Today we continue with our alphabetized summaries of popular and some not-as-well-known nutrients and supplements, this time focusing on those beginning with the letters O through R. Be sure to discuss the use of any of these products with your personal physician or other healthcare professional before adding them to your dietary regimen.
O: Olive leaf extract
As you might have guessed, olive leaf extract is sourced from the leaves of an olive plant. If you are at all familiar with the popular Mediterranean diet, you know that its reputation for promoting health thanks to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits is in large part due to its robust inclusion of olives (as well as leafy greens and fruit), particularly olive oil. Olive leaf extract’s main active ingredient, oleuropein, is believed to promote an abundance of health benefits, from bolstering heart health and weight loss to protecting the digestive and central nervous systems. Some research has suggested that olive leaf extract’s presence in your body counteracts narrowing of the arteries (atherosclerosis), thus reducing the risk of heart disease. There is also evidence that olive leaf extract has shown success in treating type 2 diabetes by enhancing insulin secretion in cells.
The name hints this might be an herb that is widely used as an aphrodisiac or a libido enhancer, when in fact it’s really neither. Native to the Americas – South and North, to include the southeastern United States, passionflower has for centuries been used as a sedative, as well as a folk medicine treatment for anxiety and sleep problems. Of course, if you’ve ever had to deal with severe anxiety or a persistent lack of sleep, you certainly have a passion for anything that helps solve those problems. Passionflower also has been used to treat pain, heart rhythm issues, minor skin burns, stomach ulcers, and hemorrhoids. In terms of its reputed sedative characteristic, it has been postulated that passion flower's anxiolytic effects are related to how it influences the body’s neurotransmitters, such as dopamine, for which one study has found that the herb’s extract produces healthy increases in dopamine levels.
Quercetin, a pigment found in numerous plants, fruits, and vegetables, is known for its potency as an antioxidant that makes it a worthy deterrent to several different health issues such as heart disease. Quercetin is also known as a flavonol, a sub-category of flavonoids, which are phytochemical compounds found in various types of foods, such as vegetables and nuts. Although we can’t manufacture quercetin in our bodies, it is readily sourced from a wide variety of foods typically included in a balanced diet as well as in potables such as tea and wine. Because of its antioxidant nature, quercetin can help guard our cells from sustaining oxidative damage caused by an overflow of free radicals our bodies produced when exposed to threats such as pollution, cigarette smoke, excessive sun exposure, and chemical toxins. Quercetin can also help protect our hearts by alleviating blood vessel dysfunction and reducing heart disease risk factors such as high blood pressure.
Because resveratrol is a polyphenol, it, too, serves as a strong antioxidant that can be beneficial to your heart health as well as your brain and other organs and functions found in your body. Resveratrol can be sourced from peanuts, blueberries, and cranberries, although it is most readily found in the skin of grapes, such as those used in the making of grape juice and red wine. White wine also contains some resveratrol but nowhere near to the degree it is contained in red wine. As a terrific source of antioxidants, resveratrol seems to work well in helping your body fend off illness and joining other products known as “anti-aging” compounds. It also supports our bodies as a protective lining for our blood vessels, thus helping to prevent unwanted inflammation to the heart and brain, among other benefits.