I firmly believe that in every locale, there are potentially medicinal plants that will be of value to you. However, it means letting go of thinking there are certain herbs that you must have – for example, in the US I had easy access to plantain, dandelion, and burdock, and it’s a mental shift for me to not feel like I need them when those were well within my comfort zone.
Here in Israel, there are olive trees all over. And I already knew that olive leaves were good for you, since I bought them a couple of years ago as part of a big herb order. Seeing the abundance of olive trees here on our very first day prompted me to learn more about how I could include this in my natural medicine chest.
First of all,a little about olive leaves (the following is from the Bulk Herb Store website, where I ordered my herbs from): Olive leaf is a natural antibiotic and antioxidant that can help or prevent many diseases. The active compounds have been reported to act as an anti-microbial agent, which slows invaders enough for the body’s natural immune system to react. It exhibits powerful anti-parasitic and anti-fungal properties that fight over one hundred viral and bacterial conditions. The result is a natural antibiotic and antioxidant with similar effects to garlic and onions… It also works to lower high blood pressure, reduce cholesterol, improve respiratory response, improve skin health, heart disease and fatigue. Olive leaf can rejuvenate your vitality and energy, enhance your immune system, supports your cardiovascular system and promote general health and well-being.
An easy way to use olive leaves is by making tea with them – just brew the leaves with some water, mix in a little sweetener, and drink up! I also used a concentrated olive leaf tea to wash down ds12’s foot when he had cellulitis. Be warned that the effective ingredient in the olive leaf is bitter, which is why I suggested sweetener!
So that’s one way to use it, but I like something even faster – having a big family means that I have to find ways to accomplish what I need to as effectively as possible. There’s also a limit to how much tea you can drink, and when you’re really under the weather, it’s likely you’d like something that will be powerful and effective, without leaving you bloating and running to empty your bladder every fifteen minutes.
Enter olive leaf tincture. (Read here to learn how amazing olive leaves are – I felt so lucky after learning all about them that I can easily harvest them for free here.) Making a tincture means that you draw out the medicinal qualities of the herb, and simultaneously preserve it for long term use. Ideally this can be done with alcohol, though in the past I’ve chosen to use vinegar and glycerin to make tinctures, since I thought my kids would prefer those flavors. Alcohol stores the best, though.
The instructions for making olive leaf extract/tincture are ridiculously easy:
1) Wash the leaves well, chop finely or shred in a food processor, then place in a glass jar.
2) Cover with 80% proof vodka. (A funny story – I asked dh to pick up some vodka at the store for me to make this. When he went to get it, an elderly Russian man approvingly commented to my husband, who tried to explain that he was getting it for medicinal purposes. I had also asked dh to pick up some lemon juice for salads, and when a little later in the store the same elderly man saw dh holding the bottles of vodka and lemon juice, the man smiled knowingly and smirked, “Right, medicinal.” )
If you’re using fresh leaves, then the ration of leaves to vodka is 1:2 or 3; ie, if you’re using 8 ounces of leaves, then you’d need to cover them with 16 – 24 oz of vodka. If you’re using dried leaves, the ratio is 1 leaves: 5 vodka.
3) Seal the glass, and let it sit in a dark place for at least two weeks, but up to six weeks. (Mine was ‘brewing’ for almost four weeks.) Shake it every once in a while and make sure the leaves are all covered by liquid; add more vodka if you need to.
4) After two weeks, you can now strain it out. If you have those wonderful amber colored dropper bottles (like I did, but gave away before we moved, sniff!), then pour it in there for easy use.
5) Use your tincture! Here’s a good site with information about how to determine your dosage.