The Potent Skin-Healing Antioxidant You Probably Haven't Considered

olive leaf branch

 The Bialons/Unsplash

We're all familiar with the numerous health benefits of olive oil, thanks in large part to the Mediterranean diet. But a lesser-known ingredient—derived from the leaves of the plant rather than the fruit—actually boasts an even higher concentration of that good stuff. "Olive leaf has been used for centuries, especially in parts of Europe and North Africa like Greece, Tunisia, and Morocco," explains Shauna Reiter, founder of Alaya Naturals which includes olive leaf extract in its lineup of supplements. "We're just beginning to westernize it and make it more commonly known, but we need only to look to what our ancestors have done to understand how to utilize it."

Reiter began using olive leaf extract as an alternative to antibiotics, as she developed an autoimmune condition that made her subject to chronic infection. "At some point, my body was just screaming at me to stop," admits Reiter. At the recommendation of a friend, she had gone to see a Chinese acupuncturist who looked took one look at her tongue and told her to stop taking antibiotics right away. She began doing acupuncture consistently and exploring nutrition more deeply—especially supplements to help boost her immune system. "That’s where I began in my personal collection," she recalls.

When she became a mother, Reiter found the nutritional supplements on the market weren't great for situation—either they didn't perform, were too expensive, or yielded unwanted side effects. She decided to launch her own brand, making purer and more potent versions of the natural remedies she'd kept in her medicine cabinet, including olive leaf extract. "I already had spent most of my life studying nutrition, learning from friends and health practitioners who have assisted me along the way," explains Reiter. Here, she speaks to the benefits of olive leaf extract and how to incorporate it into your wellness routine.

It's a preventive measure

"It's really simple—you just take a capsule a day," says Reiter. "You can just take it along with any other supplement as prevention or you can have it on hand in case you feel something coming on—a virus, a cold, a bacterial infection, or any kind of irritation inside or out." She says that "the purpose of supplementing and staying strong is so that you can do the things that you're meant to do on this planet most effectively—not be side-tracked by feeling lousy."

Alaya olive leaf extract
Alaya Naturals Olive Leaf Extract $22 $20

It boosts the immune system

"Olive leaf extract is anti-everything that you don't want in your system and it promotes everything that supports a healthy immune system, including the central nervous system," explains Reiter. It's antimicrobial and antibacterial, helping your body fight off harmful bacteria and infections.

Alleviates pain and discomfort

"Olive leaf extract, in particular, was one of the supplements that I found to be the most powerful antidote to a lot of the more uncomfortable symptoms I was experiencing because its benefits are so vast," recounts Reiter who notes that it even reduces pain stimuli. "If you're experiencing pain in your body, it helps eliminate the sensorial experience."

Calms irritation and facilitates healing

Both internally and externally, olive leaf extract calms irritation. For this reason, it's used for acne, minor wounds, and skin irritations. While for those ailments the best approach is usually topical, Reiter does note that "whatever you consume internally also helps externally." The below serum uses anti-inflammatory properties in olive leaf extract to keep skin calm and soothed.

Kora Noni Bright serum
Kora Organics Noni Bright Vitamin C Serum $68

It lowers blood pressure

Similar to olive oil, olive leaf extract is excellent for cardiovascular health. Studies have found that phenolic-rich olive leaf extract reduces blood pressure.

It helps protect the digestive system

Gut health is benefitted by supplementing with olive leaf extract, in everyday terms as well as on a more serious level. "Having suffered from Chron's disease and ulcerative colitis, the fact that olive leaf extract is gastroprotective is particularly exciting for me, personally," says Reiter.

It's loaded with antioxidants

Olive leaf extract is packed with antioxidants, making it a beneficial choice not just for consumption but for topical application. The below cream is formulated with olive leaf extract to help protect against environmental damage.

DHC olive leaf cream
DHC Olive Leaf Cream $42

It's something of a "cure-all"

Reiter emphasizes that the first 24 to 48 hours that you begin to feel under the weather is the best time to treat something. "Olive leaf extract is something I believe everyone should just have in their cabinet on hand, as part of their personal pharmacy, because it doesn't really matter what you're struggling with," advises Reiter. "So if you can go ahead and have something on hand instead of having to run the pharmacy in the middle of the workday and get it, it makes life a lot more efficient."

Things to know before you try it

Reiter notes that individuals with blood sugar issues should consult with their doctor before taking olive leaf extract because it affects glucose levels in the body. While this is referred to as a "hyperglycemic effect" and is a positive thing in that it keeps your blood sugar from spiking, it is still best to discuss with a healthcare practitioner before starting any kind of new supplemental routine. She also notes that studies suggest that olive leaf extract may help lower blood pressure, which is wonderful in terms of cardiovascular health, but means that anyone with issues relating to their blood pressure should also consult with their doctor before enjoying this supplement. 

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