Last year, for the first time in a long time, I was going back to England to spend 10 days over Christmas with my family. Absolutely no way was I going to be knocked out with illness, either during my stay or afterwards. I was coming home to Italy on New Year’s Eve and nothing, absolutely nothing, was going to stop me joining the New Year party.
|Kokopelli Olive Trees during their annual pruning|
That the mediterranean diet is good for you, that good quality extra virgin olive oil is good for you, is well known and undisputed, but now scientists have isolated the unique molecule that provides olive oil with its multitude of health-giving and life-extending benefits.
This is an anti-microbial agent called oleuropein. Not only does the olive tree produce oleuropein in it’s oil, but it produces it abundantly in its leaves as well, meaning we have access to one of the most beneficial components of olive oil without having to consume copious amounts of oil.
|Olive leaves undergoing the drying process|
Oleuropein has been found to kill fungi, bacteria, viruses, protozoa and parasites, within the olive tree as well as within the human body. The beauty, and where oleuropein comes into its own, is that it doesn’t disturb the friendly flora in your gut. It only works against the bad guys, not the good guys.
The benefits coming out from recent studies into oleuropein are fairly impressive. Oleuropein constituents are best known for their blood pressure-lowering effects, but latest studies reveal benefits extending well beyond that. Additional anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties offer promise in fighting diabetes, cancer, neurodegenerative diseases, gout and even arthritis. What caught my attention, however, was it’s apparent effectiveness against the herpes virus, the evil component responsible for shingles (my recurring viral infection), and for providing a defensive barrier against the cold and flu virus.
Making and Tasting the Tea
|Olives leaves ready for drying|
This, I was convinced, was my secret weapon and I had access to it. We have olive trees, quite a few in fact and, hence, a heck of a lot of leaves. To preserve them, I picked the leaves by hand, mid-morning after the dew had gone, put them on top of the wood burner where they dried within 24 hours (quick drying, without sun, being essential for preserving the benefits). I then crushed them into tea leaves.
You can also just pick enough for the pot (a small handful), bruise them and steep them in hot water for about 5 minutes.
The first time I tried the tea, the flavour surprised me. I don’t know what I expected, but I didn’t expect to like it, which I did. A lot.
I hate green tea, and I thought olive leaf tea would be the same, but it’s not. It’s mild and delicate with a slightly musky sort of flavour.
What is more, not only is olive leaf tea far nicer than green tea, it's caffeine free, has been shown to have an antioxidant capacity almost double that of green tea, and is 400% higher in vitamin C.