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Olive leaf extract may have several potential health benefits, such as helping lower cholesterol and blood pressure. Although scientists have conducted much of the research in animals, the extract is also beginning to show promise in some human trials.
People in the Mediterranean region have long used olive tree leaves as part of their diet and in traditional medicines.
Olive leaves contain several key polyphenols, such as oleacein and oleuropein. Polyphenols occur naturally in plants, and research suggests that they may help protect against a range of conditions, such as heart disease and cancer.
These polyphenols may underlie some of the potential health benefits of olive leaf extract.
In this article, we discuss some of these health benefits, as well as the evidence to support them. We also cover dosage and possible side effects.
Olive tree leaves contain oleuropein, which is a polyphenol that may help prevent weight gain.
In a 2016 study, researchers orally administered oleuropein to rats with obesity that were
consuming a high-cholesterol diet. After 8 weeks, the rats had a lower body weight, less fat tissue, and an improved metabolic profile.
These findings suggest that olive leaf extract containing oleuropein may have the potential to reduce weight gain and lower the risk of obesity.
However, further studies are necessary to confirm this possible health benefit in humans.
Preliminary studies suggest that olive leaf extract may help improve cholesterol levels.
In a 2015 study, rats ate either a high-cholesterol or a normal diet. The researchers also gave olive leaf extract to some of the rats in both groups.
After 8 weeks, the cholesterol-fed rats had higher levels of total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein (LDL), or “bad,” cholesterol. In the rats that also consumed the olive leaf extract, these cholesterol levels were significantly lower.
These findings may also apply to humans. A 2008 study compared the effects of food supplementation with olive leaf extract with lifestyle advice in 40 identical twins with high blood pressure.
After 8 weeks, the team found that olive leaf extract significantly lowered LDL cholesterol levels within the twin pairs in a dose-dependent manner. This means that larger doses had a greater effect.
Olive leaf extract may help treat hypertension, or high blood pressure.
In a 2011 study, researchers randomized people with stage 1 hypertension to take either 500 milligrams (mg) of olive leaf extract or 12.5–25 mg of captopril, a medication for high blood pressure, twice per day.
After 8 weeks, blood pressure was significantly lower for both groups. The team concluded that the olive leaf extract was as effective at lowering blood pressure in people with stage 1 hypertension as captopril.
In another study from 2017, researchers randomized people with stage 1 hypertension to take either an olive leaf extract containing 136 mg of oleuropein or a placebo each day.
After 6 weeks, the people who took the olive leaf extract had much lower blood pressure than those who took the placebo.
Olive leaf extract may also help reduce a person’s risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
After 12 weeks, people in the olive leaf extract group had significant improvements in insulin sensitivity and pancreatic responsiveness compared with those who took a placebo.
Doctors consider reduced insulin sensitivity and pancreatic responsiveness to be important factors in the development of type 2 diabetes.
There are no official guidelines on how much olive leaf extract a person should take. In the human studies discussed above, participants usually took 500–1,000 mg per day of a standard olive leaf extract. Some of these were in divided doses.
Olive leaf extract is available in the form of capsules, tablets, and a tea. When using these products, it is generally best to follow the manufacturer’s directions on safe dosages.
A person should to speak to a doctor before taking olive leaf extract to treat a specific condition.
Because the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) consider olive leaf extract to be a dietary supplement rather than a medicine, they do not monitor dose or quality of herbs and supplements.
There is also only limited scientific data on the possible side effects or long-term safety.
One study suggests that possible side effects may include muscle discomfort and headache. People who experience severe or concerning side effects should stop taking the extract and speak to their doctor.
It is also not clear whether olive leaf extract can interact with other medications. People who are taking prescription medications should speak to a doctor before taking olive leaf extract.
Preliminary studies suggest that olive leaf extract may have several health benefits. These include lowering blood pressure, improving cholesterol levels, and reducing the risk of weight gain and type 2 diabetes.
However, it is necessary for scientists to conduct more large-scale studies in humans to confirm these findings and to determine the long-term safety of taking olive leaf extract.
A range of products containing olive leaf extract are available to purchase online.