What is it?
Olive oil is most commonly used for heart disease, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure.
In foods, olive oil is used as a cooking and salad oil. Olive oil is classified, in part, according to acid content, measured as free oleic acid. Extra virgin olive oil contains a maximum of 1% free oleic acid, virgin olive oil contains 2%, and ordinary olive oil contains 3.3%. Unrefined olive oils with more than 3.3% free oleic acid are considered "unfit for human consumption."
In manufacturing, olive oil is used to make soaps, commercial plasters and liniments; and to delay setting in dental cements.
How effective is it?
Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database rates effectiveness based on scientific evidence according to the following scale: Effective, Likely Effective, Possibly Effective, Possibly Ineffective, Likely Ineffective, Ineffective, and Insufficient Evidence to Rate.
The effectiveness ratings for OLIVE are as follows:
Possibly effective for...
- Breast cancer. Women who consume more olive oil in their diet seem to have a lower risk of developing breast cancer.
- Heart disease. People who cook using olive oil seem to have a lower risk of heart disease and lower risk of first heart attack compared to those who cook with other oils. People who replace saturated fats in their diet with olive oil also seem to have a lower blood pressure and lower cholesterol compared to those who consume more saturated fat in their diet. High cholesterol and high blood pressure are risk factors for heart disease. Research also shows that following a diet that includes olive oil also reduce the risk of heart attack, stroke, and heart disease-related death compared to following the same diet that includes less olive oil. The FDA allows labels on olive oil and on food that contains olive oil to state that limited, but not conclusive evidence, suggests that consuming 23 grams/day (about 2 tablespoons) of olive oil instead of saturated fats may reduce the risk of heart disease. The FDA also allows products containing certain forms of olive oil to claim that consuming these products can reduce the risk of heart disease. It's unclear if higher dietary intake of olive oil is beneficial in people who already have heart disease. Results from research are conflicting.
- Constipation. Taking olive oil by mouth can help to soften stools in people with constipation.
- Diabetes. People who eat higher amounts of olive oil (about 15-20 grams per day) seem to have a lower risk of developing diabetes. Eating more than 20 grams per day is not linked with additional benefit. Research also shows that olive oil can improve blood sugar control in people with diabetes. Olive oil in a Mediterranean-type diet might also reduce the risk of "hardening of the arteries" (atherosclerosis) compared to polyunsaturated oils such as sunflower oil in people with diabetes.
- High cholesterol. Using olive oil in the diet instead of saturated fat may reduce total cholesterol levels in people with high cholesterol. But other dietary oils might reduce total cholesterol better than olive oil.
- High blood pressure. Adding generous amounts of extra virgin olive oil to the diet and continuing with the usual treatments for high blood pressure can improve blood pressure over 6 months in people with high blood pressure. In some cases, people with mild to moderate high blood pressure can actually lower their dose of blood pressure medication or even stop taking medication altogether. However, do not adjust your medications without your healthcare provider's supervision. Taking olive leaf extract also seems to lower blood pressure in patients with high blood pressure.
Possibly ineffective for...
- Earwax. Applying olive oil to the skin does not appear to soften earwax.
- Ear infection (otitis media). Applying olive oil to the skin does not appear to reduce pain in children with ear infections.
Insufficient evidence to rate effectiveness for...
- Eczema (atopic dermatitis). Early research suggests that applying a mixture of honey, beeswax, and olive oil along with standard care seems to improve eczema.
- Cancer. People who eat more olive oil seem to have a lower risk of developing cancer. But dietary intake of olive oil is not linked with a lower risk of cancer-related death.
- Leakage of a body fluid (chyle) into the space between the lungs and chest wall. Sometimes chyle leaks into the space between the lungs and chest wall during surgery of the esophagus. Taking about half a cup of olive oil eight hours before surgery might help prevent this injury.
- Memory and thinking skills (cognitive function). Middle-aged women who use olive oil for cooking seem to have improved thinking skills compared to those who use other cooking oils.
- Colon cancer, rectal cancer. Research suggests that people who consume more olive oil in their diet might have a lower risk of developing colorectal cancer.
- Airway infections caused by exerciser. Early research shows that taking olive leaf extract doesn't prevent the common cold in student athletes. But it might help female athletes use fewer sick days.
- A digestive tract infection that can lead to ulcers (Helicobacter pylori or H. pylori). Early research shows that taking 30 grams of olive oil before breakfast for 2-4 weeks helps get rid of Helicobacter pylori infections in some people.
- A grouping of symptoms that increase the risk of diabetes, heart disease, and stroke (metabolic syndrome). Metabolic syndrome is a group of conditions such as high blood pressure, excess body fat around the waist, or high blood sugar that can increase the risk of heart attack, stroke, or diabetes. Taking olive leaf extract seems to help control of blood sugar in men with this condition. But it does not seem to reduce body weight, cholesterol levels, or blood pressure.
- Migraine. Taking olive oil daily for 2 months seems to reduce the frequency and severity of migraine headaches. However, more research is needed.
- Build up of fat in the liver in people who drink little or no alcohol (nonalcoholic fatty liver disease or NAFLD). Taking olive oil as part of a low-calorie diet may improve fatty liver better than dieting alone in patients with NAFLD.
- Obesity. Taking olive oil daily for 9 weeks as part of a low-calorie diet seems to help with fat loss, but not overall weight loss.
- Osteoarthritis. Developing research shows that taking a freeze-dried water extract of olive fruit or an extract of olive leaf decreases pain and increases mobility in people with osteoarthritis.
- Weak and brittle bones (osteoporosis). Taking olive leaf extract daily along with calcium might slow down bone loss in postmenopausal women with low bone density.
- Ovarian cancer. Research suggests that women who consume more olive oil in their diet have a lower risk of developing ovarian cancer.
- A serious gum infection (periodontitis). Using ozonated olive oil in the mouth, alone or following mouth treatment such as teeth scaling and root planing, seems to reduce the build-up of plaque and prevent bleeding and inflammation of the gums.
- Scaly, itchy skin (psoriasis). Early research suggests that applying a mixture of honey, beeswax, and olive oil to the skin along with standard care can improve psoriasis.
- Rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Some research suggests that people whose diet includes a high amount of olive oil have a lower risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis. However, early research shows that taking a water extract of olive fruit does not significantly improve symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.
- Stretch marks. Early research shows that applying a small amount of olive oil to the stomach twice daily starting early in the second semester does not prevent stretch marks during pregnancy.
- Stroke. Eating a diet high in olive oil might reduce the chance of having a stroke compared to a similar diet with less olive oil.
- Ringworm (Tinea corporis). Early research suggests that applying a mixture of honey, beeswax, and olive oil to the skin is beneficial for treating ringworm.
- Jock itch (Tinea cruris). Early research suggests that applying a mixture of honey, beeswax, and olive oil to the skin is beneficial for treating jock itch.
- A common fungal infection of the skin (Tinea versicolor). Early research suggests that applying a mixture of honey, beeswax, and olive oil to the skin is beneficial for treating yeast infection.
How does it work?
Are there safety concerns?
There is insufficient reliable information available about the safety of olive leaf when taken by mouth.
When applied to the skin: Olive oil is LIKELY SAFE when applied to the skin. Delayed allergic responses and contact dermatitis have been reported. When used in the mouth following dental treatment, the mouth may feel more sensitive.
When inhaled: Olive trees produce pollen that can cause seasonal respiratory allergy in some people.
Special precautions & warnings:
Pregnancy and breast-feeding: There isn't enough reliable information to know if olive is safe to use when pregnant or breast-feeding. Do not use amounts greater than the amount commonly found in foods.
Diabetes: Olive oil might lower blood sugar. People with diabetes should check their blood sugar when using olive oil.
Surgery: Olive oil might affect blood sugar. Using olive oil might affect blood sugar control during and after surgery. Stop taking olive oil 2 weeks before surgery.
Are there interactions with medications?
- Medications for diabetes (Antidiabetes drugs)
- Olive and olive oil might decrease blood sugar. Diabetes medications are also used to lower blood sugar. Taking olive oil along with diabetes medications might cause your blood sugar to go too low. Monitor your blood sugar closely. The dose of your diabetes medication might need to be changed.
Some medications used for diabetes include glimepiride (Amaryl), glyburide (DiaBeta, Glynase PresTab, Micronase), insulin, pioglitazone (Actos), rosiglitazone (Avandia), chlorpropamide (Diabinese), glipizide (Glucotrol), tolbutamide (Orinase), and others.
- Medications for high blood pressure (Antihypertensive drugs)
- Olive seems to decrease blood pressure. Taking olive along with medications for high blood pressure might cause your blood pressure to go too low.
Some medications for high blood pressure include captopril (Capoten), enalapril (Vasotec), losartan (Cozaar), valsartan (Diovan), diltiazem (Cardizem), Amlodipine (Norvasc), hydrochlorothiazide (HydroDIURIL), furosemide (Lasix), and many others.
- Medications that slow blood clotting (Anticoagulant / Antiplatelet drugs)
- Olive oil might slow blood clotting. Taking olive oil along with medications that also slow clotting might increase the chances of bruising and bleeding.
Some medications that slow blood clotting include aspirin, clopidogrel (Plavix), diclofenac (Voltaren, Cataflam, others), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, others), naproxen (Anaprox, Naprosyn, others), dalteparin (Fragmin), enoxaparin (Lovenox), heparin, warfarin (Coumadin), and others.
Are there interactions with herbs and supplements?
- Herbs and supplements that might lower blood pressure
- Olive seems to decrease blood pressure. Taking olive along with herbs and supplements that also lower blood pressure might cause your blood pressure to go too low. Some of these herbs and supplements include andrographis, casein peptides, cat's claw, coenzyme Q-10, fish oil, L-arginine, lycium, stinging nettle, theanine, and others.
- Herbs and supplements that might lower blood sugar
- Olive leaf might lower blood sugar. Using it along with other herbs that do the same might lower blood sugar too much. These herbs include: devil's claw, fenugreek, garlic, guar gum, horse chestnut, Panax ginseng, psyllium, and Siberian ginseng.
- Herbs and supplements that might slow blood clotting
- Using olive oil with other herbs that can slow blood clotting might increase the risk of bleeding in some people. These other herbs include angelica, clove, danshen, ginger, ginkgo, red clover, turmeric, vitamin E, willow, and others.
Are there interactions with foods?
- There are no known interactions with foods.
What dose is used?
- For constipation: 30 mL of olive oil.
- For preventing heart disease: 54 grams of olive oil per day (about 4 tablespoons) has been used. As a part of a Mediterranean diet, consuming up to 1 liter of extra-virgin olive oil per week has also been used.
- For preventing diabetes. A diet rich in olive oil has been used. Doses of 15-20 grams per day seem to work best.
- For high cholesterol: 23 grams of olive oil per day (about 2 tablespoons) providing 17.5 grams of monounsaturated fatty acids in place of saturated fats in the diet.
- For high blood pressure: 30-40 grams per day of extra-virgin olive oil as part of the diet. 400 mg of olive leaf extract four times daily has also been used for high blood pressure.
To learn more about how this article was written, please see the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database methodology.
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