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  • Northeast Wisconsin
  • January 2010
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Olive leaf

Many of us seem to be familiar with cooking with olive oil and its many health benefits, and maybe you’re also familiar with its use in cosmetic products, but did you know that the leaf of the olive tree also has a wide range of health benefits? The leaf is very fibrous and not considered edible, but it can be used as tea or an herbal extract.

Olive, or olea europaea (its botanical name), is an evergreen tree native to the Mediterranean region. A well-established tree is amazingly resilient and has a very long lifespan. Some olive trees are believed to be over 2,000 years old. Olive has been coined “the tree of life,” giving both fruit, oil, and medicine; its use dates back thousands of years.

Its primary properties include being an astringent, antiseptic, antihypertensive and anti-inflammatory. It also possesses antibacterial, antiviral, antioxidant, bitter, and immune stimulating properties, to name a few. It is sited in the herbal literature as an herb to prevent and treat a long list of bacteria and viral infections, as well as several diseases. The bitter constituent in olive leaf, oleuropein, has been recognized as producing the plant’s powerful disease fighting capability.

Its antiviral actions have been found effective at “inactivating the virus, preventing the virus from shedding its coat, budding, or assembling at the cell membrane. It can also directly penetrate an infected host and inhibit viral replication.” In his book, “Herbal Antivirals,” Buhner describes olive leaf’s ability to protect the cilial structures and lung mucosa, where viruses, specifically influenza, target and destroy the cells ability “to move mucus up and out of the lungs.” Further, the leaf also “relaxes and dilates peripheral blood vessels and protects the body against hardening of arteries.” Olive leaf’s antioxidant properties also make it nourishing to the heart and circulatory system, to prevent oxidative damage.

The leaf can be made into a tea for internal or external use. To use externally, steep one tablespoon of the single herb in eight ounces of water for half an hour. Strain out the herb material. Soak a cloth in the tea and apply to the affected skin. It can be used to dress infections, athlete’s foot, lice, ringworm or wounds.

The herbal tea blend, below, gives one example of how easily olive leaf can be enjoyed in one’s diet. This tea supports the immune system while also giving an antioxidant boost — an excellent choice to avoid any lingering cold symptoms this spring.

Immune Support tea

  • 1 teaspoon elder berries
  • ½ teaspoon olive leaf, dried
  • ½ teaspoon elder flowers
  • ½ teaspoon rose hips
  • Combine herbs and pour the mix into a tea filter. Add to a mug and pour boiling water over. Steep 10-15 minutes and enjoy!

In addition to its medicinal benefits, olive trees are quickly becoming a favorite indoor houseplant or hostess gift. They provide a beautiful touch to a sunny room and require little water. Choose a dwarf variety and bring outside for the summer to keep the tree healthy. This is an easy way to have your own harvest of olive leaves right at your fingertips. Dry the leaves thoroughly and store in glass jars out of direct light. Leaves will store well for up to two years.

As always, please talk to your health care provider before adding herbs into your diet. 

References: Tierra, M. (1998). “The Way of Herbs.” Pocket Books.

Buhner, S. H. (2013). “Herbal Antivirals.” Storey Publishing.

Balch, P. A. (2012). “Prescription for Herbal Healing.” Penguin Group.

Mars, B. (2007). “The Desktop Guide to Herbal Medicine.” Basic Health Publications, Inc.

Wood, M. (2008). The Earthwise Herbal. “A Complete Guide to Old World Medicinal Plants.” North Atlantic Books.

Dana Schlies

Dana is a Certified Women’s Herbal Educator and Community Herbalist. She is passionate about educating women about the many botanical and alternative methods to bring the body into balance and create vibrant, healthy living. She utilizes a comprehensive approach including environment, nutrition, exercise, stress reduction and botanicals to bring support to the whole body. She is part of the team at Sweet Willow Naturals, and can be reached at 920-530-1188 or [email protected]

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