What is it?
Olive oil is used to prevent heart attack and stroke (cardiovascular disease), breast cancer, colorectal cancer, ovarian cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, and migraine headache.
Some people use olive oil to treat constipation, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, blood vessel problems associated with diabetes, and pain associated ear infections, arthritis, and gallbladder disease. Olive oil is also used to treat jaundice, intestinal gas, and meteorism (swelling of the abdomen due to gas). It is also used to destroy the bacteria that causes some ulcers, helicobacter pylori.
Some people also use olive oil to boost bacteria in the gut and as a "cleanser" or "purifier."
Olive oil is applied to the skin (used topically) for earwax, ringing ears (tinnitus), pain in the ears, lice, wounds, minor burns, psoriasis, stretch marks due to pregnancy, eczema, jock itch, ringworm, a skin disease caused tinea versicolor, and for protecting the skin from ultraviolet (UV) damage after sun exposure. In the mouth it is used to reduce gum disease.
In foods, olive oil is used as a cooking and salad oil.
In manufacturing, olive oil is used to make soaps, commercial plasters and liniments; and to delay setting in dental cements.
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."
Olive oil that is mixed with a gas called ozone (ozonated olive oil) is promoted for everything from bee stings and insect bites to bacterial and fungal skin infections to cancer. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) allows the use of ozone to fight bacteria on food, including meat and poultry, but the food industry has been slow to adopt it. Ozone is extremely unstable and must be produced on site. Topical olive oil products that are claimed to contain ozone are unlikely to remain stable during shipping. There are no clinically proven medical uses of ozone or ozonated olive oil. Antibacterial agents that are applied to the skin are a better choice.
Olive leaf is used for treating viral, bacterial, and other infections including influenza, swine flu, the common cold, meningitis, Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV), encephalitis, herpes, shingles, HIV/ARC/AIDS, and hepatitis B. Olive leaf is also used for pneumonia; chronic fatigue: tuberculosis (TB); gonorrhea; fever; malaria; dengue; "blood poisoning" (bacterial infections in the bloodstream); severe diarrhea; and infections in the teeth, ears, and urinary tract, and infections following surgery. Other uses include high blood pressure, osteoarthritis, osteoporosis, diabetes, hay fever, improving kidney and digestive function, and increasing urine flow.
Water extracts of olive fruit pulp are used for rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis.
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. Replacing saturated fats in the diet with olive oil can reduce risk factors for heart disease and stroke, including reducing blood pressure and cholesterol. Adding olive oil to the diet seems to help prevent a first heart attack and reduces death due to heart disease. Some research shows a high dietary intake of olive oil (54 grams/day; about 4 tablespoons) can reduced the risk of first heart attack by 82% when compared with a low intake of 7 grams of olive oil or less per day. Including 1 liter per week of extra-virgin olive oil in a Mediterranean diet for around 5 years also seems to help prevent heart attacks and strokes in people over age 55 who have diabetes or a combination of heart disease risk factors (smoking, high blood pressure, high LDL ("bad") cholesterol, low HDL ("good") cholesterol, overweight, or with a family history of heart disease). A Mediterranean diet has high intakes of fruit, nuts, vegetables and cereals, moderate intake of fish and poultry, and low intake of dairy products, red meat, processed meats, and sweets.
The FDA now 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.
- 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 can reduce total cholesterol levels in people with high cholesterol. However, some research suggests other dietary oils such as sunflower and rapeseed (canola) might reduce "bad" low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol and another type of cholesterol called apolipoprotein B 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 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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