Evergreen tree growing to 33 ft (10 m). Has a deeply grooved gray trunk, small leathery leaves, clusters of small greenish-white flowers, and a green fruit ripening to black.
Habitat & Cultivation
Olive trees grow wild in the Mediterranean region and are cultivated in Mediterranean countries and in regions with a similar climate in the Americas. The leaves may be gathered throughout the year, the fruit in late summer. The leaves of wild trees are believed to contain a higher concentration of active principles.
Olive leaves contain oleoropine, olesterol, and leine. Olive oil contains about 75% oleic acid, a monounsaturated fatty acid.
History & Folklore
The olive was probably first cultivated in Crete around 3500 BCE. The tree has many symbolic associations: the olive branch is an emblem of peace, and the leaves crowned victors in the ancient Olympic Games. The leaves have been used since those times to clean wounds. The oil has been used for ritual anointing in some religions.
Medicinal Actions & Uses
Olive leaves lower blood pressure and help to improve the function of the circulatory system. They are also mildly diuretic and may be used to treat conditions such as cystitis. Possessing some ability to lower blood-sugar levels, the leaves have been taken for diabetes. The oil is nourishing and improves the balance of fats within the blood. It is traditionally taken with lemon juice in teaspoonful doses to treat gallstones. The oil has a generally protective action on the digestive tract and is useful for dry skin.
Clinical trials have shown that olive leaves lower blood pressure.