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Phytochemistry

Ibuprofen-like activity in extra-virgin olive oil

Enzymes in an inflammation pathway are inhibited by oleocanthal, a component of olive oil.

Abstract

Newly pressed extra-virgin olive oil contains oleocanthal — a compound whose pungency induces a strong stinging sensation in the throat, not unlike that caused by solutions of the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug ibuprofen1. We show here that this similar perception seems to be an indicator of a shared pharmacological activity, with oleocanthal acting as a natural anti-inflammatory compound that has a potency and profile strikingly similar to that of ibuprofen. Although structurally dissimilar, both these molecules inhibit the same cyclooxygenase enzymes in the prostaglandin-biosynthesis pathway.

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Figure 1: Structures of (−)oleocanthal (left) and the anti-inflammatory drug ibuprofen (right).

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Correspondence to Paul A. S. Breslin.

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Beauchamp, G., Keast, R., Morel, D. et al. Ibuprofen-like activity in extra-virgin olive oil. Nature 437, 45–46 (2005). https://doi.org/10.1038/437045a

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