The Secret of Olive Tree
Ask an ancient Greek what the most useful object on earth is, and the answer might surprise you. According to mythological tradition, when asked to produce an item of ultimate utility, Athena, goddess of wisdom, created the tiny olive. Since then, this amazingly versatile botanical has served as food, medicine, fuel, as well as a symbol of peace and prosperity. The Bible makes over 200 mentions of the olive, and Mohammad advised its use as a cure for ‘seventy diseases.’ Some theologians even believe that the olive tree is the ‘Tree of Life’ described in the final chapters of Revelations, whose leaves would heal the nations of the world.
Today, as interest increases in taking a holistic and natural approach to health, the olive again is gaining a seemingly miraculous reputation as an antibiotic, antioxidant, and key part of the healthful combination of foods that make up the Mediterranean diet. Modern science has accumulated a virtual mountain of data that confirms the same thing that herbal practitioners and healers have been saying for thousands of years; that olives and olive leaf are a powerful tool for combating disease and maintaining health.
Antibiotics have been labeled as the greatest achievement of modern medicine, providing relief from a range of diseases too numerous to mention. In light of this, it may be surprising to learn that natural antibiotics such as olive have been utilized for thousands of years. Folk tradition, and more recently modern medicine, have observed that the natural chemistry of the olive, the olive tree, and it’s leaves have intrinsic anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, and anti-viral properties. Olive has been found to bring aid to those suffering from conditions as wide ranging as colds and flues, herpes, shingles, fibromyalgia, high blood pressure and more. In the early 1900’s, a bitter compound was found in the leaves of certain olive trees called “Oleuropein.” This compound was determined to be part of the olive tree’s powerful disease resistant structure.
In 1962, an Italian researcher recorded that oleuropein had the ability to lower blood pressure in animals. Other European researchers validated that claim and also found it to increase blood flow in the coronary arteries, relieve arrhythmias and prevent intestinal muscle spasms. There are studies in Israel that found the leaf is effective against Streptococcus by damaging the cell membrane of the bacteria, disabling it. Unlike modern antibiotics, there is no resistant strains to the relieving effects of olive. It’s use does not spur the development of so called ‘super bugs.’ It is merely one of the tools that mother nature has provided us to improve our lives.
Picture a piece of metal left exposed to the air. As time passes, the surface of the metal will slowly become coated with a layer of iron oxide, or rust. Why does this happen? A process known as oxidation, in which one molecule or atom steals an electron away from another, resulting in a chemical change. Within our bodies, a family of compounds known as free radicals move throughout our cells, oxidizing neighboring compounds and causing damage to components of the cell, including our DNA. Dr. Denham Harmon is credited with producing the free radical theory of aging, stating the accumulated effect of free radical damage is the cause of the gradual decreased function of the body over time, as well as the growth of cancers.
Free radicals enter our bodies via pollution from sources such as smog, cigarette smoke, pesticides and alcohol. They are likewise formed as a byproduct of cellular respiration as oxygen molecules are brought into the cell and used to break down sugars. The presence of heavy metals such as mercury in dramatically ‘supercharges’ these free radicals, causing even further damage.
Antioxidants are so named because they are willing to freely give an electron, reducing the free radical to an inert compound. Olive is a notably rich source of antioxidants, with extracts based on the leaves providing nearly 5 times the free radical absorbing capacity of vitamin C, surpassing both grape seed and green tea extracts. When free radicals are kept in check, the body simply performs better. We have more energy, our muscles respond as they used to, our immune systems are dramatically bolstered. In the case of olive, combining the natural antibiotic capabilities with the healthful bolstering effects of free radical removal produces an environment in which illness causing germs, viruses and bacterium simply cannot survive.
Imagine how much better you will feel when you have nature fighting on your side, rather than against you! Olive can be added to the diet via eating the fruit and olive oil, though greater concentrations of the active ingredients, such as oleuropein are found in the leaves. These leaves are often made into olive tea, or extracted into tinctures, capsules, soaps and skin cream which may be found in health food stores or online. Olive is safe for all ages, and simply doesn’t produce any ill effects based on its consumption. Even pets can consume olive leaf powder on their food to enjoy the same benefits as their owners.