Olive tree

Olive tree
© Sertürner Bildarchiv

Botanical name

Olive tree - Olea europaea L.


Olive family (Oleaceae)

Useful information about the plant

The olive tree is an ancient cultural and characteristic plant of the Mediterranean, which comes from a Mediterranean wild family, the Olea europaea var sylvestris. The farming of the tree goes back many millennia and probably took place in the Eastern Mediterranean. There are about 300 different olive varieties grown worldwide for the production of table olives and olive oil. These products represent a very important branch of industry in the Mediterranean countries, particularly Spain, Italy and Greece.
The olive tree is a very vital tree, makes little demands on the soil and climate and is several hundred years old. It can also be used throughout its entire life. Its trunk is gnarled and frequently twisted. Even when the inner wood of the trunk dies and becomes hollow, it will always grow new branches. The olive tree is about 20m high and develops a wide sweeping, light crown. Its leaves are narrow, grey green on the upper surface, silvery white underneath, growing opposite each other on the branches. After the second year they fall off. The yellowish-white flowers grow like panicles on anxillary short shoots, they blossom in June, and from October to December the olives ripen. There are single-seeded drupes, depending on the variety, green or blue-black, like a small plum; 60 to 65kg of olives could be harvested per tree per year. The olive tree unites early European history with its high symbolic value. So its branches were a sign of peace, even at the early Olympics the victors were adorned with a wreath of olive leaves.

Medicinally used plant parts (drug)

The dried leaves and the oil of the fruit are used. The leaves are mostly imported from Spain, olive oil from other European and North African Mediterranean countries.

Ingredients of the drug

Olive leaves contain esterified phenolic secoiridoids, mainly oleuropein, a glycosidically bound ester of elenolic acid with hydroxytyrosol, also free tyrosol and hydroxytyrosol and flavonoids. When drying and processing the olive tree leaves the diacetal oleuropein from the Oleacein is generated by the ring opening. The quantitatively most important fatty acid of olive oil is oleic acid (after saponification of the oil 56-86%).

Descriptions of the quality

The quality of the following drugs or drug preparations is specified in the European Pharmacopoeia (Ph. Eur.):

  • Olive tree leaves (Olea folium)
  • Olive tree leaves dried extract (Oleae folii extractum siccum)
  • Extra virgin olive oil (Olivae oleum virginal)
  • Refined olive oil (Olivae oleum raffinatum)

Medical Application

Recognised medical use

The Commission E has awarded the olive tree leaves an unfavourable risk-benefit ratio (negative monograph). In traditional medicine, the olive tree leaves are used against high blood pressure, gout, arteriosclerosis and rheumatism. The oleuropein contained in the leaves and the resulting Oleacein of the drying process are responsible for the blood pressure lowering properties. In animal experiments with olive leaf extract and some iridoids removed from it, confirmed the blood pressure lowering properties, clinical studies however have not been conducted, so the efficacy has as yet not been established. See also "traditional use". Olive oil is used pharmaceutically as an extraction agent for the production of oil resins (such as cayenne pepper oleoresin) and in its purified form for the manufacture of parenteral preparations (injections).

Traditional use

Olive tree leaves have no listing as a traditional medicine (traditional use acc. to § 109a). Traditionally used to support the cardiovascular function (registration).

Medicinal herbal preparations in finished drug products


Prepared drugs: see package insert;
Tea infusion: drink 1 cup of olive leaf tea 3 to 4 times a day.

Preparation of a tea infusion

Pour 150ml of boiling water over 2 cups of finely cut leaves and strain after 30 min.


No studies have been made on the use of olive tree leaves during pregnancy and breast-feeding. The disease of high blood pressure is not relevant to children and adolescents.

Side effects

At most allergic reactions


None known


Drug monographs

Commission E

Further reading

Wichtl: Teedrogen und Phytopharmaka, pg. 467
Van Wyk: Handbuch der Arzneipflanzen, pg. 219
Kommentar zum Europäischen Arzneibuch (Olive tree leaves, no. 1878)

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