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Olive

What is it?

Olive (Olea europaea) is a tree with edible fruit, leaves, and seeds. Olive oil comes from the olive fruit and contains monounsaturated fatty acids.

Fatty acids in olive oil seem to decrease cholesterol levels and have anti-inflammatory effects. Olive leaf and olive oil might lower blood pressure. Olive might also be able to kill microbes, such as bacteria and fungus.

Olive oil is commonly used in foods. As medicine, people most commonly use olive oil for heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure. It is also used for high cholesterol, cancer, memory and thinking skills, migraine, obesity, and many other conditions, but there is no good scientific evidence to support many of these other uses.

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. Consuming more olive oil in the diet seems to be linked with 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. But it's unclear if higher dietary intake of olive oil helps people who already have heart disease.
  • Constipation. Taking olive oil by mouth can help soften stools in people with constipation.
  • Diabetes. People who eat higher amounts of olive oil in the diet seem to have a lower risk of developing diabetes. Consuming olive oil also seems to improve blood sugar control in people with diabetes.
  • High blood pressure. Adding high amounts of extra virgin olive oil to the diet while taking prescription drugs for high blood pressure can improve blood pressure over 6 months in people with high blood pressure.

Possibly ineffective for...

  • Ear infection (otitis media). Applying olive oil drops into the ear does not appear to reduce pain in children with ear infections.
There is interest in using olive for a number of other purposes, but there isn't enough reliable information to say whether it might be helpful.

Is it safe?

When taken by mouth: Olive oil is commonly consumed in foods. Up to 1 liter of extra-virgin olive oil weekly has been used safely as part of a Mediterranean-style diet for up to 5.8 years. Olive oil is usually well-tolerated. It might cause nausea in a small number of people. Olive leaf extract is possibly safe when used appropriately.

When applied to the skin: Olive oil is likely safe. Delayed allergic reactions have been reported. When used in the mouth following dental treatment, the mouth may feel more sensitive.

Special precautions & warnings:

Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Olive oil is commonly consumed in foods. There isn't enough reliable information to know if olive is safe to use as medicine when pregnant or breast-feeding. Stay on the safe side and stick to food amounts.

Are there interactions with medications?

Moderate
Be cautious with this combination.
Medications for high blood pressure (Antihypertensive drugs)
Olive might lower blood pressure. Taking olive along with medications that lower blood pressure might cause blood pressure to go too low. Monitor your blood pressure closely.

Are there interactions with herbs and supplements?

Herbs and supplements that might lower blood pressure
Olive might lower blood pressure. Taking it with other supplements that have the same effect might cause blood pressure to drop too much. Examples of supplements with this effect include andrographis, casein peptides, L-arginine, niacin, and stinging nettle.

Are there interactions with foods?

There are no known interactions with foods.

How is it typically used?

Olive fruit and olive oil are commonly consumed in foods. Olive oil is classified according to free oleic acid content. 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."

As medicine, many different olive products have been used, including olive oil, olive leaf extracts, and olive fruit extracts. Speak with a healthcare provider to find out what type of product and dose might be best for a specific condition.

Other names

Acide Gras Insaturé, Acide Gras Mono-Insaturé, Acide Gras n-9, Acide Gras Oméga 9, Common Olive, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Feuille d'Olivier, Green Olive, Huile d'Assaisonnement, Huile d'Olive, Huile d'Olive Extra Vierge, Huile d'Olive Vierge, Jaitun, Manzanilla Olive Fruit, Monounsaturated Fatty Acid, n-9 Fatty Acid, Oleae europaea, Oleae Folium, Olivae Oleum, Olive Fruit, Olive Fruit Pulp, Olive Leaf, Olive Oil, Olive Pulp, Olives, Olivo, Omega-9 Fatty Acids, Pulpe d'Olive, Salad Oil, Sweet Oil, Unsaturated Fatty Acid, Virgin Olive Oil.

Methodology

To learn more about how this article was written, please see the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database methodology.

References

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Last reviewed - 10/27/2021