Since ancient times, the olive tree has been harvested for its wood, food and oil. Today, physicians and patients are utilizing the olive tree for the healing properties of olive leaf extract. When consumed via capsules, tablets or liquids, “olive leaf extract prevents virus infections of nearly all types,” says James R. Privitera, M.D., of Covina, CA. “In my practice, I find that this scientifically validated anti-viral substance often helps chronic fatigue patients boost their energy.”
In addition to killing viruses, says Dr. Privitera, “Olive leaf extract is broadly anti-microbial, anti-fungal, anti-parasitic and anti-bacterial. People with chronic fatigue syndrome have impaired immunity, which leads to assorted infections with viruses, parasites, fungi, and bacteria,” he continues. “Olive leaf extract is one of the safest and most effective supplements I’ve found that improves chronic fatigue syndrome patients’ immunity.”
The active ingredient in olive leaf extract is oleuropein; this is part of a compound in the olive tree which makes it strongly resistant to insects and bacteria. Oleuropein is derived from the bitter part of olives, which is eliminated from them when they are cured. Oleuropein is an iridoid, or a type of plant chemical, found throughout the olive tree and in olive oil.
Healing properties of olive leaves were first discussed in medical literature in an 1854 medical journal article by Daniel Hanbury, M.D., a British physician. Hanbury boiled the leaves and used the liquid to treat people stricken with fever and malaria contracted in Britain’s tropical colonies. Dr. Hanbury correctly speculated that a bitter substance in the leaves acted as the healing ingredient: years later, scientists isolated this and named it oleuropein.
In the 1960s, European researchers found that the active ingredient in oleuropein, elenolic acid, exerts powerful anti- bacterial effects. Toward the end of the decade, research found that elenolic acid also stops the growth of viruses, including those associated with the common cold. Preliminary research suggests that olive leaf extract also inhibits the growth of pathogenic bacteria, viruses, worms, protozoa, and microfungi. “Athlete’s foot fungus is often quickly remedied by liquid olive leaf extract,” says Dr. Privitera.
According to Dr. Privitera, “The key thing for consumers to remember when choosing olive leaf extracts, is to buy ones which contain at least 5% oleuropein. 5% is the national standard,” he says, “and some manufacturers don’t list their percentages, which means that consumers don’t always know what they’re getting.” Privitera recommends that CFIDS patients start off taking small amounts of olive leaf extract, since the remedy causes viral die-off that may result in an exhausted feeling. Patients are advised that they are most likely to feel the benefits of the extract within a month.
“CFIDS patients should start with one 500 mg. tablet of olive leaf extract a day in the morning,” says Dr. Privitera. “If the person feels alright after three days, they should go up to two. They should keep increasing it to 4 or 5 a day. If a great result occurs,” he says, “then they should cut down to where they can take the least amount of it and stay on a maintenance dosage.”
Along with its uses for CFIDS and fibromyalgia patients, Dr. Privitera is especially impressed with how olive leaf extract can clear up yeast and herpes infections in patients who take birth control pills. “Although birth control pills promote these infections,” he says, “I’ve seen olive leaf extract clear these up in a matter of weeks.”
“I think people with CFIDS and fibromyalgia should definitely give olive leaf extract a try,” says Candy Lynch, 48, of San Dimas, CA. “It has helped remedy some of my immune deficiency, and it may help theirs, too.” Lynch, who was diagnosed with CFIDS and FMS in 1990, is a patient of Dr. Privitera’s who started taking olive leaf extract in July, 1995. The mother of six children, Lynch has traveled through more valleys of exhaustion than she cares to recall. After three weeks on olive leaf extract, however, Lynch reports, “I developed considerably more energy and stamina. My aches were noticeably reduced and my sleep quality improved because I stopped waking up so often in the middle of the night.” Lynch started out taking four tablets a day and now usually takes six a day.
“If I feel extra-achy, I’ll take two extra tablets and make it an eight tablet day,” she says. “I think the olive leaf extract also improves my cognitive function. It seems to clear up the brain fog.”
Another patient of Dr. Privitera’s who endorses olive leaf extract is Mary Ruiz, 58, of Whittier, CA. Although she admits to having been “flattened” by Epstein-Barr virus that was diagnosed in 1991, “Olive leaf extract has helped me through some rough periods,” she says. “It has helped me regain some of my energy and build up my strength reserves. Although I take other supplements, I feel better after adding the olive leaf extract to my nutritional regimen.” Ruiz says she initially took about three to six capsules a day and felt an energy boost within a month. “Now I take two capsules a day, or three on a busy day.”
The active ingredient in Pro Health’s Olive Leaf Extract, oleuropein has been found to eliminate viruses by interfering with the body’s production of certain amino acids. This action starves viruses of nutrients necessary for survival and replication.