Viruses — microscopic infective agents consisting of protein-encased genetic materials — are responsible for a vast repertory of diseases, from Ebola and AIDS to influenza and the common cold. Viruses multiply by hijacking the host cell’s machinery to create more viruses; antiviral remedies disrupt this process and can help viruses run their course more quickly. Herbalists have long recommended olive leaves — powerfully resistant to invasion by microbes and insects — as a natural antiviral. While clinical studies are lacking, laboratory research supports olive leaf extract’s antiviral properties. Consult your doctor before using olive leaf extract.
The olive tree, botanically known as Olea europaea, is a small evergreen tree native to the Mediterranean area. The tree features leathery, grayish-green leaves and produces small, bluish-black fruits that are high in beneficial monounsaturated fat. Olive leaves have been used in herbal medicine for thousands of years. As early as 3500 B.C., the leaves were used to clean wounds, promote healing and avoid infection; they were also used in poultices to treat dermatitis, boils, abscesses and skin ulcers. In addition, olive leaves were taken internally for fevers and systemic infections. Olive leaf extract was employed against malaria in the 19th century. Present-day herbalists advise olive leaf extract to boost the immune system, help prevent disease, and lower cholesterol and high blood pressure. An olive leaf extract has been patented in the United States as an antiviral against a number of diseases, including herpes, mononucleosis and hepatitis.