Oleuropein is a glucoside or the active element present in green olives as well as olive leaves. Olive leaf contains other active ingredients too, such as hydroxytyrosol, flavonoids, polyphenols and oleocanthal. Oleuropein and olive oil are extracted from the olive leaves and green olives and are often used in alternative medicine for their therapeutic attributes.

Scientists have already started assessing the health benefits of oleuropein, olive oil and olive leaf. The fact that people residing in the Mediterranean region suffered from fewer incidences of heart ailments and cancers actually prompted the scientists to undertake these studies. It has been found that the occurrences of colon and prostate cancers are very low among those inhabiting the Mediterranean region. According to the scientists, the vegetables, fruits, peas and fish incorporated in the diet of people in this region are responsible for their better health.

Oleuropein, or for that matter even olive oil, is known to have anti-aging actions, besides possessing anti-inflammatory, antifungal and antibiotic properties. In addition, oleuropein is also said to stimulate the immune system. It has also been found that extracts from olive leaf help to reduce blood pressure. During the course of an international research, scientists have found that the extract from the olive leaf encloses about two-fold more antioxidants compared to the extract of green tea.

Owing to the exceptional antioxidant attributes of oleuropein, it helps to protect our body from the damages caused by free radicals. Free radicals that have been oxidized are likely to harm the healthy body cells provided they remain in the body for a prolonged period. As we all are aware free radicals are not only detrimental for our health, but also extremely reactive. Hence, it is essential to consume antioxidant rich foods to put off development of various diseases, including cancer.

Oleuropein is basically a polyphenol (polymeric phenol) obtained from the leaves, fruits, bark and root of the olive tree. The active ingredients contained by the olive tree make it extremely resistant to damages caused by insects as well as other diseases. Oleuropein is grouped as an iridoid (a type of secondary metabolites) too.

Olive oil as well as the olive tree contains oleuropein, which encloses elenolic acid. This plant acid is especially helpful for sustaining the health of the immune system of our body.

Health benefits of oleuropein

Scientists have succeeded in isolating the exceptional molecule (oleuropein), which is responsible for the numerous health benefits offered by olive oil. A polyphenol, oleuropein helps to reduce blood pressure as well as blood cholesterol levels, protect us against developing cancer, oxidative damages and also aid in shielding us from cognitive decline. This polyphenol extracted from the olive tree possesses a characteristic strong, spicy, and somewhat bitter flavour that is found in superior quality extra virgin olive oils.

As discussed earlier, the plant polyphenol called oleuropein is a very powerful antioxidant that has the ability to protect the cells of the body from damages caused by free radicals. Basically, free radicals are extremely dangerous substances that are released by the cells when undergoing reactions involving oxygen in the body and they have been associated with augmented risks of developing cancers (a health problem wherein the cells multiply very rapidly going beyond control), diabetes (a health condition wherein the blood sugar rises to dangerous levels), a feeble immune system and premature aging.

Primary studies involving oleuropein show that it is a tyrosol ester that may prove to offer more health advantages to humans. For the uninitiated, oleuropein may also work in the form of an antibacterial agent eliminating or inhibiting bacterial growth; antifungal curing infections caused by fungi; antiviral eliminating or inhibiting virus growth; and possess anti-inflammatory properties and put a stop to inflammations in our body. In addition, oleuropein may also be useful in preventing heart ailments and diabetes. This plant polyphenol may offer other health benefits, including protecting the skin from damages caused by ultraviolet (UV) ray; lower the levels of low density lipoprotein (LDL), also known as 'bad cholesterol' that blocks the walls of the artery and enhances the chances of developing heart ailments; lower hypertension (high blood pressure) and also perk up the immune system. Studies conducted on animals have shown that extracts from the olive leaf result in considerable decrease in high blood pressure.

It is interesting to note that the above mentioned consequences are obvious when the animals are supplemented with olive leaf extracts either prior to or after they develop high blood pressure. This denotes that the olive leaf extracts possess the aptitude to avoid as well as treat hypertension. The decline in blood pressure occurs together with decreased pressure in the left ventricle of the heart. Consequently, the blood circulation is augmented to the coronary blood vessels of the heart. Studies undertaken on humans have shown that the extracts of olive leaf have the ability to remarkably lower the blood pressure readings.

While blood pressure is just one aspect of our cardiovascular health, it is also important to maintain the health of the arteries. The lining of the artery walls comprising the endothelial cells have an important function in sustaining blood circulation and maintaining blood pressure. In addition, the endothelial cells also control the smooth muscle cells distribution and, at the same time, maintain a constant blood flow through the vessels. It may be noted that dysfunction of the endothelial cells is one of the most primary stages of a cardiovascular disease called atherosclerosis (a health condition wherein the arteries become hardened), which is a fall-out of accumulation of plaques inside the walls of the arteries. Eventually, these plaques obstruct blood circulation through the arteries and may possibly result in a stroke or heart attack.

Extracts from olive leaf help to combat endothelial dysfunction in numerous stages. While they augment nitric acid production, olive leaf extracts also lessen the production as well as the actions of a group of molecules called matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs). It is worth mentioning here that nitric acid is basically a signalling molecule that facilitates the blood vessels to relax. Extreme activity of the MMPs works to disband the gel-like matrix, which binds the cells together, thereby making the linings of the blood vessels susceptible to damage by plaques. In addition, extracts from olive leaf also aid in avoiding LDL or 'bad' cholesterol oxidation - considered to be one of the initial things to occur before one develops atherosclerosis. When the LDL cholesterol is oxidized, it sets off inflammation, causing more damage to the arteries. Using the extract of olive oil may prove to be highly beneficial in such conditions, as they have multifarious anti-inflammatory actions.

It has been found that the polyphenol compounds present in olive leaves directly aid in putting off the formation of plagues in the arteries, thereby diminishing the chances of developing a stroke or heart attack in two different ways. These polyphenols decrease the production as well as actions of a chain of 'adhesion' molecules, which are responsible for the white blood cells (erythrocytes) and platelets to bind to the walls of the arteries leading to the formation of plaques in the early stages of arthrosclerosis. In addition, these compounds also lessen the clumping or aggregation of platelets by means of several different mechanisms, which result in the diminished chances of minute blood clot formation at places of plaque build-up. Formation of such tiny blood clots often results in strokes or heart attacks.

Elevation of the diabetic as well as pre-diabetic condition of persistent blood sugar inflicts considerable oxidative strain all over the body, setting off inflammation plus causes damage to the tissues resulting in rapid premature aging. Diabetic treatment is done with two objectives - first, to bring down the elevated levels of blood glucose to normal and; second, to restrict the damage caused by inevitable rises in blood sugar levels that may occur still.

Extracts from olive leaves have shown genuine potential in both areas mentioned above. Studies conducted on animals as well as those undertaken in laboratories, have shown that the extracts of olive leaf and oleuropein help to bring down the blood sugar levels by means of many different mechanisms. They slow the process of breaking down starches into simpler forms of sugar; impede the sugar absorption from the intestines; and augment glucose uptake from the blood into the tissues. In addition, oleuropein and olive oil extracts also guard the tissues from damages caused by oxidation when glucose attaches with proteins during a process known as glycation. In addition, these substances also enhance the intensity of different antioxidants in our body, thereby increasing the level of protection to the system.

The benefits of these means can be observed directly. Several studies have demonstrated that when animals having diabetes are given extracts of olive leaf as a supplement, they experience considerable decline in the cholesterol as well as sugar levels in their bloodstream. In a remarkable head-to-head study conducted on rats, the rats with diabetes were given either extract of olive leaf or a drug commonly used to lower blood glucose levels and called glyburide (Diabeta). When the study ended, it was found that the anti-diabetic actions of the olive leaf extract was much superior compared to those of the medication.

One interesting study demonstrated that when the rats were fed with a diet high in carbohydrate and fat content in the laboratory, the animals developed the entire symptoms related to metabolic syndrome, including too much fat in the abdominal region, high blood pressure, damaged glucose tolerance and anomalous lipid profile. However, when the same animals were given an unhealthy diet in conjunction with extracts of olive leaves, practically there were significant improvements in all the symptoms related to metabolic anomalies and, in some instances, the anomalies were even normalized.

It may be noted that the Mediterranean diet is famous for its aptitude to lessen the chances of developing cancer. While several features of the Mediterranean diet help in reducing the risk of cancer, there is increasing proof that olive oil, particularly oleuropein contained by it, is the main element that is responsible for the anti-cancer effects of this particular diet.

Extracts of olive leaf help to slow down damage to the DNA caused by reactive oxygen species that is considered to be the primary stage of malignant cell formation. When the cells have already become cancerous, they depend on a variety of chemical signalling aspects, which are responsible for supporting their growth and development into tumours. It is well known that the compounds enclosed by olive leaf impede the factors that contribute to the growth of the malignant cells and interrupt the signalling routes. In addition, oleuropein restrains an enzyme on which the cancer cells depend to obtain their energy from dietetic carbohydrates and store them.

Both extracts from olive leaf as well as oleuropein have several different modus operandi against cancer and some of them are discussed below.

Oleuropein and extracts from olive leaves aid in preventing inflammation, which supports the growth of tumours. Especially in the case of breast cancer cells, oleuropein works to lessen the ability of the malignant cells to react to estrogen - the female hormone which is responsible for the survival of a lot of breast cancer cells. Besides, oleuropein also impedes the production of an enzyme that works to 'melt' proteins, which are required by the cancer cells to assault the healthy tissues as well as metastasize or spread these cells to the different body parts.

It has been found in laboratory trails as well as studies conducted on animals that these mechanisms of oleuropein and olive leaf extract diminish the occurrence rate of malignant cells and the ensuing development of an assortment of cancers, counting those of the breast, brain, bladder, liver, head and neck, prostate, skin and leukemia.

Since long people in the Mediterranean region have used olive leaves as well as the extracts obtained from them in folk remedies meant for arthritis. In contemporary times, there is enough scientific evidence that corroborates the fact that olive leaves have the ability to inhibit many different types of arthritis, counting rheumatoid arthritis, gout and osteoarthritis.

Uric acid crystal build up in the joints is responsible for gout. These uric acid crystals are actually consequences of damaged DNA and RNA cycling in the cells. Oleuropein is also known to have a mechanism akin to that of allopurinol or the gold-standard drug treatment for gout. It works to check the uric acid from accumulating in the joints by slowing down the production and activities of an enzyme called xanthine oxidase, which helps to produce uric acid from DNA and RNA.

It has also been found that oleuropein aids in preventing as well as treating the symptoms associated with rheumatoid arthritis. When this plant polyphenol was administered in animal models during the very initial stages of arthritis, it helped to thwart the development of the symptoms and, at the same time, caused considerable improvement in the look of the affected animals' joint tissues when observed under the microscope. When oleuropein was administered to animals that had developed arthritis fully, it showed notable improvement in inflammatory alterations to joints, in comparison to the animals who were not treated with this olive leaf extract.

Oleuropein also offered identical benefits to those suffering from osteoarthritis. In studies conducted on animals suffering from this degenerative ailment, administration of oleuropein resulted in significant improvement in swollen joints, put off inflammatory cytokines production and also improved the look of the affected joint tissue when seen under a microscope.

Potential side effects and precautions

People who suffer from diabetes and low blood pressure may often experience further low blood pressure as well as low levels of glucose in the bloodstream owing to oleuropein consumption. In addition, oleuropein has the aptitude to interact with several different pharmaceutical medicines that are meant to bring down high blood pressure or control the blood sugar levels. Such interactions may lead to hazardous or risky conditions. People experiencing symptoms like headache, nausea, dizziness, fainting, symptoms akin to that of flu and other severe symptoms ought to essentially consult their physician right away.

Pregnant women should necessarily check with their physician prior to using oleuropein. In addition, it is important that people who are taking oleuropein should tell their physician about all the prescription and non-prescription drugs they might be taking from before with a view to prevent occurrence of undesired interaction or negative effects.