What It Is
The olive leaf has been used since biblical times to combat fever, treat malaria, and heal wounds, infections, and skin rashes. Now, scientists have discovered that the active ingredients in olive leaves do indeed have healing powers.
Olive leaf extract is packed with natural antioxidants, including the flavonoids apigenin, luteolin, chrysoeriol, hesperidin, rutin, quercetin, and kaempferol. But the most abundant active in olive leaves is oleuropein—a compound with powerful antibacterial and antifungal properties. These capabilities are so potent that the extract is often included in cosmetics as a natural preservative by manufacturers looking for alternatives to potentially harmful chemicals.
It’s a great idea to take Olive leaf extract at the first signs of a cold or flu, as it is both antiviral and antibacterial.
What It Does
While the most obvious use for olive leaf extract is its potential as a nutrient-rich preservative, this ancient botanical may have even more exciting uses in the world of beauty. Because most of the flavonoids in olive leaves discourage inflammation and destroy bacteria, there are a number of anecdotal reports that claim its effectiveness against acne. Although there isn’t any clinical proof that olive leaf is the next miracle zit zapper, there are preliminary case studies of people who have found relief from scalp infections and eczema after applying olive leaf extract topically.
Acne may not be on researchers’ radars yet, but sun protection is. A group of researchers from the University of Pavia, in Italy, recently recruited volunteers to test oleuropein’s ability to protect skin from ultraviolet B light—the rays that burn. The participants were exposed to UVB rays before using a topical preparation that contained either olive leaf extract or a vitamin E placebo. The results, while preliminary, were remarkable. The olive leaf cream reduced redness by 22 percent, transepidermal water loss by 35 percent, and blood flow by 30 percent. This could provide yet another natural remedy for sun-induced skin damage.
Research into olive leaf’s skin care benefits may be in its early stages, but this botanical’s résumé is substantial when it comes to health. Like olive oil, olive leaf extract lowers both cholesterol and blood pressure. But that’s just the start of olive leaf’s heart-healthful benefits.
A study at the University of Granada, in Spain, discovered that olive leaf acts like a vasodilator by relaxing blood vessels. Olive leaf also reduces the risk of atherosclerosis by preventing platelets from clumping together. Both of these actions can help to prevent blocked arteries and heart attack.
New studies show that olive leaf also may help diabetics by reducing blood sugar while improving insulin sensitivity. There is also some evidence that olive leaf may have anticancer potential by inhibiting the proliferation of tumors. Although this research is preliminary, and most of the testing has been done on cells in a petri dish or animals, the future of olive leaf’s broad healing potential looks promising.
Product Examples (from left)
Because olive leaf extract is so multitalented, it’s finding its way into a wide variety of products that can be used both inside and out.