemon and massage your facial skin with it, 2-3 times a week in the evening as night care. The nourishing effect of the olive oil is further enhanced by the smoothing and firming effect of the lemon juice.
Recipe for shiny and voluminous hair
Depending on the length of your hair, mix 2-4 tablespoons of olive oil with an egg. Spread the mixture evenly over the hair and massage it in well; cover with a cloth and leave to work in for 20 - 30 minutes. Rinse well with lukewarm water and then wash gently with shampoo, preferably an olive shampoo. Rinse thoroughly.
Tea from olive leaves
Pour 1/4 litre of boiling water over 2 teaspoons of olive leaves and leave to stand for 10 minutes. Drunk in the evening, this tea has a relaxing and calming effect - good for sleep disorders and nervousness.
What many people don’t know: Olive tea is also delicious cold! Prepare the tea as described above, then allow it to cool completely before placing it in the fridge. Serve your refreshing olive tea with ice and, according to taste, perhaps even a little honey.
Hildegard von Bingen used tea made from olive leaves to treat high blood pressure, but also for stomach upsets and digestive disorders. She recommended a highly concentrated tea for this purpose:
Mix 20g of olive leaves with a litre of water and boil it down slowly to 250ml. Drink throughout the day.
Where to obtain olive leaves
For those lucky enough to have olive trees growing near their house: Simply cut off a few branches from wild olive trees - this is also good for the tree, as it allows air to access the inner branches. Dry the branches for 10-14 days and then remove the leaves. It is quite a lot of work, but it is rewarding.
The dried leaves must then be crushed, either in a mortar, or - for the less active - in an electric kitchen machine. In any case, they should be crushed in order for the wonderful active ingredients and substances in the olive leaves to find their way out.
Alternatively, dried olive leaves (whole and crushed) can be obtained in health-food shops, some supermarkets, and online.
Disclaimer: Any information contained within this article is for your guidance only and must not be used for the basis of any self-diagnosis. In all instances, you are advised to speak to your GP or healthcare professional immediately if you are concerned about your health or intend to embark on a new health program.
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