Olive Leaf Tea – gold in disguise

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My latest Covid-19 lockdown experiment has been drying olive leaves to make tea. Olive leaf tea has made a comeback in the literature in the last decade, however it has been around for centuries, especially in the mediterranean, as a medicine and a staple part of their diet. In fact the healing properties of leaves is mentioned in Ezekiel 47:12 – “Their fruit will serve for food and their leaves for healing”. Regardless of whether or not that is talking about olives, (which we could assume is olives, but I put the disclaimer here that I am not assuming anything!) it still shows that thousands of years ago, people in the Middle East and in fact many parts of the world knew the benefits of leaves, bark, fruits and so on, in medicine.

Our olives in late March

Up until a decade ago there wasn’t a lot of substantial evidence about the positive effects on human health. Recently, though, there is emerging a clear picture that the olive leaf (in particular the chemical ‘oleuropein’) can have quite outstanding benefits to human health. A study was done around 2008 where 20 sets of twins, all with borderline hypertension, agreed to be a part of a study. One of the twin was given the olive leaf extract (I think it is around the 1000mg a day, but you would want to cross reference that!), and the other was given standard advice for lowering blood pressure. After 8 weeks, the twin on olive extract showed a dip in blood pressure, and a lowering of LDL cholesterol. The other twin showed no change in blood pressure and a slight lowering of cholesterol. (link to study here, and another reference that mentions it). Some agree that it is not necessarily due to one chemical (eg oleuropein), but due to a wonderful balance of many bioactive ingredients. (link)

Other benefits include: (from here, here,

  • Taken orally for stomach and intestinal diseases
  • Chewed as a mouth cleanser
  • Decoctions of the dried fruit and leaves taken orally for diarrhea and to treat urinary tract infections
  • Hot water extract of the fresh leaves taken orally to treat high blood pressure (hypertension) and to induce urination (diuresis)
  • Hot water extract of the dried plant taken orally for bronchial asthmaInfusion of the fresh leaf taken orally as an anti-inflammatory
  • Antiviral agent, antifungal, antibacterial (like the common cold, influenza…I wonder if Covid-19?). In this study it showed that it can inhibit the replication process of microbes.
  • anti-oxidant
  • anti-inflammatory
  • beneficial impact on your thyroid;
  • helps to regulate blood sugar
  • ….

Of course, one would want to consult the local doctor before embarking on intense treatment using olive leaf extract.

But for me, tea is good! Some sites report that there is greater benefit using the olive leaf rather than the olive to reap the benefits of oleuropein, however the olive still contains the chemical! The oleuropein is what gives the tea and olives a bitter flavour. It is the chemical that is an antioxidant, helping to prevent too many free radicals running around in your body.

I could read and read…it’s actually quite interesting. But that would digress. So I collected some lovely looking olive leaves, washed them, picked them and popped them on a tray in the oven. I set the oven to 50 degrees C, and it took a couple of hours for them to be crunchy dry. I read that microwave is best to retain more of the goodness, however I have a small microwave and I wanted to dry lots of leaves.

I researched amounts and techniques for making the best tea, but found the hints and tips to be quite varied. After crumbling the leaves, I put 2 tbsp of leaves into 500mL water, and gently boiled for 2-3 minutes. It turned a lovely orange colour, but was quite bitter. Interestingly, I found it more bitter than my husband did. I do wonder what is behind that. In the other cup I put a tea infuser full of the dried olive leaves, poured boiling water over it and let it sit for 5 minutes. It turned a pretty clear yellow colour. I still found that it was bitter, but could imagine that it would be great with mint and a dash of honey added.

So next time I have a perfect tonic in mind… lemon, honey, olive leaf tea and a dash of elderberry (also has respiratory benefits). Now that sounds delicious.

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