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Olive Leaf Extract: The Microbe Fighter

written by Marina Zacharias

It is believed by many, that the "Tree of Life" referred to in the Bible, is the olive tree. This would certainly seem appropriate as the olive tree appears to have an extremely strong natural defense system that can provide us with the means to develop: antibiotic/antiviral/antifungal/antiprotozoan agents, from extracts of the olive tree leaf.

For at least 6,000 years, the olive tree’s special gifts to mankind have been documented. In the last half of the 19th century a phenolic compound with the Latin name of "oleuropein" was isolated from the olive leaf. It’s considered to be the source of the olive tree’s powerful disease-resistant properties. According to botanists, oleuropein, which is present throughout the olive tree—its wood, fruit, leaves, roots and bark—helps to protect it against insect and bacterial predators.

By 1969, researchers at The Upjohn Company of Kalamzoo, Michigan further isolated the main antiviral ingredient present in oleuropein as the calcium salt of elenolic acid, calcium elenolate. In their research they found that every virus they tested for, was either killed or their growth was severely inhibited. Upjohn attempted to develop their research into a virus killing pharmaceutical. The problem was that calcium elenoate was found to rapidly bind to proteins in blood serum and get taken out of action, thus it was rendered ineffective. In the 1970s they abandoned the attempt to turn the substance into another commercial drug product.

It wasn’t until 1994 that independent scientific researchers had experimented sufficiently and accomplished a therapeutic breakthrough. It opened the way for clinical application of olive leaf extract as a viable nutritional supplement for fighting viruses and other microbial invaders.

Ironically, the olive fermentation industry (pickled olives) has long suffered from the strong antimicrobial properties peculiar to their crop. The oleuropein content had to be removed from olives before any fermentation could take place. Even the waste waters derived from the milling of olive paste during olive oil production are richly antibiotic. If these waste waters are dumped into the soil, they inhibit vegetation growth by destroying friendly bacteria necessary for vegetative cell growth.

The recently developed olive leaf extracts are so effective against so many types of microbial pathogens that sometimes the patient can suffer a temporary "die-off" effect referred to as the "Herxheimer’s reaction". This is very different from a drug "side effect". In the die-off there is a suddenly released quantity of "dead bodies" into the bloodstream that produce a temporary allergy-like reaction in the host. Usually this is a good indication that the antimicrobial agent is working and the infection is dissipating.

There is a long list of viruses, bacteria and parasitic protozoa’s that the extract has been tested with and has proven to be effective. This gives us another strong natural tool to use in place of antibiotics and steroids. This is particularly useful in cases where there is a risk of chronic staph. infection or suppressed immune function.