Lyme disease is caused by bacteria carried by deer ticks. With some 16,000 new cases reported annually, it’s the top tick-borne disease in the United States. You are at risk no matter which area of the country you live in, as this disease has been reported in nearly every state. If you have Lyme disease, olive leaf extract has properties that, in theory, may help you. Check with a doctor before trying it, and don’t treat this condition with an alternative therapy alone.
Olive leaf extract may help with Lyme disease because it exhibits immune-boosting properties as well as antibacterial and antifungal activity, according to the book “The Top 10 Lyme Disease Treatments.” Olive leaf extract is used in folk medicine to reduce symptoms of numerous other conditions, including chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, jock itch, yeast syndrome and athlete’s foot, notes the April 1999 issue of "Better Nutrition" magazine. Lyme disease is typically treated with antibiotics and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications to alleviate inflammation and pain.
The plant phenol oleuropein in olive leaf appears to be the bioactive compound that is responsible for medicinal, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory qualities that are theoretically effective against Lyme disease. Olive tree leaves are used widely in European and Mediterranean-area folk medicine remedies, say researchers in a 2009 article published in the journal "Nutrition Reviews." Olive leaf extract is capable of destroying numerous bacteria, including fungi that cause skin diseases, Candida albicans and E. coli, according to a 2003 study published in the journal “Mycoses.” The extract was tested at a concentration of .6 percent in water in a laboratory setting. While these findings suggest that olive leaf extract has strong antimicrobial potential, researchers note that more studies are needed. Lyme disease is caused by the bacterium B. burgdorferi.
While laboratory and animal studies point to potential benefits from olive leaf, not all studies on humans find that it is effective. For example, a 2009 study published in the journal “Nutrition” on whether olive leaf extract is beneficial as an antioxidant found that olive leaf extract supplements do not reduce oxidative stress in healthy young adults. Antioxidants are commonly used to combat inflammation, such as that suffered during Lyme disease. One reason for the lack of antioxidant action in the study subjects may be that there is difficulty absorbing olive leaf extract in the digestive tract. Another study published in the 2000 edition of “Nutrition” notes that olive leaf extract’s active compound, oleuropein, may be difficult to absorb via the intestines. For reasons such as this, substances that appear promising in laboratory studies don’t always provide benefits to humans. This study was performed on rats, however, so the same difficulty may or may not exist in humans.
There is no recommended dosage for olive leaf supplementation to gain its theoretical benefits in treating Lyme disease, including anti-inflammatory, immune-boosting and anti-fungal effect, notes Drugs.com. That makes it especially important to discuss using this supplement with a doctor. Drug interactions, side effects and possible adverse reactions are not well-documented in scientific studies either. There is a theoretical interaction with diabetes medications because some studies indicate olive leaf may have blood-sugar-lowering effects, according to Drugs.com. Early symptoms of Lyme disease resemble the flu. You may suffer a headache, chills, fever and muscle pain. In later stages you may have overall body itching, a stiff neck, joint inflammation and strange behavior. If your Lyme disease is not diagnosed in early stages, you also may suffer heart rhythm problems and nervous system issues like numbness, decreased concentration and nerve damage. In rare cases, you may have post Lyme-disease syndrome in which symptoms interfere with your daily life. According to the National Institutes of Health, there is no effective treatment for this syndrome.
- “The Top 10 Lyme Disease Treatments”; Bryan Rosner and James Schaller; 2007
- "Better Nutrition" Magazine; Olive Leaf Extract; Morton Walker; April 1999
- “Nutrition Reviews”; Olive Tree (Olea Europaea) Leaves: Potential Beneficial Effects on Human Health; S.N. El and S. Karakaya ; 2009
- “Journal of Nutrition”; The Olive Constituent Oleuropein Exhibits Anti-Ischemic, Antioxidative and Hypolipidemic Effects in Anesthetized Rabbits; I. Andreadou, et al.; 2006
- “Nutrition”; Zero Effect of Multiple Dosage of Olive Leaf Supplements on Urinary Biomarkers of Oxidative Stress in Healthy Humans; M. Kendall, et al.; 2009