Have you ever imagined that olive tree leaves can help you treat bacterial infections? We are going to show you how natural antibiotics in olive leaf extract will eliminate infectious bacteria from your body.
If you are a fan of healthy food and lifestyle, then you should have probably heard of Mediterranean diet. Olive oil and fruit are some of the main components of this diet. Olea europaea, which is the botanical name of olive tree, is native to the Mediterranean Region. This tree has been around for thousands of years. Olive tree products, such as olive leaf extract, have been used for centuries by local phytotherapists to treat different medical disorders.
Virgin olive oil is one of the healthiest and most expensive vegetable oils. It contains many phenolic compounds that give it its bitter and pungent taste. They are also present in olive leaf extract with higher concentration. Researchers have linked these compounds to reduction of coronary heart disease and certain cancers. They also proved their potent antimicrobial activity.
What is bacteria?
Bacteria are small single-celled organisms. They colonize every corner of our planet and are vital to keep the equilibrium of its ecosystems.
Our bodies contain much more bacterial cells than human cells. Most bacteria in our bodies are harmless, and some may even help us keep our bodies healthy and enhance their ability to recover from illnesses. A relatively small number of bacterial species cause disease. We need antibiotics to fight such harmful microorganisms.
What is an antibiotic?
Antibiotics or antibacterials are a type of antimicrobial drugs that we use to prevent and treat bacterial infections. There are two types of antibiotics. One type kills bacteria and the other one only inhibits its growth.
Antibiotics, together with vaccination, helped medicine nearly eradicate many diseases throughout the world. However, their effectiveness and easy access have also led to their inappropriate use and the development of resistances. That means that someday we will not find antibiotics capable of treating infections that nowadays are considered common and easy to cure.
This problem is so threatening that the World Health Organization classifies antimicrobial resistance as a serious threat. It is happening right now and can affect anyone in any country and of any age. That is why many are reverting back to natural antimicrobials. These products of nature survived their war against bacteria and succeeded in staying effective during thousands of years.
What you should know about olive leaf extract
Olives, olive leaves and oils are very rich in polyphenols. Scoiridoids, such as oleuropein and its derivatives, are one of the major classes of these polyphenols. They are responsible for the high stability of olive oil and its pungency.
Oleuropein is the main bioactive and most abundant polyphenol of olive leaf extract. Dried olive leaf contains approximately from 6% to 9% oleuropein. Its concentration tends to vary according to the fruit maturation level and variety. The pungency of oil and fruit-based olive products depends on their content of oleuropein. Leaf extracts contain a fixed amount of this polyphenol because of extraction standardization.
Hydroxytyrosol is the principal degradation product of oleuropein. It passes passively through the intestinal wall to the blood. Although oleuropein has a very poor absorption, intestinal bacteria can ferment it and transform it into other bioactive compounds that are easily absorbed. That also helps fighting intestinal infection because bioactive compounds are constantly present in the intestinal environment.
You are probably wondering how can we produce olive leaf extract. In fact, there are two ways to extract bioactive components from olive leaves: water and ethanol extraction. The yield may vary from one procedure to another but industrial products tend to have standardized content of oleuropein. This helps them produce a stable and effective effect.
Oleuropein Antibacterial Activity
To have a better idea of the antibacterial spectrum of activity of olive leaf extract, researchers have tested the susceptibility of several bacterial strains agents of intestinal and respiratory infections to oleuropein and hydroxytyrosol. They concluded that olive leaf extract was broad-spectrum in action, yet showing appreciable activity against H. pylori, C. jejuni, S. aureus and MRSA. These bacterial agents are behind most of the dangerous and threatening intestinal diseases.
They also found that the main antimicrobial activity of oleuropein was mainly due to its hydrolysis products, the aglycone and elenolic acid. These derivatives inhibited growth of species of lactic acid bacteria tested. In addition, they were much more inhibitory when the broth medium contained 5% NaCl. Therefore, brining unheated olives help oleuropein degrade to highly potent antibacterial compounds.
The crude extract of oleuropein was inhibitory to multiple non-lactic acid bacteria. However, the acid hydrolyzate of the extract was inhibitory to much more species including lactic acid bacteria and multiple gram-positive and gram-negative species. Other researches showed that oleuropein and derivatives also have a strong antimicrobial activity against mycoplasma. Furthermore, the antimicrobial effect of the combined phenolics was significantly higher than those of the individual phenolics.
But how does it fight bacteria?
Researchers have not agreed yet on the exact antibacterial mechanism of olive leaf extract polyphenols. Phenolic structures similar to oleuropein seem to produce their antibacterial effects by damaging the bacterial membrane and disrupting some cell components called peptidoglycans.
Some authors have proposed that it is due to the presence of the orthodiphenolic system (catechol). Others proposed that the glycoside group modifies the ability to penetrate the cell membrane and get to the target site so that bacterial cells can no longer have resources to thrive. Effective interference with the production procedures of certain amino acids necessary for the growth of specific microorganisms is also a possible mechanism of action. Another mechanism proposed is the direct stimulation of phagocytosis as a response of the immune system to microbes of all types.
Although the mechanism is not yet fully elucidated, researchers agree on the potent antimicrobial activity of olive leaf extract and its effectiveness against multiple bacterial species, especially bacteria responsible for intestinal and respiratory infections.
How much should I take to benefit from its antibacterial activity?
Phenolic compounds are highly bioavailable. Some researchers found that when you take olive leaf extract, your body absorbs 55-60% of its oleuropein derivatives content. And that’s not all: the maximum plasma concentration occurs only 2 hours after oral administration.
To surprise you once again, researchers found that the MIC (minimal inhibitory concentration, which is the lowest concentration that inhibits the visible growth of a microorganism following overnight incubation) of olive leaf extract starts from as little as 0.24 µg/mL depending on the bacterial strain. That means that olive leaf extract can be for example ten times stronger than amoxicillin because its lowest MIC is ten times lower then amoxicillin lowest MIC. This drug is used to treat many bacterial infections including bronchitis and pneumonia.
Even though olive leaf extract seems to be highly effective against bacterial infections, you should follow what your doctor prescribed for you or what your product leaflet is telling you to do. This will help you get full advantage of olive leaf extract and ensure your recovery.
To sum it up
Olive leaf extract is a potential source of promising antimicrobial agents for treatment of intestinal and respiratory tract infections.
Given his specific activity, it helps you not only treat your intestinal infections, but also regulate the composition of the gastric flora by selectively reducing levels of infectious bacteria.
Although oleuropein and derivatives possess strong antimicrobial activities, it is better to have a combination of all olive leaf extract polyphenols for better results.
You must nonetheless consider seeing your doctor whenever you catch an infection. He is the only one able to give you the perfect advice for your situation.