The olive tree has been a source of food and medicine for thousands of years in Egyptian, Greek, Roman, and more modern cultures. For most of this time, the fruit and oil of the tree have been most valued for their health-giving properties. The medicinal use of an extract of the olive leaf is much more recent. Each part of the olive tree has specific medicinal uses.
Olive Leaf Extract
The olive leaf is used as a nutritional supplement in integrative medicine for the treatment of infectious diseases and the bolstering of the body's immune system. Oleuropein and its main constituent eneloic acid have been identified as the olive-leaf compounds associated with apparent antiviral, antibacterial and antimicrobial properties. Integrative health practitioners use olive leaf extract in the treatment of diseases and conditions such as pelvic inflammatory disease, histoplasmosis, influenza, and cardiac and intestinal disorders.
Olive Fruit Extract
Olive fruit extract is more commonly known as olive oil. Olive oil has been recognised as having beneficial effects in the prevention and treatment of coronary disease. These benefits are due to the high levels of monosaturated fats in the oil.
However, an extract derived from olive skins has been found to inhibit the growth of cancer cells. The skins contain higher amounts of triterpenoids, non nutritive compounds that protect the fruit of the olive against insects and plant diseases.
In essence, the olive leaf shows more ability to fight more acute conditions caused by infectious agents. The olive fruit is more effective in treating conditions with long onsets such as heart disease and cancer. Incorporating fruit extracts like olives and olive oil into the diet is very simple and palatable. On the other hand, the active components of olive leaf extract have a bitter flavour and are more often used as drugs than as food.
Most of the constituents of the olive tree exhibit some ability to combat disease in humans. Both olive-leaf and olive-fruit extracts exhibit antioxidant properties that help combat unhealthy cell growth, whether they are cancer cells or viruses. Specifically, the tripertenes in olive skins, the lineolic acids in olive oil, and elenoic acid in olive skins interfere with and cause the death of abnormal cells.