What to look for in your olive leaf extract

What is olive leaf extract?

Olive leaf extract is a herbal medicine derived from the olive leaf. It contains a bunch of beneficial compounds, including the well-known bioactive oleuropein. A variety of olive leaf extract products – usually in liquid form – are available both over-the-counter and for professional dispensing.

What are the benefits of olive leaf extract?

When taken at high enough doses, olive leaf extract is a natural antioxidant that has been shown to help control blood pressure, improve insulin sensitivity and boost the immune system. Ever had a chest cold? Your pharmacist probably suggested this little beauty to help speed up your recovery. 

How much olive leaf extract do you need to take? 

Enough olive leaf extract to deliver about 100mg of oleuropein or more per day seems to give the best cardiovascular results, according to the studies done so far. 

So, what’s the problem with olive leaf extract?

The labelling! 

When you go to purchase olive leaf extract – or get a pro to prescribe it for you – you usually select the brand or product based on what’s listed on the label. The problem is that not all products share the same info on the pack. So, it’s hard to work out which one is high quality and potent enough to get results.

What’s more, most products push their levels of ‘superior’ oleuropein in their marketing. But all the science says that it’s how all the different bioactive compounds work together that delivers the real benefits. 

In short, you can’t just look at the levels of oleuropein when purchasing a product – you need to look at the olive leaf extract’s entire profile! 

What does the latest olive leaf extract research say?

This is something that The Olive Wellness Institute wanted to explore. Published in Molecules, the first-of-its-kind study worked to benchmark both over-the-counter and professionally dispensed olive leaf extract products available in Australia. 

In short, the study was designed to help consumers choose the best product for them.

What did the researchers test?

The researchers examined ten liquid olive leaf extract products available on the Australian market. Five of these were over-the-counter products, while the other five products had to be dispensed by professionals. The products were analysed for a bunch of important compounds, including oleuropein, hydroxytyrosol, oleacein, oleocanthal, total biophenols, maslinic acid, and oleanolic acid.

What did researchers find?

Of the 10 olive leaf extract products tested, only two – both of which are available over-the-counter – provided more than 100mg of oleuropein per day. 

Surprisingly, all of the touted ‘higher strength’ practitioner-only products provided less than 51mg of oleuropein per day at the maximum recommended dose. 

What’s more, most of the over-the-counter products used fresh olive leaves, resulting in an average 3.5 times the oleuropein level of professionally dispensed products. Fresh leaf extracts tend to be more naturally produced, while dry leaf extracts require alcohol and solvents to extract the bioactive compounds.

‘Products made with fresh olive leaf were shown to have higher oleuropein and generally lower hydroxytyrosol levels compared to extracts made from dry leaf, indicating that in the dry leaf products much of the oleuropein had broken down,’ explains Lead Researcher, Ian Breakspear, from Endeavour College of Natural Health.

The takeaway? 

Look for olive leaf extracts that are clearly marked as being made from fresh olive leaves if you want to capture all the heart health and immune support benefits. And remember, always read the label!

Looking for more health and fitness research news? Take a look at how drinking coffee before your midday nap could help reduce grogginess

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About Katelyn Swallow 36 Articles
Katelyn Swallow is a journalist, editor and communications professional based in Perth. She is the Editor-in-Chief of STRONG Fitness Magazine Australia, the previous editor of Women's Health and Fitness magazine, and a regular contributor to STRONG in the US.