Cholesterol, a waxy lipid, or fat, found in your blood, occurs naturally in your body. It helps create cell membranes, produce hormones and support nerve function. Although cholesterol helps your body perform properly, uncontrolled high cholesterol can result in serious health problems including heart disease. According to Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, olive leaf extract may help reduce high cholesterol levels. The extract is generally considered safe, but as with most alternative remedies, more scientific research is needed to confirm its efficacy. Check with your health care provider before incorporating olive leaf extract into your health regimen.
Health care providers recommend getting your cholesterol level checked every six months. A cholesterol level above 200 is considered borderline high, and above 240 requires aggressive treatment. Preventive measures include a healthy weight, low-fat diet and exercise. In addition, patients should quit smoking and drink alcohol in moderation.
Native to the Mediterranean region, the olive tree is an evergreen that grows to heights of 30 feet. It has a grooved, gray trunk and bears small white flowers and green fruit ripening to black. The tree's small, leathery leaves contain high concentrations of a medicinal extract used to treat a variety of health conditions.
The purported cholesterol-lowering effects of olive leaf extracts likely come from oleuropein, a substance in the leaf. "Prescription for Herbal Healing" states that a 1994 experiment indicated that oleuropein reduces the oxidation of low-density lipoproteins, or bad cholesterol. Additionally, a Tunisian study, published in the November 2008 journal Chemico-biological Interactions, found that oleuropein-rich extracts from olive leaves significantly lower cholesterol levels. However, this study was performed on animals, and few current trials on humans are available.
Olive leaf extract comes in capsule form. Author Phyllis A. Balch, in "Prescription for Herbal Healing," suggests taking one or two capsules totaling 250 to 500 mg daily to help prevent high cholesterol. For treating symptoms of high cholesterol, the recommended dosage varies according to your cholesterol level. Due to varying strengths of olive leaf extract, always follow label instructions.
Olive leaf extract can occasionally cause stomach upset and should be taken with meals. Drink at least four 8 oz. glasses of water between each dose to reduce adverse digestive effects. Pregnant and lactating women, children, and people with severe liver or kidney disease should avoid the extract.