Active components and clinical applications of olive oil

Altern Med Rev. 2007 Dec;12(4):331-42.


The olive tree, Olea europaea, is native to the Mediterranean basin and parts of Asia Minor. The fruit and compression-extracted oil have a wide range of therapeutic and culinary applications. Olive oil also constitutes a major component of the "Mediterranean diet." The chief active components of olive oil include oleic acid, phenolic constituents, and squalene. The main phenolics include hydroxytyrosol, tyrosol, and oleuropein, which occur in highest levels in virgin olive oil and have demonstrated antioxidant activity. Antioxidants are believed to be responsible for a number of olive oil's biological activities. Oleic acid, a monounsaturated fatty acid, has shown activity in cancer prevention, while squalene has also been identified as having anticancer effects. Olive oil consumption has benefit for colon and breast cancer prevention. The oil has been widely studied for its effects on coronary heart disease (CHD), specifically for its ability to reduce blood pressure and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol. Antimicrobial activity of hydroxytyrosol, tyrosol, and oleuropein has been demonstrated against several strains of bacteria implicated in intestinal and respiratory infections. Although the majority of research has been conducted on the oil, consumption of whole olives might also confer health benefits.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / prevention & control
  • Cooking
  • Coronary Disease / prevention & control
  • Hypertension / prevention & control
  • Neoplasms / prevention & control
  • Oleic Acid / pharmacology
  • Olive Oil
  • Phenols / pharmacology
  • Plant Oils / chemistry*
  • Plant Oils / therapeutic use*
  • Squalene / pharmacology


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Olive Oil
  • Phenols
  • Plant Oils
  • Oleic Acid
  • Squalene