The science of olive leaves


The Mediterranean diet is a well-known, age resisting combination of vegetables and seafood and occasional wine, which is typical of the Mediterranean basin, and the healthy ageing often found there. Olives, particularly their oil, are a major part of it. Less well known are the phytochemical riches found in the olive tree’s leaves (see Why Nutraceuticals Matter).

Science continues to uncover the health-giving constituents of olives. Oleocanthal, for instance, which is the ingredient that burns your throat if you drink olive oil straight, was only identified in 2003, and turns out to block inflammatory enzymes as effectively as some commercial drugs.

Hydroxytryosol has the rare status of a health claim – that it stops oxidation of cholesterol, a key step in heart disease (see Heart Disease) – being recognised by the European Food Safety Authority.

There are many others, but in the last few years, investigators have noticed that the leaves of an olive tree have even higher levels of health preserving phytochemicals than the fruit.

Oleuropein, for instance, another bitter anti-inflammatory, and one of the olive’s most studied ingredients, forms anything from 0.005 to 0.12% of the oil, but 1 to 14% of the leaves.

Investigation of olive leaf extracts show they block various steps in the inflammation pathway, and scavenge free radicals, which are a major cause of age related inflammation (see Ageing and inflammation). They have several times the free radical scavenging power of vitamin C and green tea.

Olive leaves were once no more than a folk remedy, infused in hot water (good for fever, apparently). Modern science shows their phytochemical load and its health preserving potential are the best the olive tree has to offer.

One capsule of LifeGuard Essentials delivers 200 milligrams of olive leaf extract, the equivalent of 20 grams of dry leaf, which contains 20 % oleuropein.