5 Promising Benefits of Olive Leaf Extract, According to Research

What is olive leaf extract—and does it have any real health properties? RDs break it down.

The Mediterranean diet has long been upheld as an extremely healthy way to eat to promote longevity and help lower the risk of heart attack, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and other health concerns. So, it's no surprise that certain elements of the diet are being closely studied for their individual health benefits. Olive oil, for example, has been a staple of the Mediterranean diet and is often touted for its vast health benefits, including its healthy monounsaturated fat content and antioxidants.

And more recently the focus has turned to another part of the olive tree: the olive leaf. The leaf of the olive tree contains a healthy amount of oleuropein (the same beneficial compound found in olive oil). In fact, "olive leaves are the richest source of olive phenolic compounds," says Kimberly Glenn, M.S., RDN, L.D..

Since you don't actually want to eat the leaves of the olive tree, these compounds are typically extracted to make it more friendly to consume. Research is starting to suggest that olive leaf extract may have a number of different health benefits. Here are five encouraging findings to know about, plus how to use olive leaf extract.

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Lower blood pressure.

Some of the strongest studies show that olive leaf extract can help lower blood pressure in those with mild to moderate hypertension. There have been a number of different animal and human studies touting its use.

However, it should also be noted that it may exacerbate low blood pressure in people whose blood pressure is already lower than average, and it could also interfere with other medicines for lowering blood pressure. Always consult your doctor before adding anything new to your system.

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Lower glucose levels in diabetes.

A promising study out of Israel showed that olive leaf extract could have an impact on adults with Type II diabetes. "When taking olive leaf extract twice a day for 14 weeks, they had lower fasting blood glucose than the placebo group," says Stacey Wiesenthal, M.S., R.D.

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Improved cardiovascular health.

Lowering blood pressure and blood sugar levels can have a huge impact on cardiovascular health, and there may be additional benefits as well. "Olive leaf extract is high in antioxidants, reduces triglycerides and cholesterol levels, improves lipids, and is anti-inflammatory," Glenn says. A promising study in rats showed olive leaf extract keeping high cholesterol levels at bay, indicating that it may help with atherosclerosis, the buildup of plaque in arteries. Another study in rats also showed that the polyphenols in olive leaf extract, such as oleuropein and hydroxytyrosol, reduced chronic inflammation and oxidative stress that often leads to cardiovascular disease and other chronic problems.

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Neuroprotective properties.

"There are bioactive compounds of olive leaves—like flavonoids, oleuropein, and flavone luteolin-7-glucoside—that have attracted interest, and which show promise in possible antioxidant, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, anticancer, and neuroprotective properties," says Glenn. That's all the good stuff we need to protect our brain and other parts of our body.

Eating plans like the Mediterranean diet have often been touted as something to follow to protect against neurological diseases like Alzheimer's. "Test tube and animal studies show the anti-inflammatory properties in olive leaf extract could play a role in protecting the brain from Alzheimer's," says Wiesenthal, referring to this study, but adds that "more research needs to be done on humans." Similar impacts have been seen for Parkinson's disease as well.

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Anti-cancer properties.

"Another test tube/animal study found that its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties have also been shown to fight the growth of breast, colorectal, pancreatic, prostate, and leukemia cells," Wiesenthal says. This has a lot to do with olive leaf extract being filled with antioxidants. "These protect the cells in our bodies against DNA damage caused by stresses we encounter every day," Glenn explains.

How is olive leaf extract typically used?

Olive leaf extract often comes in supplement form, either as a tincture, tea, or powder. If consumed in tea form, Glenn recommends using fresh leaves instead of dry, if possible, for more health benefits. Although it's not used as often in the kitchen as olive oil, you could brew hot or iced tea from it or add the powder to anything from smoothies to pancakes.

However, Wiesenthal recommends keeping olive oil in your kitchen for cooking and eating, preferring to up the oleuropein intake that way instead of starting to cook with olive leaf extract.

Glenn adds that "dosage can be tricky," since this is technically a dietary supplement that is not regulated by the FDA. She also notes that too much may have negative side effects like upset stomach, diarrhea, and dizziness. Like with anything new, make sure to consult your doctor as the extract can impact some prescription drugs.

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