Olive leaf (Olea europaea) remedies are popular in countries ranging from Greece and Italy to Australia and New Zealand and in Africa. Leaves from olive trees contain flavonoid polyphenols such as oleuropein and hydroxytyrosol, which have antioxidant, antiviral, anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial effects. In fact, researchers have found that extract made from olive leaf has a greater antioxidant capacity even than other more highly touted sources, including pomegranate, blueberry, cranberry and even green tea. Multiple studies have demonstrated olive leaf's potential in...

• Preventing or managing infection. In lab and animal studies, scientists have discovered that olive leaf is effective against a wide range of bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites-and with out the worrisome side effects of antibiotics.

• Lowering blood pressure. In a South African study, olive leaf extract thwarted the development of severe hypertension in salt sensitive, insulin-resistant rats.

• Preventing heart disease. Laboratory studies in Italy showed that olive leaf extract inhibits low-density lipoprotein (LDL) oxidation. An Australian study showed that liquid olive leaf extract (tested in vitro) has antiplatelet effects that may help prevent clots.

• Controlling blood sugar. Animal studies suggest that olive leaf improves sugar uptake, which may prove helpful in preventing or treating diabetes and metabolic syndrome.

Three Ways to try It

Olive leaf is readily available online and in health-food stores as an extract and in capsule form, as well as tea, though some find the taste bitter and unappealing.

Advice from Dr. Yanez: At the first sign of a cold or the flu, take three capsules three or four times a day...or, if you prefer the extract, drink it straight (follow the package directions for one serving) or drink two cups daily of olive leaf tea.

Olive leaf is generally considered safe, but as always when trying an herbal remedy, check with your doctor first. This is especially important if you have a chronic condition-olive leaf may interact with certain diabetes and blood pressure drugs, and some people are allergic to olive tree pollen and should be on the alert for hives or other signs of allergy to the extract.

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