LoveToKnow spoke with Alexis (Lec) Watkins, owner of Los Corrales Olive Farm in Catalunya, Spain, about the benefits of olive leaf extract. Lec moved with her partner from South Wales, the United Kingdom, to the Catalunya region of Spain four years ago. The two purchased Los Corrales, an olive farm, and raise olives, producing exceptional products from the fruits and leaves of the olive tree. Their newly launched website, All That's Olive, sells the products from their farm and other sources. In between renovating the old stone finca, learning to manage an olive farm and growing all their own produce, Lec generously shared her knowledge of the benefits of olive leaf extract and described life on a Spanish olive farm.
Growing Olives in Spain
Describe your farm and the olives you grow.
Our olive farm, Los Corrales, is situated quite high (for an olive farm, anyway) in the Els Ports Mountains of Spain. The whole range is a protected Natural Park area, which means development has remained minimal. The area is one of outstanding natural beauty. Several varieties of eagle and vulture, plus wild boar and cabra (similar to the chamois) are regularly spotted.
We have a relatively small olive farm of 1.5 hectares. We came mainly for the space and the beauty, but the olives have been a rather interesting bonus. We joined the local village co-operativa in 2005, and that is where the bulk of our olives are usually pressed for oil.
Recently we have joined forces with a likeminded neighbor to get some of our best olives pressed separately. This means we can guarantee the oil contains no chemical residues, and is made from only the highest quality, freshest olives.
What Do You Grow on the Farm?
Our farm contains a variety of tree types including Manzanillo and the Catalan favorite, Arbequina. The trees range in age from 20 to several hundred years old. Luckily for us, the farm was well managed before our takeover so we inherited well tended stock. This means it has been relatively easy to learn about their care from simply copying what was already being done.
Our new neighbors are all keen to show us the way things should be done too, which has been of great help. Though some do despair at out lack of pesticides or ploughing of the land. We find a covering of grass; cut regularly is more beneficial than dry earth. This is particularly important when so much of Spain experiences such extreme soil erosion and the topsoil is such a small layer anyway. We have also found insect and bird-life increasing with more ground cover and no chemicals. It is good to be putting some natural balance back on the land. I am sure promoting birds and predator insects will benefit the olives in the long run.
How Hard Is It To Grow Olives?
Growing olives to make a living is notoriously difficult. But growing olives to provide yourself with table olives, olive oil and olive leaf tea is pretty straightforward. Which is why here in Spain, so many city dwellers still hang onto a small olive grove in the country. They will tend the land occasionally and provide themselves with their own olives and olive oil.Olives are happy to grow with no irrigation or chemical interference (like ours), and will crop heavily if the weather is helpful. Pruning is important but not critical every year. Luckily for us, olive trees are extremely forgiving! A light prune to train the trees into an umbrella shape is the traditional style in our area, but every olive farmer has their own "perfect way" to prune.
Every few years, many trees will have a "quiet year" and produce much less fruit than normal, so it pays to have as many trees as possible to ensure a regular crop overall.
As our area is so mountainous, the olive farms are still very traditional. Steep slopes are terraced, the olives planted far apart and left to get on with it (for the most part).
Health Benefits of Olive Leaf Extract
Next, we asked Lec about the health benefits of olive leaf extract.
To be honest, I was very skeptical when I first started looking into the benefits of olive leaf, purely because there are so many! The list of viral, fungal and bacterial problems that can be effectively treated with olive leaf extract is enormous.
Historically, olive leaf tea has been used to reduce fevers, particularly on the 19th century battlefields of Europe, as it is so quick acting and simple to administer. The compounds contained in olive leaf also reduce blood pressure and "bad" cholesterol, by preventing LDL cholesterol oxidizing.
Active Compound in Olive Leaf Extract
The Oleuropein compound in olive leaf is one of the primary active ingredients. It is a really powerful anti-oxidant, working in a similar fashion to flavonoids. Perhaps most research has looked towards the anti-viral, anti-bacterial and anti-fungal capabilities.
Powerful Anti Viral
Olive leaf extract benefits many viral complaints including all herpes variants, which means it can help a huge number of people. Olive leaf extract is currently being implicated even in the fight against HIV.
Other Health Benefits
Olive leaf in tea form is a diuretic too, which can help people with kidney function problems. Plus it is a mild anti-inflammatory so can help with arthritic conditions such as gout.In Hungary and North America, olive leaf is fast becoming a standard treatment for patients with "Yeast Syndrome" or Candida. With overuse of steroids, antibiotics and too much sugar rich food, Yeast Syndrome is fast becoming a huge problem in Europe and the U.S., causing so many terrible symptoms from depression to thrush. A way to fight it without putting the immune system under any more threat is great news. Olive leaf extract is even anti-parasitic. Taking olive leaf extract will flush parasites out of the intestinal tract. It has even been used to treat malarial patients, flushing out the parasite, which cause recurrences of malaria whenever it multiplies in the blood.
For those who are fit and healthy, olive leaf extract is still beneficial, as it is such a potent anti-oxidant. Those who exercise a lot are particularly prone to cell damage by oxygen so the very fit can use olive leaf extract too!
What Else is Important to Know About Olive Leaf?
I think it is one of those natural remedies that we should know more about. I can't say it will be the new natural wonder remedy of the 21st century, but it might be.
It seems incredible to me, the huge array of things it may be able to help with. To find something to be anti-viral, anti-fungal and anti-bacterial, whilst also reducing blood pressure, cholesterol and fever, is surely incredible! The possible benefit to HIV sufferers, is something I find particularly exciting. One of the really incredible things is that the anti-bacterial and anti-fungal action does not attack good organisms in our bodies.
I am glad that there is increased interest in the benefits of the olive leaf and new research being carried. I look forward to more studies in the field to see if it is as miraculous as it appears, olive leaf could be.
Other Ways to Benefit from Olive Leaf
There are many other health benefits from the olive leaf, and it can be enjoyed as a tea or used as a tincture to fight infection.
Olive Leaf Tea
Luckily, the beneficial compounds in the olive leaf are water-soluble. So making olive leaf tea is an alternative way to enjoy the benefits of olive leaf. It is usually simmered for a few moments then left to infuse in the hot water. It's surprisingly tasty, though slightly bitter so perhaps not to everyone's taste. I like it with a slice of lemon or ginger. You can buy olive leaf as ground leaf in tea bags or simply as loose leaves, which is more economical.
Olive leaf tincture (in alcohol) is used as a poultice because of its ability to fight infection and also viral attack.
For more information on olive leaf extract, or to contact Lec and buy olive and olive leaf products from Los Corrales, please visit their website, All That's Olive. Lec also maintains a blog, Catalan Garden.