Monday, December 14, 2015

Olive Leaf Tea

Olive Leaf Tea is a beverage that has been around in Greece for over 5,000 years. I was introduced to Olive Leaf Tea through the Low Histamine Chef (now at a new website, HealingHistamine). This gal has so much information about mast cell disorders and histamine intolerance - and foods and supplements that can affect them, with references - that it's a gold mine of information.

Olive leaf tea (made from leaves from the variety Olea europaea L.) contains certain flavonoids - these are organic compounds that occur in plants, and which can have many beneficial properties we can enjoy. They're often known for the anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that some of them possess. Olive Leaf Extract: the Mediterranean Healing Herb mentions daily average flavonoid consumption in the USA is typically 250-275 mg.  If you eat the amount of daily recommended fruits and veggies, though, it should be closer to 1000 mg flavonoids.

Olive leaf tea is one way I'm trying to increase my own flavonoid consumption as many fruits and veggies are off limits to me.

Looks like tea, eh?

Olive leaves contain two specific flavonoids that are of special interest to those of us with mast cell disorders (or allergies): quercetin, and luteolin (and rutin, which is valuable as well).  Quercetin and luteolin have been shown, in studies, to have a stabilizing effect on mast cells. Which means they make mast cells less likely to degranulate (what they do when we are having an allergic reaction).

Or in other words, it makes your body kinda...well, more 'resistant' to allergic reactions, almost.  At least that's my layman's interpretation of what I understand happens.

Olive leaf extract is what has been tested in studies most, but olive leaf tea contains the same components, if in lesser amounts. As alcohol is something that I will react to, it's the tea or nothing for me. And as olive trees grow in my area, I was able to collect the leaves without the worries of the preservatives I react to.

This has been having a positive effect, in my opinion. And if nothing else, it certainly hasn't hurt anything. The tea is a bit bitter, and I'm trying to mix it up with other flavonoid containing foods and teas, but increasing my flavonoid intake? Yeah, that's been going well for me.

Olive Leaf Tea (for regular consumption - see note below for uses beyond that)

Dried Olive leaves (can be purchased, or collect yourself from a positively identified tree that is in a safe area. i.e. safe soil, no chemical sprays used on it, etc... If collecting yourself, they must be dried for 3-5 days, at least, before they are fully dry, typically)

1. Take 15 dried leaves and boil in 1 cup of water for 5 minutes.
2. Remove from heat and let steep for 5-15 minutes.

* There are many recipes for Olive Leaf Tea, and they seem to differ depending on taste and purpose. The above recipes is not the one I actually use. If you are having the tea simply to add something new to your diet, and not looking for mast cell/allergy benefits, then steeping, or steeping with a short boiling period, is fine. It cuts down on the bitterness and creates a tea with a nice, pale color. There are recipes for olive leaf tea that is simply an infusion tea: the traditional tea where boiling water is poured over leaves and left to steep for 15 minutes. Boiling it for 5 minutes, as the above recipe says, simply gets you a few more nutrients/flavonoids for your time and effort, is all.

When I make this tea, however, I'm working to make a decoction, which is often used in herbal medicine for heavier leaves like olive leaves. A decoction has a higher concentration of leaves - 1 oz of dried leaves per 4 cups of water - and more boiling time. 15 minutes boiling the leaves in the water, and then 15 minutes steeping time afterward.

I will be honest: it doesn't taste good. It's typically pretty darn bitter. If I'm drinking it daily, or every couple of days, however, I don't make a full-on decoction, because I have not yet found any good literature on what the effects of drinking such a strong tea daily would have on my body.  Most tisanes (teas drunk for health benefits) are intended for short term use, after all, so I think that making it full strength daily could have potential side effects that I may not be aware of, possibly.

I tend to have it at about 1/4 the strength for something to have daily - 1/4 oz. of dry leaves per 4 cups of water. If I'm having a very reactive day, I sometimes up the strength, but I don't usually do more than use 1/2 - 3/4 the normal decoction concentration (1/2 - 3/4 oz dried leaves per 4 cups of water). The bitterness gets too strong, in my opinion.

I don't always boil it for the full 15 minutes. But again, it seems to help me. For anyone who is interested in this, when I use my home-dried olive leaves, 1/4 cup of slightly crushed leaves (I put them in my fist and crush them a few times) is about 1/4 ounce in weight. Not sure if thicker leaves would alter that, but as a rough estimate, that has worked for me.

Re: histamines. Olives are listed as high histamine, and olive oil can sometimes cause histamine issues in folks. I have seen no literature on olive leaves, however. They do have to be dried, so there is the potential that they could be higher in histamine if they are older. I dried my own, however, and have not had any problems with them so far.

Re: salicylates. I understand that this is fairly high in salicylates, according to acquaintances of mine who cannot tolerate them, so this is not recommended for any who have problems with salicylates.

I am, obviously, not a medical professional. I can't say that I know all the research on olive leaf tea out there, or its effects on the body. I'm just speaking from the perspective of what has worked for myself, and what effects it has had.  And adding a potentially new beverage to your radar, if you've never heard of it before. ^_^

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