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The Health Benefits of Olive Leaf

Highly prized for its antimicrobial properties, the medicinal use of the olive leaf dates back to 3,500 B.C. when the people of Crete used them to clean wounds. It also has a long history of use for other purposes. Chemicals extracted from the leaves comprise olive leaf supplements. While research supports many of its suggested uses, not enough data exists to definitively recommend its use for any purpose, particularly in place of more proven treatments. Consult with your doctor before using olive leaf for any condition.

Damage that occurs at the cellular level sets the stage for a host of problems. Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, MSKCC, reports the main component of olive leaf, oleuropein, has strong antioxidant activities, meaning it protects cells from damage and quells inflammation. Using supplements with strong antioxidant activities could potentially contribute to overall health and can help with problems triggered by cell damage or inflammation, such as cancer or heart disease.

A study published in the February 2011 issue of “Phytomedicine” sought to compare the effects of olive leaf extract against Captopril, a drug commonly used to treat high blood pressure. For eight weeks, participants either took the drug or 500 mg of olive leaf twice a day. All participants experienced significant drops in both systolic and diastolic blood pressure, with no major differences between the two groups. Those taking the olive leaf extract also experienced a significant reduction in triglycerides -- high levels of which could increase your risk for heart disease. Researchers concluded olive leaf works just as well as Captopril.

According to Drugs.com, which synthesizes information on drugs and supplements from various medical databases, animal studies indicate olive leaf can lower blood sugar levels. MSKCC explains that olive leaf appears to stimulate the release of insulin in the presence of glucose and improves cells’ sensitivity to insulin, meaning they take in glucose more easily.

Research indicates olive leaf extract demonstrates antimicrobial activity against a wide array of bacteria, viruses and fungi. A study published in the April 2003 issue of “Mycoses” tested the actions of olive leaf against strains of various bacteria and fungi in vitro. Within three hours, the extract killed almost all bacteria, and within 24 hours, it completely destroyed candida, the yeast-like fungus responsible for vaginal yeast infections and oral thrush. Olive leaf was also successful against dermophytes, a class of fungus commonly responsible for infections of the skin, hair and nails. MSKCC reports it has demonstrated effectiveness against e.coli, S. aureus, K. pneumoniae as well as many other microbes. It also notes it inhibited the growth of HIV, but this effect has not been studied extensively in humans.

Because of its potential effects on blood pressure and blood sugar levels, using olive leaf at the same time as medications used to control these conditions could lead to excessively low blood pressure or glucose levels. MCKCC notes no adverse effects have been reported in literature. Safety in pregnant and breastfeeding women has not been established.

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This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.