Approximately 50 million adults in the United States have some form of arthritis, according to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention. Since there is no cure for the painful, sometimes debilitating condition, patients often turn to alternative medicine in the form of foods and supplements to help. The ancient Egyptians used olive leaf as a medicine, but it wasn’t until 2005 that scientific research began to show that olive leaf extracts could also help treat arthritis.
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Olive Leaf Benefits
Olive leaf extracts are made from the fresh or dried leaves of the same plant species that produces olive fruit and olive oil. The extract contains the compounds oleuropein and oleuropeoside, which are polyphenols, or antioxidants that can protect against cell damage from harmful free radicals. Oleuropein and oleuropeoside relax and dilate blood vessels, they are antimicrobial, and they support your immune system.
Arthritis is a term that refers to inflammation in your joints. Although inflammation ordinarily protects your body from infection and foreign substances, when your immune system goes haywire, it mistakenly targets and damages your body’s own tissues. A study published in July 2011 in the journal “Phytotherapy Research” verified that olive leaf extract has the ability to target inflammation by reducing production of cytokines and enzymes that are markers for the inflammatory process.
One of the most unpleasant symptoms of arthritis is chronic pain. In the June 2007 issue of the journal “Nutrition Research,” scientists reported on the results from a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study with 90 human rheumatoid arthritis sufferers who received 400 mg of olive leaf extracts or a placebo for eight weeks. After the study period, the participants who received olive leaf extracts had significantly lower levels of homocysteine and C-reactive protein, both associated with inflammation, and they also experienced significant reductions in pain. A separate study published in “Nature” in September 2005 found that extra-virgin olive oil had similar pharmacological activity to the over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drug ibuprofen.
Olive leaf extracts can decrease blood sugar levels and reduce thyroid-stimulating hormones. Check with your doctor before taking olive leaf extract if you are diabetic or have a thyroid disorder. There are few reported side effects from olive leaf extracts, although there is a lack of human studies to determine long-term effects. Olive tree pollen can cause severe allergies in sensitive individuals. There is no recommended dose for olive leaf extracts, but doses of oleuropein up to 1 g per kg of body weight in mice aren't toxic. A typical 500 mg to 750 mg capsule of olive leaf extract contains approximately 20 mg of oleuropein.