What is olive leaf extract?
Olive leaf extract is a supplement made from the leaves of olive trees (Olea europaea). It contains a variety of active compounds like oleuropein and hydroxytyrosol that are thought to provide health benefits. Olive leaf extract has been used for centuries in traditional medicine as a natural antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antiviral, antibacterial, and antifungal. Today, it’s promoted to boost the immune system, fight infections, reduce inflammation, lower blood pressure and cholesterol, and aid diabetes and cancer treatment.
What are the proposed benefits of olive leaf extract?
Here are some of the main potential benefits of taking olive leaf extract:
Olive leaf extract contains various potent antioxidants, primarily oleuropein and hydroxytyrosol. Antioxidants help protect your cells from damage caused by unstable molecules called free radicals. This oxidative damage is thought to drive aging and many diseases. Research shows olive leaf antioxidants fight oxidative stress and inflammation in your body (1).
May lower blood pressure
Hypertension or high blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart disease. Animal and human studies demonstrate olive leaf extract may relax blood vessels, increase nitric oxide levels, and reduce blood pressure — particularly among people with high blood pressure (2, 3).
May improve cholesterol levels
Olive leaf extract may benefit heart health by improving cholesterol levels. Studies note it can reduce total and “bad” LDL cholesterol while increasing “good” HDL cholesterol (4). The LDL cholesterol lowering effect appears greater in people with elevated lipids.
Helps manage blood sugar
Abnormally high blood sugar is a hallmark of diabetes. Test tube and rodent research shows olive leaf compounds like oleuropein may reduce blood sugar spikes after meals, lower insulin resistance, and protect pancreatic beta cells that produce insulin (5). As such, olive leaf extract may aid diabetes management.
Contains antimicrobial compounds
Oleuropein and other olive leaf compounds have broad antimicrobial effects against viruses, bacteria, fungi, and parasites. Test tube studies demonstrate antiviral effects against viruses that cause respiratory and cold symptoms. There’s also evidence for antibacterial effects against staphylococcus, listeria, and chlamydia bacteria (6).
May fight cancer
Test tube and animal research indicates olive leaf extract may fight cancer through antioxidant activity and by triggering cancer cell death. It appears most effective against brain, prostate, breast, urinary tract, and skin cancers (7). More human research is needed.
Chronic inflammation is at the root of many diseases. Olive leaf compounds like oleocanthal and oleuropein exhibit potent anti-inflammatory properties. Studies show olive leaf extract combats inflammatory markers throughout the body and in conditions like arthritis, colitis, and encephalitis (8).
Is olive leaf extract safe?
Olive leaf extract is very safe for most healthy adults. Side effects are mild and infrequent but may include headaches, stomach upset, and dizziness.
Olive leaf extract may lower blood pressure and blood sugar levels, so people on medication for these conditions should use it cautiously. It also has theoretical effects on immune health, so you should speak with a doctor before using olive leaf extract if you have an autoimmune disorder or take immune-suppressing drugs.
Pregnant and breastfeeding women should avoid olive leaf extract due to lack of safety research. Children and adolescents should not take olive leaf extract unless approved by a doctor.
What are the side effects of olive leaf extract?
Olive leaf extract is generally well tolerated with minimal side effects. Potential side effects can include:
- Upset stomach
- Hypotension (low blood pressure)
- Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar)
Side effects seem more common with liquid extracts compared to solid forms like capsules and powders. Taking olive leaf extract with food appears to minimize stomach upset.
How much olive leaf extract should I take per day?
There’s no official recommended olive leaf extract dosage. Manufacturer dosing guidelines suggest 500–1,000 mg per day of olive leaf extract containing at least 10-20% oleuropein.
Some studies use higher doses of 500–1,000 mg up to 3 times per day for therapeutic effects. Chronic high doses above 1,500 mg per day are not recommended due to lack of safety data.
For specific conditions like diabetes, cancer, or infections, consult a doctor for dosage recommendations. Start low and gradually increase the dose to assess tolerance. Take olive leaf extract with meals to minimize side effects.
When should I take olive leaf extract for best results?
You can take olive leaf extract any time of day. It’s best taken with food to prevent stomach issues.
Some research also suggests split dosing — taking smaller doses 2-3 times throughout the day instead of a single large dose. This may stabilize blood levels over time for better effects.
If taking olive leaf for energy, take it in the morning. For sleep, take it at night. As an antioxidant, take it with vitamin C-rich foods to boost absorption.
Work with your doctor to determine the best olive leaf extract schedule for your needs. Be consistent day-to-day.
Can I take olive leaf extract long term or daily?
Long-term daily use of olive leaf extract appears to be safe for most healthy adults. Some studies demonstrate safe use for up to 2 years without serious side effects (9).
However, the long-term impact is not well established. There’s also limited research on the safety of high doses over extended periods.
It’s reasonable for most people to take olive leaf extract daily at recommended doses for up to several months. Extended use beyond 6 months may be fine for general wellness but consult your doctor first.
People with medical conditions, women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, and children should not take olive leaf extract daily without medical supervision.
Does olive leaf extract really work?
There is considerable scientific evidence that olive leaf extract provides benefits:
- Rich in powerful antioxidants that fight oxidative stress and inflammation
- May lower blood pressure, especially for people with hypertension
- Appears to improve cholesterol levels by increasing HDL while lowering LDL
- Helps regulate blood sugar in animal studies of diabetes
- Exhibits antiviral effects against respiratory infections in test tubes
- Has broad antimicrobial properties against bacteria, fungi, and parasites
- Shows anti-cancer activity by slowing tumor growth and inducing cancer cell death in animal studies
However, despite promising research, human data is still limited. Larger, high-quality studies are needed to confirm many purported benefits. Olive leaf extract shows most consistent results for blood pressure, cholesterol, and antioxidant effects.
What signs indicate olive leaf extract is working?
It can take 2–3 months of daily olive leaf extract use to feel benefits. Potential signs it’s working include:
- Increased energy and reduced fatigue
- Improved immune function and fewer colds/infections
- Enhanced skin, hair, nail, and eye health
- Better blood sugar control
- Lower blood pressure
- Improved circulation and cognitive function
- Reduced inflammation and pain relief
People taking olive leaf extract for a specific condition like hypertension, diabetes, or bacterial infection should monitor relevant markers like blood tests to determine efficacy.
You may need a higher dose for therapeutic effects. But seek medical guidance before exceeding recommended olive leaf extract dosages.
Does olive leaf extract really boost your immune system?
Some evidence suggests olive leaf extract may support immune health, but more research is needed to confirm benefits:
- Rich in antioxidants that reduce oxidative stress involved in immune function
- Test tube data shows antiviral activity against various viruses
- Oleuropein demonstrated antiviral effects against respiratory infections in animal research
- Early studies note immune cell stimulation and antiviral effects in chickens, cows, and humans
However, high quality clinical trials are lacking, especially in humans. Overall the current data is encouraging but inconclusive. Olive leaf extract shows most promise against viral respiratory infections. Larger human studies are needed before strong immune-boosting claims can be made.
What foods contain olive leaf extract?
Olive leaf extract is a concentrated supplement made by processing and drying olive leaves, then extracting their active compounds like oleuropein. You won’t find significant olive leaf extract in foods.
However, the key compounds in olive leaf extract like polyphenols are also found in olive oil and olive-based foods. The highest sources include:
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Olive juice
- Olive powder
- Olive paste
- Olive tea
- Olive leaf tea
But you would need to eat excessive amounts of these foods to equal typical doses of olive leaf extract supplements.
Can I drink olive leaf tea instead of taking supplements?
Olive leaf tea made directly from fresh or dried leaves provides polyphenols like oleuropein. However, the content is lower compared to concentrated olive leaf extract.
One study found 250 mg of dried olive leaf used to make tea contained just 7.5 mg of oleuropein (10). By comparison, a 500 mg olive leaf extract supplement may provide up to 100 mg of oleuropein.
Drinking olive leaf tea can provide antioxidants and may offer some benefits. But for therapeutic effects seen in studies, olive leaf extract is preferable over tea.
To boost the potency of olive leaf tea:
- Use multiple tea bags per cup
- Steep for longer to extract more compounds
- Drink more cups per day
- Add olive leaf powder to tea
Olive leaf tea may produce fewer side effects than potent extracts. It could be used in rotation with olive leaf extract.
What is the best olive leaf extract brand?
Some top olive leaf extract brands include:
- Now Foods
- Nature’s Way
- Gaia Herbs
- Natures Answer
The best brand for you depends on your needs:
- Quality — Gaia Herbs, Nature’s Way, Barleans
- Value — Swanson, Now Foods, Solaray
- Selection — Now Foods, Nature’s Way, Horbaach
Look for olive leaf extract standardized to ≥15-20% oleuropein content. Third party testing and certifications like USP, NSF, or GMP add credibility.
Should I take olive leaf extract with food?
It’s generally recommended to take olive leaf extract with food. Taking it on an empty stomach, especially in high doses, may increase the risk of side effects like stomach upset.
Fatty foods like oils or nuts may enhance absorption of beneficial compounds in olive leaf extract. But more human research is needed.
Some people suggest avoiding protein foods when taking olive leaf extract as proteins can theoretically interfere with absorption. However, current evidence does not support avoiding protein or limiting intake to low-protein foods.
In summary, take olive leaf extract with a meal or snack. Focus on getting healthy fats and fiber rather than avoiding protein. Adjust based on your tolerance.
Can I take olive leaf extract with medications?
Olive leaf extract is likely safe for most people on medications but potential interactions should be considered:
- Blood pressure medications — Olive leaf extract may enhance blood pressure lowering effects
- Blood sugar medications — Olive leaf compounds may increase hypoglycemic effects
- Anticoagulants and antiplatelets — Olive leaf extract may slow blood clotting
- Immune suppressants — Olive leaf may boost immune function and reduce effectiveness
If you take any daily prescription medications or have a medical condition, check with your doctor before starting olive leaf extract. Monitor for increased side effects of medications or changes in disease symptoms. Blood tests may help assess safety and proper dosage.
Can I take olive leaf extract if I’m pregnant?
The safety of olive leaf extract during pregnancy is unknown. While olive-derived compounds may offer some benefits, they also have theoretical risks, including:
- May stimulate uterine contractions that could induce miscarriage
- May lower blood pressure and blood sugar excessively
- Lack of safety research in human pregnancies
For these reasons, it’s best to avoid olive leaf extract supplements during pregnancy unless approved by your obstetrician. Focus on getting antioxidants and polyphenols from food sources like olive oil and olives instead.
Can I give olive leaf extract to my child or pet?
Olive leaf extract safety has not been established in children or pets. Do not give it to a child or pet unless under medical guidance.
For children, focus on a healthy balanced diet with olive oil, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds to provide antioxidants. Select multivitamins designed for kids as needed.
For pets, stick to high quality pet foods and follow your veterinarian’s supplement recommendations for your pet’s age and health status. Monitor for any symptoms of intolerance.
Olive leaf extract provides unique antioxidants like oleuropein that deliver significant health benefits backed by scientific research. Evidence is strongest for lowering blood pressure, improving cholesterol levels, and fighting oxidative stress. Preliminary studies also show promise for blood sugar control, immune support, microbial effects, anti-inflammation, and anti-cancer properties.
Olive leaf extract appears very safe for short term use of up to a few months. Longer term daily use may be fine for some but limited data exists. Work with a doctor if taking for extended periods, at high doses, or if you have a medical condition.
Use high quality olive leaf extract with at least 15-20% oleuropein content. Take 500-1,000 mg per day unless directed otherwise. Getting more antioxidants from olive-based foods may provide added benefits. But olive leaf extract delivers far higher antioxidant levels than diet alone.