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olive leaf helps fight lyme brainI feel that olive leaf extract is often overlooked in Lyme treatment. Given it’s broad-spectrum antimicrobial properties and it’s ability to support the immune system, while also crossing the blood-brain barrier, I have seen olive leaf helps fight Lyme brain. In today’s excerpt from my upcoming book Lyme Brain, you’ll learn more about olive leaf extract and how valuable it can be – and not just for Lyme sufferers! It helps to protect the brain and help it to regenerate during times of illness or stress.

Olive leaf extract is well known for its immune-boosting properties and antioxidant properties. It is antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal, and has been used extensively to keep gut flora in balance, guarding against Candida overgrowth and Helicobacter pylori (an infection of the stomach that reduces our ability to produce stomach acid and, hence, digest proteins). It has strong antiviral activity, too, and as many Lyme patients are cross-infected with viruses, this is a valuable trait. I have recently added olive leaf extract to my Lyme Support Formula to provide all these benefits.

Historically, olive leaf extract has been used to treat malaria, demonstrating its efficacy against parasites and its usefulness in Babesia treatment. In fact, I remember a patient with Lyme and Babesia who I treated a few years ago. She was getting ready to start treatment when her husband got a transfer to Japan. Rather than try to negotiate treatment and manage antibiotics abroad, she opted to defer her treatment for six months. Instead, she started on olive leaf extract and built up to relatively high doses. Six months later, she returned to the U.S. symptom free from Babesia!

I have done trials with olive leaf since, and while not everyone is going to get that degree of benefit, I have seen it make a significant contribution to Babesia and Lyme treatment.

Olive leaf’s active ingredient is oleuropein. Different products have different levels of this constituent, and higher levels will provide greater benefit. Oleuropein has beneficial effects on blood pressure and cardiovascular function, too.

Of most significance for those with Lyme Brain, research demonstrates that olive leaf extract protects the brain from damage caused by degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. It does this through its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant actions.

One study found that in the animals that were pretreated with olive leaf extract and then subjected to a medically induced stroke, there was a marked decrease in damage to brain tissue and a 55% reduction in the volume of dying brain tissue as compared to the control animals.[i] In chronic degenerative illness, olive leaf can help prevent neurofibrillary tangles that can result from inflammation and the accumulation of abnormal proteins in the brain, tangles that can grossly impact cognitive function and memory.

Olive leaf has also been shown to reduce the permeability of the blood-brain barrier. As we know, chronic infections such as Lyme can release toxins and promote inflammation in the body; if the blood-brain barrier is “leaky,” more of those toxins can cross into the brain and cause neurological issues. The only advantage of this would be that more antibiotics could cross over into the central nervous system, but there are many disadvantages. What causes a “leaky” blood-brain barrier? Severe infections and the inflammatory changes they produce, for one. Remember how we discussed in the first section that severe acute infections such as meningitis can cause leakiness of the blood-brain barrier? There is also some evidence that gluten can promote greater permeability, too—just another reason to stay away from it! But we’ll talk more about that later in the Nutrition section.

Overall, olive leaf extract is not considered one of our prime Lyme fighters because there are herbs that are more effective against the spirochetes themselves. I do think, however, that given its other properties, it is definitely worth considering in treatment protocols, especially in those with known parasitic and viral elements.

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[i] Mohagheghi, F, M R Bigdeli, B Rasoulian, P Hashemi, and M R Pour. “The neuroprotective effect of olive leaf extract is related to improved blood-brain barrier permeability and brain edema in rat with experimental focal cerebral ischemia.” Phytomedicine, January 2011: 18(2-3):170-5.