The olive tree is one of the staples of Mediterranean civilization, valued as a producer of oil and food for thousands of years. Historically olives and their oil have been primary items of trade in the region, and olive wood is prized for its beauty and durability. Recently olive-leaf extract has also attracted interest as a dietary supplement, with some studies hinting at significant health benefits.
Olive Leaf Extract and Children
Olive leaf extract is generally considered to be safe for human consumption, with no known side effects beyond a moderately upset stomach in some cases. There are several brands of this supplement on the market in varying concentrations, so consult your brand's label for recommended dosages. There is no research yet to indicate whether olive leaf extract is safe for young children, so parents have little guidance to draw on in this area. If your family physician is open to discussions of complementary medicine, you should seek his or her advice.
Olive Extract and Health
There are many health benefits claimed for olive-leaf extract. Its boosters point to a range of studies indicating the extract's potential as a treatment for ailments including high blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis, or gout. Some studies also suggest that olive leaf extract has antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal characteristics. Some sources have suggested that olive leaf extract may even have an impact on HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. Olive leaf extract is also thought to be a potent antioxidant.
A quick review of the health benefits claimed for olive leaf extract reveal a clear pattern of diet-related maladies. It's true that heredity plays a role in most of these, but diet is the single most important factor in controlling cholesterol, diabetes, high blood pressure and the others. These are not ailments that commonly afflict children. These are the adult outgrowth of dietary habits learned in childhood. Modeling good food choices for your kids is a better long-term strategy than providing supplements.
Suggestions and Resources
Go take an inventory of your cupboards and refrigerator, and grade yourself on what you find. Are they full of high-fat snacks and high sodium prepared foods, or healthy staples and fresh produce? Switch to crunchy vegetables and dip at snack time instead of cakes, and use unsaturated fats for cooking. Do some research: lean grass-fed beef, for example, is an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids and usually comes from a local farmer. Feed your kids dried blueberries and cranberries for sweet snacks with antioxidants. Your county or university extension office can offer many additional suggestions for healthy eating.
- New York University Langone Medical Center; Olive Leaf; February 2011
- Huntington College of Health Sciences; Building Immunity and Promoting Wellness; Gene Bruno, M.S., M.H.S.; 2004
- "Phenolic Compounds and Antimicrobial Activity of Olive (Olea europaea L. Cv. Cobrançosa) Leaves"; Ana P. Periera, et al.; May 2007
- California State University Chico Agricultural Research Station: A Review of Fatty Acid Profiles and Antioxidant Content in Grass-Fed and Grain-Fed Beef; C. A. Daley, et al.
- Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images