Ibuprofen-like activity in extra-virgin olive oil

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


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.

Access options

Rent or Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.


All prices are NET prices.

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


  1. 1

    Breslin, P. A. S., Gingerich, T. N. & Green, B. G. Chem. Sens. 26, 55–66 (2001).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  2. 2

    Andrewes, P., Busch, J. L. H. C., De Joode, T., Groenewegen, A. & Alexandre, H. J. Agric. Food Chem. 51, 1415–1420 (2003).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  3. 3

    Fischer, R., Griffen, F., Archer, R. C., Zinsmeister, S. C. & Jastram, P. S. Nature 207, 1049–1053 (1965).

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  4. 4

    Vane, J. R. & Botting, R. M. Inflamm. Res. 44, 1–10 (1995).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  5. 5

    Harris, R. E., Beebe-Donk, J., Doss, H. & Burr Doss, D. Oncol. Rep. 13, 559–583 (2005).

    CAS  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  6. 6

    Zhou, Y. et al. Science 302, 1215–1217 (2003).

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  7. 7

    Hu, F. N. Engl. J. Med. 348, 2595–2596 (2003).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. 8

    Tuck, K., Freeman, M., Hayball, P., Stretch, G. & Stupans, I. J. Nutr. 131, 1993–1996 (2001).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  9. 9

    Miro-Casas, E. et al. Clin. Chem. 49, 945–952 (2003).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  10. 10

    Hennekens, C. H. Am. J. Man. Care 8 (suppl.), 691–700 (2002).

    Google Scholar 

  11. 11

    Lefer, A. M., Muller, H. F. & Smith, J. B. Br. J. Pharmacol. 83, 125–130 (1984).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  12. 12

    Togna, G. I., Togna, A. R., Franconi, M., Marra, C. & Guiso, M. J. Nutr. 133, 2532–2536 (2003).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  13. 13

    Mitchell, J. A. et al. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 90, 11693–11697 (1993).

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information



Corresponding author

Correspondence to Paul A. S. Breslin.

Ethics declarations

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Supplementary information

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Beauchamp, G., Keast, R., Morel, D. et al. Ibuprofen-like activity in extra-virgin olive oil. Nature 437, 45–46 (2005).

Download citation

Further reading


By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.


Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing