The medicinal parts are the dried leaves, the oil extracted from the ripe drupes, and the fresh branches containing leaves and clusters of flowers.
Flower and Fruit
The flowers are in small axillary clustered inflorescence. The calyx has 4 tips. The white corolla has a short tube and 4 lobes. The superior ovary is bilocular, with each side having 2 hanging anatropal ovules. The drupe has 1 to 2 seeds, is fleshy, plumlike, or round. The smooth drupe is initially green, then red, and finally blue-black when ripe. The very hard stone contains oblong compact seeds with many endosperm.
Leaves, Stem, and Root
Olive grows as a medium high shrub or a tree up to 10 m high. The plant has pale bark and canelike, quadrangular to round, initially downy, thorny or thornless branches. The leaves are opposite, entire, stiff, coriaceous, narrow-elliptical to lanceolate, or cordate with thorny tips. The upper surface is dark green, glabrous, or covered with scattered scutiform hairs; the underside shimmers silver with scutiform hairs.
The plant grows in almost all of the southern European countries and throughout the entire Mediterranean region as far as Iran and beyond the Caucasus. Olive trees are cultivated in many regions of the world.
Olive leaves consist of the fresh or dried leaves of Olea europaea. The leaves are harvested from cultivated trees and dried in the shade. Olive oil is the fatty oil extracted from the drupes of Olea europaea, using the cold-press method.
Not to be Confused With
Confusion can arise between Olive leaves and the leaves of Nerium oleander. The oils of Camellia sasanqua and other Camellia species can be mistaken for Olive oil.
Actions & Pharmacology
Compounds: Olive Oil
Chief fatty acids: oleic acid (56-83%), palmitic acid (8-20%), linoleic acid (4-20%)
Steroids (0.125 to 0.25%): beta-sitosterol, delta7-stigmasterol, delta5-avenasterol, campesterol, stigmasterol
Compounds: Olive Leaves
Iridoide monoterpenes: including among others, oleoropine (6-9%), additionally 6-O-oleoropinesaccharose, ligstroside, oleoroside, oleoside-7,11-dimeth-ylether
Triterpenes: including oleanolic acid, maslinic acid
Flavonoids: luteolin-7-O-glucoside, apigenine-7-O-glucoside
Chalcones: olivin, olivin-4′-O-diglucoside
Effects: Olive Oil
Through the presence of polyunsaturated fatty acids, the drug has an antisclerotic effect by positively influencing the serum lipids. A reduction of plasma glucose has also been observed. Contraction of the gallbladder was observed with the increase of cholecystokinin in the plasma.
Effects: Olive Leaves
Olive leaf extract is used to enhance the immune system, as an antimicrobial, as an antioxidant, as a hypoglycemic agent, and in heart disease. Preparations of olive leaves help to control hyperglycemia in experimentally induced diabetes. Some practitioners tout its use in hepatitis. Animal tests have demonstrated hypotensive, antiarrhythmic, and spasmolytic effects on the smooth muscle of the intestine, caused by the terpenes and phenols of the drug.
Antioxidant Effects: Olive leaf contains flavonoids that possess antioxidant activity, and tissue antioxidant status has been proposed as a key factor in the development of diabetic complications. This may help explain why an orally administered preparation of olive leaf substantially diminished tissue damage in the kidneys and liver in rats with streptozotoxin-induced diabetes (Onderoglu et al, 1999).
Anticomplement Effects: Because surveys of traditional medicines in the Mediterranean region have suggested that a decoction of olive leaf has anti-inflammatory activity, in vitro hemolytic assays were undertaken and showed that a methanolic extract of the leaves strongly inhibited the classical complement pathway without activating the alternative pathway. This activity appeared to reside in several flavonoids present in the leaf extracts (Pieroni et al, 1996).
Hypoglycemic Effects: Oral administration of an infusion or decoction of olive leaf exerted a hypoglycemic effect in normoglycemic rats and in animals made diabetic with alloxan (Gonzalez et al. 1992). In another experimental model of diabetes, induced by streptozotocin, olive leaf failed to lower blood glucose levels or prevent glucosuria and ketonuria, but it did reduce circulating levels of liver enzymes and minimized histopathologic abnormalities in both the kidneys and liver (Onderoglu et al, 1999).
Smooth Muscle Relaxant Effects: In experiments demonstrating that a dried extract of olive leaf has relaxant effects on both isolated rat ileal tissue and rat tracheal segments, the effects were not altered in the presence of calcium antagonists including verapamil and nifedipine. It is possible, however, that olive leaf extract alters calcium transport through an increase in the intracellular concentration of cyclic adenomonophosphate (Fehri et al, 1995).
A study was done to identify the major phenolic compounds present in an extract of olive leaf and estimate their antioxidant activity by their ability to scavenge the radical cation ABTS. Several structural attributes of flavonoids present in olive leaf, including 3-hydroxyl groups, influenced the ability of these compounds to scavenge free radicals. Radical scavenging capacity increased with the number of free hydroxyl groups present in the flavonoid structure. The flavonoid rhamnoglucoside rutin was the most effective compound. The flavonoids, oleuropeosides, and substituted phenols present in olive leaf extract exhibited synergism with respect to antioxidant activity (Benavente-Garcia et al, 2000).
Olive leaf extract had an antihypertensive effect in patients with essential arterial hypertension. Patients were separated into two groups: first timers who had never been previously treated with hypotensive medication (n=12), and a second group who had previously benefited from some sort of antihypertensive therapy such as diuretic or beta-blocker medication (n=18). For the second group, all therapeutic medications were removed 15 days prior to the beginning of the study. Both groups then received placebo gel capsules for 2 weeks. For the 3 months that followed, the placebo was replaced with similar gel capsules, each containing 400 mg olive leaf extract. Patients took 2 capsules daily for total dose of approximately 1.6 g olive leaf extract daily. A significant decrease in blood pressure occurred in all patients (p<0.001). No adverse effects were reported during treatment with olive leaf extract and patients especially noted a disappearance of gastric disturbances that they had previously experienced on beta-blocker medication. As a side note, the authors also found a small, but significant decrease of glycemia (p<0.01) and calcium (p<0.001) in the groups (Cherif et al, 1996).
Compared with milk fat and safflower oil, olive oil resulted in significantly higher postprandial plasma triglyceride and triacylglycerol remnantlike particle concentrations (p less than 0.05). Eight healthy subjects ingested a fat load in the form of a drink and blood samples were taken at 2, 4, and 6 hours. Blood samples were not measured through the 10 to 12 hours it normally takes to clear chylomicrons. Plasma triglycerides were maximal 4 hours post-dose. None of the fat loads significantly increased total or HDL cholesterol (Higashi et al, 1997).
Indications & Usage
Folk medicine uses include hypertonia, arteriosclerosis, rheumatism and gout, diabetes mellitus, and fever.
Internal uses of the oil in folk medicine include cholangitis, inflammation of the gallbladder, flatulence, constipation, icterus, Roemhel syndrome, gastrointestinal ulcers and kidney stones. Externally, it has been used for psoriasis, eczema, sunburn, mild burns and rheumatism. Its use as a lubricant for constipation and dry skin conditions appears plausible because of the oily characteristics.
The internal administration of the drug can trigger colic among gallstone sufferers, so its use is contraindicated.
Precautions & Adverse Reactions
Intraocular use of olive leaf may irritate the surface of the eye (Brinker, 1998). If olive leaf preparations are administered to patients with biliary tract stones, there may be a risk of causing biliary colic through promoting the secretion of bile (Brinker, 1998). Pollinosis, in the form of rhinitis or bronchial asthma, has been reported.
No human interaction data available.
Mode of Administration
The drug is available for oral use in mono and combination tea mixture preparations.
- Capsules — 580 mg
- Tablets — 150 mg
- Preparation: An infusion is prepared by pouring 150 mL of hot water over 7 to 8 g of the dried leaves. Prepare a tea by pouring hot water over 2 teaspoonfuls of the drug and allowing it to steep for 30 minutes.
Tea: 3 to 4 cups throughout the day.
- Constipation — 100 to 500 mL Olive oil at body temperature applied rectally.
- Gastrointestinal ulcers — 15 to 30 mL 3 taken times daily at mealtimes.