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Olive Leaf Extract
The Mediterranean diet is well known for a range of health benefits, partly due to the healthy antioxidants derived from the high intake of olive oil, made from olive fruit. For many centuries the fresh leaves of the olive tree have also been used for health maintenance.
We farm naturally using vermiculture (worm created fertilisers) and pristine irrigation water, combined with immediate transfer of freshly harvested leaves to the processing plant. From the growing of our trees to the bottling of our extract, we have total control over the entire production process.
Recent research by two Australian universities* shows that Comvita’s globally unique olive leaf extract ‘made from fresh leaves’ contains 30 times more antioxidants than the equivalent amount of the best virgin olive oils.
*Queensland University; Southern Cross University, NSW.
The benefit of Olive Leaf Extract
Many people are quickly realising that Comvita Olive Leaf Extract Immune Support Capsules is a supplement with a wide range of benefits suitable for the whole family. While some people are using it throughout winter, many more are finding it improves wellbeing all year round.
The main benefit of Comvita’s Olive Leaf Extract derives from the 12 polyphenols it contains. The polyphenol-rich composition of our olive leaf extract is possible thanks to the unique extraction process we’ve designed to ensure that these valuable, naturally occurring chemicals are kept intact. Because we pick our leaves from Olive trees specially grown for their leaves, not their fruit, and thanks to our special extraction system our Olive Leaf Extract maintains 12 key naturally occurring phytochemical antioxidants, including oleuropein and hydroxytyrosol, it is known as Synergy 12.
Polyphenols exist throughout the plant kingdom and fresh olive leaves are a particularly rich source of them. Our Olive Leaf Lxtract is produced with the simple aim of ensuring that as much of this natural goodness is preserved. It contains no reconstituted powders and is made exclusively from fresh olive leaves. Thanks to this unique composition which includes 66mg of Oleuropein, along with zinc and copper for immune support, our new Olive Leaf Extract Immune Support Capsules provide year-round benefits and provides natural support for a healthy immune system in a convenient one a day capsule.
History of Olive Leaf
Olive leaf may be a relatively recent revelation to many of us but mankind has been aware of its powerful medicinal properties for thousands of years. In fact, it was the Ancient Egyptians who first used the leaves of olive trees (Olea europaea) to protect against sickness. Indeed the Egyptians regarded the olive leaf as a symbol of heavenly power and even used it to mummify pharaohs.
Further historic examples of the olive leaf’s medicinal application can be found at the beginning of the nineteenth century when Spanish doctors used them as a fever reducing ‘febrifuge’, a practice that continued throughout the following decades.
Then, at the dawn of the twentieth century, scientists isolated oleuropein from the olive leaf. It was believed that this bitter compound was the key to the olive tree’s antioxidant properties, a notion that was later lent credibility by a Dutch scientist’s discovery that elenolic acid – one of the primary ingredient in oleuropein – inhibits the growth of viruses, bacteria, fungi and parasites.
Further pioneering research has investigated oleuropein’s potential medical applications including, in 1962, the discovery by an Italian researcher* that it could lower blood pressure by dilating blood vessels, enabling blood to flow more easily. This has been further researched by Comvita and the University of Reading**.
Unexpected Benefits of Olive Leaf Extract
By Julian Everson
Scientists have isolated the unique molecule that provides olive oil with its multitude of health and life-extending benefits. Known as oleuropein, it is the polyphenol that can help lower bad cholesterol and blood pressure, prevent cancer, protect against oxidative damage, and help guard against cognitive decline.1,2 Oleuropein provides the distinctive tangy, pungent, almost bitter flavor found in high quality extra virgin olive oils.2 It’s also responsible for most of olive oil’s antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and disease-fighting characteristics.2-4 In fact, when oleuropein was given to animals with tumors, the tumors completely regressed and disappeared in 9 to 12 days!5
The olive tree (Olea europaea) produces oleuropein abundantly in its leaves as well as in the olive fruit itself, and special processing techniques now allow for the extraction of a stable, standardized form of oleuropein. That means that consumers can have access to one of the most beneficial components of olive oil without the necessity of consuming excessive amounts of olive oil.
Olive leaf extracts and their oleuropein constituents are best known for their blood pressure-lowering effects, but the latest studies reveal their health benefits extend well beyond that. Additional anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties offer promise in fighting atherosclerosis, diabetes, cancer, neurodegenerative diseases, and even arthritis.
Animal studies demonstrate that olive leaf extracts lead to significant drops in elevated blood pressure.6,7 Remarkably, these effects are evident when supplementation occurs either before or after the animals develop hypertension. This means that the extracts have the ability to both prevent and treat high blood pressure.8
The drop in blood pressure is accompanied by reduced pressure in the heart’s left ventricle. This results in improved blood flow to the heart’s own coronary blood vessels. Additional human studies demonstrate the ability of olive leaf extracts to significantly reduce blood pressure measurements.9
One particularly fascinating study was conducted among identical twins with borderline hypertension (blood pressure in the range of 120-139 mmHg over 80-89 mmHg).10 Studies of identical twins virtually eliminate genetic variations which may impact study results. After 8 weeks, placebo recipients showed no change in blood pressure from baseline, but patients supplemented with 1,000 mg/day of olive leaf extract dropped their pressures by a mean of 11 mmHg systolic and 4 mmHg diastolic.10 The supplemented patients experienced significant reductions in LDL cholesterol.
A human study measured olive leaf extract against captopril, one of the conventional drugs used for treating hypertension.11 In this study, patients with stage-1 hypertension (140-159 mmHg over 90-99 mmHg) took either 500 mg of olive leaf extract twice daily, or 12.5 mg of captopril twice daily, which was increased as needed to 25 mg twice daily. After 8 weeks of treatment, both groups experienced a drop in mean blood pressure from baseline (11.5 and 13.7 mmHg systolic; 4.8 and 6.4 mmHg diastolic, respectively), with no significant difference between the two groups. In other words, the olive leaf extract performed as well as the prescription drug. A closer look in the laboratory reveals the reason for this equivalence. Although they utilize different mechanisms of action (oleuropein acts as a natural calcium channel blocker and captopril is a well-known ACE-inhibitor), both oleuropein and captopril function inside the vasculature to decrease the tension in the walls of blood vessels and promote widening of the vessels (vasodilation), ultimately lowering blood pressure.12-15
The proven blood pressure-lowering effects of olive leaf extracts are potent enough to warrant caution if you are taking prescription blood pressure drugs.60 If you are on blood pressure medication, it’s essential that you speak to your prescriber before starting supplementation.
Blood pressure is only one measure of cardiovascular health; arterial health is equally important. The endothelial cells that line arterial walls play a key role in maintaining blood flow and pressure; they also regulate the distribution of smooth muscle cells and sustain an even flow of blood through vessels. Endothelial dysfunction is one of the earliest stages in hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis), which occurs when plaques build up in the arterial walls. These plaques eventually block blood flow and can trigger a heart attack or stroke.
Olive leaf extracts fight endothelial dysfunction at multiple levels. They increase the production of nitric oxide, a signaling molecule that helps relax blood vessels.16,17 They reduce the production and activity of a class of molecules known as matrix metalloproteinases, or MMPs.18-20 Excessive MMP activity literally dissolves the gel-like matrix that holds cells together, making vessel linings increasingly vulnerable to plaque damage. They also help prevent the oxidation of LDL-cholesterol, which is one of the earliest events in developing atherosclerosis.21-23 Oxidized LDL triggers inflammation, further damaging arteries, and olive leaf extract has multi-targeted anti-inflammatory effects.20,24,25
Polyphenol compounds found in olive leaves have been shown to help directly prevent the formation of arterial plaques (and thereby reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke) in two ways. First, they reduce the production and activity of a series of “adhesion molecules.”26-28 These substances cause white blood cells and platelets to stick to arterial walls, resulting in early plaque formation. Second, they reduce platelet aggregation (clumping) by multiple mechanisms, which reduces the risk that tiny clots will form at sites of plaque to produce a stroke or heart attack.29,30
The diabetic (and pre-diabetic) state of chronic blood sugar elevation imposes substantial oxidative stress throughout the body, triggering inflammation and tissue damage that rapidly accelerates aging. Treatments for diabetes have two main goals: 1) lowering blood glucose to normal levels and 2) limiting the damage done by the inevitable blood sugar spikes that still occur.
Olive leaf extracts are showing real promise in both of these areas. In animal and basic lab studies, olive leaf extracts and oleuropein have been found to lower blood sugar through several mechanisms.31-34 They slow the digestion of starches into simple sugars, slow absorption of those sugars from the intestine, and increase the uptake of glucose into tissues from the blood.31,32 They protect tissues from the oxidant damage caused when glucose binds to proteins in the process called glycation.33,34 They also increase levels of other natural antioxidant systems in the body, broadening the degree of protection.33
These mechanisms have directly observable benefits. Studies show that diabetic animals supplemented with olive leaf extracts experience significant reductions in blood sugar and cholesterol.33-35 In a dramatic head-to-head study, diabetic rats were treated with either olive leaf extract or glyburide (Diabeta®), a common glucose-lowering drug.35 By the end of the study, the antidiabetic effects of the extract proved superior to those of the drug.35
One intriguing study showed that when lab rats were fed a high-fat, high-carbohydrate diet, they developed all the signs of metabolic syndrome (excessive abdominal fat, hypertension, abnormal lipid profile, and impaired glucose tolerance).36 But when animals were fed that unhealthy diet along with olive leaf extracts, virtually all of the metabolic abnormalities improved or, in some cases, normalized.36
Human studies reveal that supplementing with 500 mg of olive leaf extract once daily resulted in significant reductions in hemoglobin A1c levels, the standard marker of long-term exposure to elevated blood sugar in diabetic people.31 Supplementation also lowered fasting plasma insulin levels, an important point because chronic insulin elevations may contribute to diabetics’ higher cancer risks.31,37
What You Need to Know
Widespread Benefits of Olive Leaf
- The Mediterranean diet offers a host of benefits that prolong life and improve health.
- Olive oil, a major component of the Mediterranean diet, contains a unique compound called oleuropein that provides its characteristic biting, astringent taste.
- Oleuropein is responsible for most of olive oil’s antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and disease-fighting characteristics.
- Olive leaves contain high amounts of oleuropein, making their extracts a valuable source of this nutrient without the need to consume large amounts of olive oil.
- Olive leaf extracts show tremendous promise in preventing or mitigating conditions as diverse as hypertension, heart disease, diabetes, cancer, stroke, Alzheimer’s, and arthritis.
The Mediterranean diet is renowned for its ability to reduce the risk of cancer.38,39 While numerous aspects of the diet contribute to this risk reduction, there’s growing evidence that olive oil—and specifically its oleuropein content—are key components of the diet’s anti-cancer effects.
Studies show that oleuropein’s antioxidant effects help it battle cancer formation at its earliest stages. Olive leaf extracts inhibit DNA damage from reactive oxygen species, which is the very first step in development of malignant cells.40 Once cells become cancerous, they rely on a host of chemical signaling factors that promote their growth and organization into tumors. Olive leaf compounds are known to inhibit growth factors and disrupt signalling pathways.41-43 Oleuropein also suppresses an enzyme cancer cells rely on to derive and store energy from dietary carbohydrates.44
Oleuropein and olive leaf extracts have numerous other mechanisms of action against cancer:
- They help prevent inflammation, another major promoter of tumor growth.41
- In breast cancer cells specifically, oleuropein reduces malignant cells’ ability to respond to estrogen, the female hormone that many breast cancer cells depend on for their survival.43
- Oleuropein inhibits the production of the “protein-melting” enzymes that cancer cells need in order to invade healthy tissues and metastasize to distant parts of the body.19
These mechanisms have now been shown in laboratory and animal studies to reduce the rates of occurrence, and subsequent development, of a broad variety of cancers, including those of the brain, head and neck, breast, liver, bladder, prostate, and skin, as well as leukemia.42,43,45-49
In one especially vivid study, mice with a high spontaneous cancer rate were orally supplemented with oleuropein.5 The tumors completely regressed and disappeared in 9 to 12 days.5 When the tumors were examined before they vanished, they were found to have a disordered, crumbly consistency, and no cancer cells remained alive within.5
Olive extracts help protect the brain and central nervous system from the destruction brought on by strokes and age-related degenerative conditions such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases.50 They accomplish this by suppressing inflammation and reducing the damage done by oxidative stress.
In acute brain injuries such as those caused by a stroke or trauma, damaging processes such as oxidative stress occur within minutes of the original event—and, ironically, are worsened by the return of normal blood flow to the area.50,51
Researchers found a number of positive effects in animals that were pre-treated with olive leaf extract and then induced with a stroke. Compared with untreated animals, the treated animals experienced a sharp reduction in markers of oxidation and an increase in normal cellular antioxidant systems.52,53 Microscopic examination of brain tissue revealed a similar decline in injury to brain cells and up to a 55% decrease in the volume of dying brain tissue.50 Similar results are shown in experimental spinal cord injury in animals pretreated with oleuropein.53
Olive leaf extracts offer similar protection for neurodegenerative diseases. Oxidative stress occurs more gradually in neurodegenerative diseases. However, the effects add up over a lifetime, producing inflammation and other changes that result in the accumulation of abnormal proteins that interfere with brain function and kill neurons. Olive leaf extracts help prevent these abnormal proteins from assembling into the neurofibrillary tangles seen in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s and similar diseases.54-56
Olive leaves and their extracts have long been used in the Mediterranean as folk remedies for arthritis. Now, scientific evidence has proven that olive leaf extracts can in fact interfere with the development of several different kinds of arthritis, including gout, rheumatoid arthritis, and osteoarthritis.
Gout is caused by the accumulation of uric acid crystals in joints, the byproducts of impaired recycling of DNA and RNA in cells. In a mechanism identical to that of allopurinol (the gold standard drug therapy for gout), oleuropein prevents the buildup of uric acid by inhibiting xanthine oxidase, the enzyme responsible for converting DNA and RNA into uric acid.57
Oleuropein has also been found to help prevent and treat symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. When administered at the earliest sign of arthritis in animal models, oleuropein prevented symptoms from developing and also produced marked improvement in the microscopic appearance of joint tissue from affected animals. When administered after arthritis was fully developed, there was significant improvement in inflammatory changes to joints, compared with untreated animals.58
Oleuropein had similar benefits on osteoarthritis. In animal models of this degenerative joint disease, olive leaf extract improved joint swelling, improved the microscopic appearance of joint tissue, and prevented the production of inflammatory cytokines.59
The Mediterranean diet reduces your risk for virtually every condition associated with aging. Olive oil is a major component of that diet. Olive leaves contain higher amounts of oleuropein, a polyphenol with unique health-improving attributes. These extracts have been used in traditional medicine for centuries to improve age-related diseases.
Now, scientific evidence has shown that these extracts have a remarkable impact on blood pressure and heart disease—and they can help protect against other age-related chronic conditions as well. Convincing evidence now shows that oleuropein-rich olive leaf extracts help prevent many of the underlying factors leading to diabetes, cancer, neurodegenerative diseases, stroke, and arthritis.
Extra-virgin olive oil and olive leaf extract should be considered an important component of one’s health and longevity program.
Olive Leaf Benefits
Olive leaf is the leaf of the olive tree (Olea europaea) was first used medicinally in Ancient Egypt. It is gaining recognition as a powerful defender against sickness and numerous scientific studies have been conducted to investigate the extracts beneficial properties. The reported benefits of olive leaf extract range from promoting increased energy and healthy blood pressure, to supporting the cardiovascular system and the immune system.
Olives are native to Asia Minor and Syria, but are cultivated in Mediterranean countries and also Chile, Peru and South Australia. Olive leaf was first used medicinally in Ancient Egypt and was a symbol of heavenly power. It was also used to mummify pharaohs. More recent knowledge of the olive leaf’s medicinal properties dates back to the early 1800s when pulverised leaves were used in a drink to lower fevers. A few decades later, green olive leaves were used in tea as a treatment for malaria.
Modern health professionals first started using Olive Leaf extract in 1995 when it first became available and although a long-term perspective is not yet possible, initial results are very positive. It is emerging as a very promising and unique herb with multiple applications. It shows considerable therapeutic action against many common conditions. Olive leaf extract is gaining recognition as a powerful defender against sickness, and numerous scientific studies have been conducted to investigate the extract’s beneficial properties. The reported benefits of olive leaf extract’s range from promoting increased energy and healthy blood pressure, to supporting the cardiovascular system, and the immune system.
From research and clinical experience to date, we can say that supplemental olive leaf may be beneficial in the treatment for conditions caused by, or associated with, a virus, retrovirus, bacterium or protozoan. Among those treatable conditions are: influenza, the common cold, candida infections, meningitis, Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), encephalitis, herpes I and II, human herpes virus 6 and 7, shingles (Herpes zoster), HIV/ARC/AIDS, chronic fatigue, hepatitis B, pneumonia, tuberculosis, gonorrhea, malaria, dengue, severe diarrhea, and dental, ear, urinary tract and surgical infections.
Many people who live stressful lives or who may be particularly susceptible to colds and viruses may benefit from long-term use of olive leaf as a preventive agent. Some patients have expressed other unexpected benefits of olive leaf, including improved psoriasis, normalisation of heart beat irregularities, diminished cravings, less pain from hemorrhoids, toothaches and chronically achy joints.
In the early 1900s scientists isolated a bitter compound called oleuropein from olive leaf that was thought to give the olive tree its disease resistance.
In 1962 an Italian researcher recorded that Oleuropein had the ability to lower blood pressure in animals. It dilates the blood vessels so that blood may flow more easily throughout the system. Other European researchers validated that claim and also found it to increase blood flow in the coronary arteries, relieve arrhythmia and prevent intestinal muscle spasms. In the years to come, a Dutch researcher identified that a primary ingredient in oleuropein inhibited the growth of viruses, bacteria, fungi and parasites. This chemical was elenolic acid. Further European research determined this compound to have strong bactericidal, antiviral and antifungal capabilities. A safety study on calcium elenolate was tested with laboratory animals and published by the Upjohn pharmaceutical company in 1970. The study concluded that even in doses several hundred times higher than recommended; no toxic or other adverse side effects were discovered.
Research suggests that olive leaf may be a true anti-viral compound because it appears to selectively block an entire virus-specific system in the infected host. This appears to offer healing effects not addressed by pharmaceutical antibiotics. Olive leaf’s broad killing power includes an ability to interfere with critical amino acid production for viruses; an ability to contain viral infection and/or spread by inactivating viruses by preventing virus shredding, budding or assembly at the cell membrane; the ability to directly penetrate infected cells and stop viral replication.
As an antioxidant, Olive leaf extract protects those blood vessels from damage, and has been shown to be effective in protecting the heart from coronary occlusion. When taken over an extended period of time, it is believed to reverse arteriosclerosis. Olive leaves are astringent and antiseptic. Both the leaves and the bark have valuable febrifuge qualities.
Olive leaves are from olive trees, part of the Olea genus, a plant that has been central to Mediterranean culture for thousands of years. The other product of the plant are olives, from which olive oil is derived. Olive oil has found worldwide acclaim and is now a staple in kitchens around the world. Olive leaf and products produced from the extract have become popular health supplements, particularly as a body detoxifier. This is largely due to its antioxidant capacity, which is comparable to (if not greater than) vitamin c, mangosteen and green tea!
The primary active ingredient responsible for its efficacy is oleuropein, a bitter chemical compound known as a polyphenol. Polyphenols are present in a range of Mediterranean foods such as grapes and red wine, and are thought to contribute toward the benefits associated with the Mediterranean diet. Polyphenols have been shown to interfere with critical amino acid production, which are essential for the replication of viruses, and have proven lethal to human breast and prostate cancer cells in laboratory tests. Traditionally, olive leaf has been shown to act as an anti-microbial remedy, as well as a treatment for colds and flu, whilst green olive leaves have been used in tea as a treatment for malaria.
What’s good about it?
Olive leaf is a versatile supplement that is indicated in numerous conditions. Some of the well documented actions include:
- Boosting the immune system via its powerful antioxidant and free radical scavenging properties
- Inhibiting the growth of viruses, bacteria, fungi and parasites in the body, specifically any infection threatening the body such an ear, dental or urinary tract infection.
- Helping to maintain a normal healthy cardiovascular system. Polyphenols have been shown to inhibited the aggregation of blood platelets or clots, which offer protection from thrombosis and other cardiovascular diseases
- Inhibiting the effects of the herpes virus, with study’s showing that oral (cold sores) and genital herpes viruses were inhibited or killed by olive leaf, whilst the effects of shingles, another herpes variant, is also inhibited
- Reducing blood pressure by dilating blood vessels so that blood may flow more freely, particularly in the coronary arteries
- Relief from the effects of arthritis
- Relief from the effects of chronic fatigue
- Helps reduce the effects of skin conditions such as acne
- It may therefore be a viable alternative to pharmaceutical medication
Dosage and Side effects
Like any supplement some people may experience a range of symptoms after they begin to take olive leaf. This will vary depending on the volume of toxins in your system and the amount of olive leaf being taken. Drinking plenty of water between your doses of olive leaf is recommended to help flush out excess toxins and reduce any reaction. Alternatively you may choose to stop taking the extract for 24-48 hours and then restart on a smaller dosage.
Common side effects associated with olive leaf products include:
- muscle/joint aches or flu-like symptoms The effects of olive leaf on a developing foetus or an infant are unknown, therefore, its use it is not recommended during pregnancy or whilst breast-feeding.
Olive leaf comes in a variety of forms, including liquid, capsule, tea, and powder form. Lotions for topical application and soaps are also available. It is recommended that any olive leaf products are kept away from direct sunlight in a cool place to protect the active ingredients from deterioration. A cool cupboard or refrigerator is ideal in this regard.
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