Monday, April 11, 2005

What's Buzzing?

There's always a lot of talk about what's hot and what's not in herbs. Recently, the buzz has surrounded olive leaf extract (Olea europaea), a plant remedy traditionally used for mild hypertension and currently touted for its abilities as a natural infection fighter. Sometimes, the buzz is just noise. And so it is with olive leaf extract. According to herbal expert David Winston, registered herbalist and coauthor of Herbal Therapy and Supplements: A Scientific and Traditional Approach, the hype about this herb's infection-fighting abilities is just marketing from self-interested supplement manufacturers. Winston has yet to see any convincing data in human or clinical studies that document its antiviral or antibacterial properties -- though he acknowledges that it continues to have a role in helping with hypertension. Curious now, I looked up olive leaf extract on the Internet. Sure enough, manufacturers claim that it may...
*Control infections.
*Fight HIV, colds, flu, Epstein-Barr virus and more.
*Boost the immune system.
*Manage diabetes.
*Control cholesterol.
*Lower blood pressure.
According to Winston, the problem with many dietary supplements is that manufacturers typically make a wide variety of vague health-care promises about supplements with scant scientific evidence to back them up. As for the infection-fighting claims of olive leaf extract, he told me that these are based on the extraction and testing of one constituent -- oleuropein. Furthermore, there are plenty of herbs with well-documented infection-fighting abilities, such as garlic, sage, elderberry, thyme and honeysuckle -- so there's no need to consider an unproven entry. According to Winston, olive leaf extract can be useful in its traditional role as a remedy for mild hypertension around the 140/95 level or lower. It is commonly used in Europe for this purpose. Although olive leaf extract is a safe remedy, always inform your doctor about all dietary supplements that you take. Olive leaf extract may have a cumulative effect when taken with other blood pressure medication, causing blood pressure to fall too low. Winston cautions that even mild high blood pressure can be a cause for concern, and you should not attempt to self-manage it. See your medical doctor or naturopath for proper diagnosis and treatment.


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