Olive leaf tea, packed with nutrients, like vitamin C, may help boost immunity and fight infections. Here’s what the experts are saying.
Step aside, matcha. There’s a new drink in town: olive leaf tea.
The tea is making a splash, but while it may be a fresh trend, it’s hardly new. In fact, it’s been around for centuries. “Olive leaf tea has been consumed since ancient times and has its roots dating back toward ancient Greek civilization,” says Divya L. Selvakumar, RD, a registered dietitian in Laurel, Maryland.
Olive leaf tea is made by steaming and rolling freshly harvested olive leaves. The leaves are then dried and cut for the tea, according to the Olive Wellness Institute. The tea leaves have a silvery-green color and a mellow taste with a mild sweet olive flavor.
“Olive leaf tea is gaining popularity for its potential health benefits, including the ability to reduce the risk heart disease, support the immune system, and aid in weight loss,” says Lacy Ngo, RDN, a registered dietitian nutritionist in Rock Hill, South Carolina, and author of The Nourishing Meal Builder. “Oleuropein, a polyphenol antioxidant, is thought to be one of the major beneficial substances in olive leaf tea. Studies show this may not only have strong antioxidant properties but also anti-inflammatory, antiviral, and antimicrobial properties.”
And in case you’re wondering, olive leaf tea differs greatly from olive oil. “Olive leaf tea comes from the leaf of the olive tree, whereas olive oil comes from the fruit of it,” says Ngo. While polyphenols are the powerhouse substances in olive oil, oleuropein is the star of olive leaf tea.
Potential benefits of olive leaf tea
“Olive leaf tea is growing in popularity, primarily due to the beneficial effects on health,” says Selvakumar. She points to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic as one reason people are sipping the possibly immunity-boosting, infection-fighting tea.
Research on the tea’s health benefits is still young but shows promise in many areas. Olive leaf tea may potentially help with immunity: In a 2019 study in Nutrients, researchers randomly asked 32 high-school athletes to take either an olive leaf supplement or a placebo for nine weeks. The students receiving the supplement had fewer sick days compared with their peers who took the placebo.
The tea may offer benefits for people with prediabetes and diabetes. In a 2019 study in Nutrition Research, adults with prediabetes who drank olive leaf tea three times daily for three months had lower fasting blood sugar levels.
The potential benefits don’t end there. “Drinking olive leaf tea may also help lower high blood cholesterol, help control blood pressure, and help reduce the overall blood glucose in the body,” says Selvakumar. “It has also shown to be beneficial toward controlling obesity. Other benefits [may] include fighting against common neurological diseases in the elderly, such as Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, and Parkinson’s disease.”
In the end, research on this tea is still very limited in humans.
Olive leaf tea vs. green tea
Another nutrient that olive leaves contain is vitamin C, known for its immune-benefiting properties. In fact, a 2018 study in Current Trends in Biomedical Engineering & Biosciences found that olive leaf extract has four times the vitamin C and double the antioxidant capacity of green tea—one reason why olive leaf tea is presenting itself as the new green tea.
The benefits of drinking olive leaf tea have been compared with the perks of drinking green tea. In a 2018 randomized controlled trial, published in Clinical Nutrition, researchers compared the long-term benefits of olive leaf tea with those of green tea. They found that the women drinking olive leaf tea daily had higher red blood count, hemoglobin, and hematocrit, indicating potential promise for olive leaf tea in helping to treat anemia and other red cell disorders. A couple of caveats: The trial was small, with only 31 participants, and followed people for 12 weeks—a decent amount of time, but not exactly a long-term study.
A notable plus of drinking olive leaf tea is that, unlike most green tea, it contains no caffeine, so it won’t give you the jitters.
What is olive leaf extract?
You may have also heard about olive leaf extract. It also comes from the leaves of the olive tree. However, it’s much more potent than olive leaf tea and may interact with some medications, such as certain blood pressure medicines, insulins, and chemotherapy drugs. You’ll want to speak with your doctor before taking olive leaf extract.
Olive leaf extract may also cause side effects like stomach pain and headache, and some people are allergic to it and may experience severe respiratory reactions.
Choosing olive leaf tea
When it comes to choosing a quality olive leaf tea, there aren’t that many options out there. Here are a few good picks:
How to make olive leaf tea
As far as preparation goes, olive leaf tea can be made like most other types of teas. Steep two tablespoons of dried olive tea leaves in 8 ounces of slightly cooled boiled water for about 10 minutes. Drain the leaves with a strainer and enjoy the tea. You can also add honey for sweetness.
The bottom line
Is drinking olive leaf tea a habit worth forming? “Although it cannot transform your health all on its own, a soothing warm cup of olive leaf tea can be beneficial when included in an overall healthy diet,” says Ngo.
Drink up, but do so in moderation. You can overdo olive leaf tea consumption, so limit intake to a cup or two a day, advises Ngo. Selvakumar says drinking too much olive leaf tea can cause unpleasant side effects, such as headaches and muscle discomfort.
And talk to your doctor before adding olive leaf tea or olive leaf extract to your regimen to be sure it’s safe for you and won’t interfere with your medications.
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