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Does Lavender Oil Cause Estrogen Imbalance?

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Does Lavender Oil Cause Estrogen Imbalance?

Have You Heard . . .

That lavender and tea tree oil can cause little boys to grow breasts? Though I’ve definitely pulled out the lavender for my kids on many occasions and I use tea tree oil in my diaper wipe solution, there have been times when I’ve held back over concerns about possible estrogenic effects, both for them and myself.

Turns out, there was probably nothing to worry about. 

Thanks to a tip from Paula on a Facebook post last week, I dug up the often cited 2007 study which first claimed lavender and tea tree oil are hormone disruptors. Not only was it poorly constructed and vague, it has a sample pool of only three people!!

The boys (ages four, seven and ten), apparently used **some kind of product** which contained these oils. The products weren’t analyzed for the presence of other potential hormone disruptors, and the oils weren’t checked for purity. After developing their hypothesis, the researchers decided to test lavender and tea tree oil with human cells in a petri dish. Though the results did show estrogenic activity, that’s probably because the solvent they used to dilute the oils – dimethyl sulfoxide – is  a known estrogen mimicker! Furthermore:

“If you take a close look at the study, some issues are raised . . . The full list of ingredients in these products were not mentioned, nor the possible chemicals included in the packaging of the products. Parabens were likely included in the ingredients and phthalates in the packaging. In a recent study, diethyl phthalate was found in 103 out of 252 products, which included fragrances, hair care products, deodorants, nail polishes, lotions, skin cleansers and baby products.3 Both phthalates and parabens have been shown to have an estrogenicity presence.4&5

Are Lavender and Tea Tree Oils Estrogenic?

Clearly, the results of this study are desperately lacking in meaningful analysis. So what do we know, really?

Are lavender and tea tree oil estrogenic?

What Studies REALLY Say About Lavender & Tea Tree

According to three doctors representing Wake Forest, Yale and Harvard respectively, “Traditional use and clinical trials have not suggested estrogenic effects of tea tree or lavender oil, though estrogenic effects have been reported for other essential oils and plants.” (Source)

Even more helpful is this study, which measured “the effect of a test substance on the uterus of immature or estrogen-deprived female rats over three days. Any estrogenic action causes a rapid and measurable increase in uterine weight. The assay has been in use since the 1930s, was adopted by the OECD in 2007, and is now regarded as the ‘benchmark animal assay for estrogenic effects.'” (Source: World renowned essential oil expert Robert Tisserand)

The results? Even in concentrations 6,000 and 30,000 times greater than estimated exposure from multiple cosmetic products containing lavender oil, there was absolutely no effect on the uterus of the rats.

Zip. Nada. Nothing. 

As far as I can tell, the 2007 study is the only one which implicates lavender and tea tree as estrogenic. Given how poorly constructed it was and the fact that the only “gold standard” study we have says lavender is not estrogenic, I am not inclined to trust the results on tea tree oil either. Thank you Paula for putting my mind at ease!

Are you concerned about the potential estrogenic effects of lavender and tea tree? Why or why not?

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98 Responses to Does Lavender Oil Cause Estrogen Imbalance?

  1. Thank you for doing this research Heather. Like, you, i have also avoided Lavender and Tea Tree around my son. Although, it did strike me as odd, I hadn’t had the chance to do any research on the topic myself and so I have used other alternatives whenever possible. Good to finally have some info on this. Hope you’re having a great day!

    • Ben says:

      I wanted to post towards to top so readers could also understand the full picture of the study and make the most informed choice with their children (for the record – my wife uses essential oils all the time – but we have been reducing the frequency of lavender).

      The author is right about the three boys – but the study wasn’t about them – it only triggered further research. As you can see from the results – the tests were performed using the oils exclusively – with no other ingredients or substances. (full link below)

      “After Bloch discussed the cases with Korach, the NIEHS researchers conducted experiments using human cells to determine if the oils mimic the effects of estrogen, the female hormone that stimulates breast tissue growth, or inhibited the effects of androgen, the hormone known to control masculine characteristics and inhibit the growth of breast tissue. The researchers tested the ability of the oils to modulate or inhibit gene expression.

      “The results of our laboratory studies confirm that pure lavender and tea tree oils can mimic the actions of estrogens and inhibit the effects of androgens,” said Korach. “This combinatorial activity makes them somewhat unique as endocrine disruptors.”

      • Heather says:

        Hi Ben, I think what’s missing in the summary you linked to is that the solvent used to test the oils in vitro – dimethyl sulfoxide- was most likely what yielded the “estrogenic” result.

        • Ben says:

          Hi Heather – it is true that dimethyl sulfoxide is known modulator of estrogen, however I cannot find where you managed to find the information that this is the substance they used during testing.

          Can you please provide the link?

          • Heather says:

            It’s described in the full abstract. Only the summary is published in PubMed, but you can find a complete copy by googling “Prepubertal gynecomastia linked to lavender and tea tree oils dimethyl sulfoxide.” You should see a PDF link four or five listings from the top. I’d give you the direct link but the settings on my computer auto download it instead of opening the link.

          • Laura says:

            Here it is:

            ” For all experiments, the lavender oil (L. officinalis, which is a synonym for L. angustifolia) and tea tree oil (M. alternifolia) (both from Sigma Chemical) were diluted in dimethylsulfoxide before they were added to culture media.”

      • Gwen says:

        I have personally seen lavender’s estrogenic effects put to good use with baby girls who have had labial adhesion problems. The protocol most doctors use is to tear the labia apart without any numbing. The mothers were sent home with the instructions to continue to re-open the labia during diaper changes.

        I suggested that they apply dilluted lavender oil and multiple Mamas have had great success with this. One baby girl was nearly fully closed, and was about to block the flow of urine. The application of dilluted lavender oil thinned and separated the labia within a few applications, and prevented further treatment.

        So whether or not the oils have the ability to produce breast tissues in young boys, I don’t know. But based on how I’ve seen it used, I feel it does have potentially estrogenic/hormonal properties.

        Another thought on the traditional use of lavender: that would more than likely have been a whole plant use…the distillation of massive amounts of plant matter into an essential oil was probably not widely accessible for most. Essential oils by nature are highly concentrated and sometimes even carry different actions than their whole herbal counterparts.

        • April says:


          The help found from using the diluted lavender likely had nothing to do with the essential oil and everything to do with the fact that the tissue remained lubricated from whichever carrier oil was used. Procedure to fix that issue doesn’t usually involve ripping, but instead utilizes a lubricant of some kind (often petroleum jelly) to ease the tissue apart and then keep with application of the lubricant during diaper changes to keep the skin from growing together again.

          Speaking from personal experience on this. The situation is easily fixed without lavender. It does nothing to prove estrogenic effects.

      • Nola says:

        Hi all, Heather, thank you for posting and for all your efforts in researching and supporting ways we can raise healthier and happier kids. I still can’t quite reconcile myself with dismissing lavender and tea tree oils as potential endocrine disruptors. I read another blog post that ran some of the criticisms of the original article by an expert on children’s environmental health from Mt. Sinai, and his responses gave me (great) pause in using the oils as liberally as I would like to on my child, especially the part about cellular responses’ increasing with increasing concentrations of lavender and tea tree oils (though DMSO concentrations presumably remained the same). What are your thoughts? (His comments are in italics in the lower portion)

  2. Brenna says:

    That is GREAT to know. Only very recently have I heard about lavender being a potential estrogen problem w/young boys. I’ve been using it on my boys since they were newborns so it has been a concern. Thank you!

  3. Kirsten says:

    Wow, all that fear and hype over a poorly-conducted study?! Thank you for de-bunking this! Now I can use my wipe wash without remorse. :)

  4. Mae says:

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but hasn’t lavender been a popular herb and fragrance for hundreds and hundreds of years? I would think there would be some hard-core evidence, or at least old-wives tales, if lavender really did cause dramatic hormone disruption. :-)

  5. Mary says:

    thank God!
    i use this on my face nightly and i don’t need any more hormone issues! :)

  6. Amanda says:

    Will you share your wipe solution recipe? I’m 29 weeks pregnant and don’t want to use chemical-y ones!

    • Heather says:

      Sure, I’ll post it soon!

    • Kaely says:

      I make wipes from paper towels, but the same solution could be used in a small spray bottle on cloth wipes as well. I use about 1/2 roll of paper towels (cut in half with cut side down in the container – and the roll removed) and I mix 1.25 C Water with about 1T of olive oil and 1T of baby soap (if you’re already using a paraben, sulfate, fragrance, etc free baby soap it’s best! Plus it’s good to use something you already know is fine on baby’s skin). I mix that together and then poor it over the wipes. It’s not an exact science, I measure the water every time, but I used Earth Mama Angel Baby foaming soap and give it a couple pumps of the soap and a small drizzle of oil…so the measurements don’t need to be exact! If you’d like you had add a few drops of essential oils to the mix – tea tree is good for avoiding mold if you’re in a humid climate, especially in the summer.

    • Erin says:

      Tablespoon castile soap
      Tablespoon olive or grapeseed oil
      1/4 cup filtered water
      Mix all together and pour over paper towels or cloth prices cut to size

        • Mika says:

          Thanks for the great post, I was also worried abt the estrogenic effects of tea tree and lavender, so much that I wasnt using it myself either.
          I just learned abt the powers of calendula oil which I was considering incorporating in my homemade baby wipes (same recipe as yours, I just add 1 T of coconut oil and 1/2 of calendula oil, or half and half.
          Do you use calendula oil?

    • Justyna says:

      My wipes solution is simple and I can change it depending on what I have and what my son’s skin issues are. I have used disposable wipes when we’ve been away and he’s hated them. I think the homemade ones are soothing to his skin and I love that I can use them to wash his face and hands too. Anyway, I bought the Price Lionheart Cloth wipes warmer and some cloth wipes. I mix 2 C water with 1 Tbsp Dr. Bronner’s Baby Soap, 5 – 10 drop of each lavender, tea tree and chamomile oils. If rashy, I cut the tea tree and add it about 1 Tbsp grapefruit seed oil. I like my wipes to be so wet that I have to squeeze them out before I use them and I only put about 6 in the warmer at a time (the get mildew after about 3 days). Usually, there is enough solution in there to add 2 or 3 more batches of wipes before I need to make more solution. I’ve also been told that keep the solution in a spray bottle and just spraying a dry wipe when you need it works well too, but my little guy was born in the fall and I didn’t want to use cold solution on him over the winter.

  7. Leah G says:

    Years ago I read in the Wholistic Baby Guide hat lavender was estrogenic so I too have avoided it. Like most things I should have dug deeper. Thank you for the Great News!

  8. Nicki says:

    thank you heather! i think we all needed to hear this! :)

  9. Rochelle says:

    Use tea tree oil so much and never have any side effects. I feel better after using it. I haven’t used lavender oil but want to in the future. Thanks for the great article!

  10. Angel says:

    I had not even heard that it was a supposed danger. I’m glad I didn’t, too, because I’ve been using lavender on my son since he was a newborn. I’ve been using tea tree oil on him for years as well, and I use both of them nearly daily (combined with Vit E oils for a skin condition) on myself. I would have probably curled up and cried if this had said anything other than what it said. I’m so grateful this was good news!

  11. Wendy C says:

    I can no longer find the original article stating such, but I did find two. I have tried to stir clear of both lavender and tea tree oil.

    5. Avoid These: Avoid blue cohosh, vitex, saw palmetto berry, lavender, tea tree oil, licorice, hops, rhodiola rose root, black cohosh, dong quai, red clover blossom and motherwort leaf as they all increase levels of estrogen further lowering progesterone.


    Avoid all herbs that can increase levels of estrogen – with estrogen dominance, your progesterone levels are lower. These herbs include blue cohosh, black cohosh, dong quai, hops, lavender, licorice, motherwort leaf, rhodiola rose root, red clover blossom, saw palmetto berry, and tea tree oil.

    • Kaely says:


      I have to say that after reading both of the articles you posted here I don’t see anywhere stated WHY they believe that these and other oils and herbs increase estrogen levels, and it could very well be that they are basing their claims on the same study that is used here in Heather’s article. I am not saying that they are off-base in all of their claims, but when it comes to Lavender and Tea Tree specifically they could be using inconclusive information.

      It’s hard to read articles online and know exactly where they get their research and information unless it’s clearly stated within the article and then you can go and see if the research was indeed done in a way that gives sufficient evidence to the claims. I’d venture to say that upon a quick reading of the 2007 study Heather sites here a person could write an article stating how this along with other things should be avoided due to their estrogen-mimicking properties.

      I’m not saying that everything in these articles is false, I do not know since I have no idea what they are basing their information on. I am only saying to be careful of what you read and it’s sources and don’t take someone’s word at face value on things such as this without doing some research into the background of why they say what they say.

    • Sara says:

      Additionally….I have been taking a small amount of chaste tree berry (vitex) ~ 50 mg for a little over a month, and I am absolutely certain that my progesterone has increased, and my estrogen has certainly not increased. I started taking it *because I strongly suspected estrogen dominance* and research seems to indicate that it helps to raise progesterone, exactly the opposite of what you claim here. I cannot imagine that this would be a placebo effect given my long history of issues and my skepticism of the product, coupled with the overwhelming change and improvement.

  12. Georgia says:

    If you use pure Essential oils this would not be an issue. The oils I use are pure and unadulterated and safe for people of all ages and animals.

    • Sarah says:

      Georgia, that’s not necessarily true. Yes, pure oils are safe for their purpose, but you still shouldn’t use clary sage when pregnant, even though most other oils are fine. And pure peppermint is too strong for young babies, but fine when they are older. In France, you can’t even buy cinnamon oil without a prescription because it is so powerful. Yes, oils are safe in general, but that doesn’t mean that nothing bad will ever happen to any person who uses them. Poppyseeds and pot are herbs too, and I wouldn’t give those to children. My point is to be smart and do research.

      • Kayla says:

        I think she meant pure as in there are no synthetic ingredients. doTERRA is certified pure therapeutic grade so there are no synthetics. Most all other brands have synthetic forms of oils in them which can cause major issues, you can usually tell when it says for external use only.

        But I do agree with the rest of your comment.

  13. AnGela says:

    Great article! So what essential oils HAVE estrogenic effects? Other than the obvious soybean oil?

    • Robin Saik says:

      Yes – I have had breast cancer and the cancer cells were ER(estrogen)and PR (progestrogen) positive- I am new to DoTerra essential oils and just realizing some may have estrogenic effects. I have researched some and found these- fennel, clary sage, Aniseed and Nianouli. Does anyone know is this true? And can you add anymore oils to this this? Thanks
      Robin – Atlanta Ga

  14. Christine says:

    Thank you for this! I have heard this too, and often wondered if there was any truth to it, or if it was just spread around by companies trying to sell their cleaning products, and by people who simply couldn’t believe that there was a safe, natural, effective alternative to chemicals.

  15. Janine says:

    Glad we put that nonsense to rest! Love lavender and melaleuca and use them almost everyday!

  16. Anita says:

    No, But soy will.

  17. Kathryn says:

    Let me just tell you how happy I was to see your post, Heather! I had been using a high quality lavender essential oil for around a month before having a miscarriage, and at the onset of the miscarriage my sister in law suggested that I speak with a progesterone specialist to see if I could ultimately prevent the miscarriage from happening. Ultimately, nothing could be done, but what had been burning in my mind from my conversation with this specialist was his suggestion that some herbal products and essential oils (lavender in particular) were progesterone blockers that should be avoided at all costs during pregnancy. (Imagine hearing this after making the switch to more natural skin products, ditching the household chemicals, and carefully searching out any contraindications for fertility and pregnancy in my herb stash… So what else is 100% natural and “safe during pregnancy” that might encourage miscarriage?! Such confusion in my sad heart…) Looking forward to digging into your post and study links a bit more, but just wanted to thank you from the git-go for posting on this topic!

    • Heather says:

      Kathryn, I’m so sorry for your loss, but I’m glad to know this post soothed your heart a little. As far as herbs and things that might contribute to miscarriage, I honestly can’t say. I tend to research each product on a case-by-case basis as needed, so there are many I have not looked into. Hugs to you. <3

    • Charmaine says:

      Hello Kathryn,

      I’m sorry for your loss. When I was 7 months pregnant with my son, I had a serious case of vagina yeast infection (candida). A lot of cheese-like discharge daily, in fact too much that I had to dig it out and then apply some lavender around the area. I also cut down on sugar intake. After 1 months the infection is cleared. I can’t say for sure whether lavender is estrogenic but perhaps it does more good than anything…

  18. Robin says:

    Thanks so much for dispelling the myth of these valuable essential causing hormone disruption. I find it interesting that the essential oils were singled out by researchers instead of the other toxic ingredients. Thanks for doing the research on this.


  19. Jennifer says:

    Id still use oils sparingly. Susan Weed has some very intresting info. On essential oils, google it.

  20. Robin says:

    I’ve heard this as well and had a bit of worry in the back of my mind. I’m glad you posted this! I am a huge fan of using therapeutic grade essential oils. I just purchased some organic Hungarian lavender and I love inhaling some each night before bed. It’s truly relaxing!

  21. Melanie says:

    If someone is estrogen dominant, it is best to avoid heavy exposure to lavender. By heavy I mean use it sparingly and do not have it in your everyday routine.

    • Kelli says:

      Yes! You are correct! I have been struggling with estrogen dominance after getting off birth control pills over 7 years ago. My period was regular (as in the 6th of the month, every month, without fail) for the last 4 years. I then started using lavender eo in all of my homemade body products (sunscreen, bug spray, lotion, deodorant, etc) and therefore was getting exposure to the oil transdermally every single day. After just 2 weeks of this I got off of my period as usual, but then started another, extremely painful and heavy period just 3 days later! I was so worried that something was seriously medically wrong with me. Being that I don’t care much for western medicine I started doing research and voila! As soon as I saw that lavender oil could, in some people who are prone to estrogen dominance, cause estrogen issue I KNEW I had my answer! That was the one and only thing that Id changed in my very healthy lifestyle. I stopped the lavender altogether and within days I was back to normal. I now only diffuse it in moderation and don’t use it topically.

  22. monique says:

    I used to use both products religiously until my newborn was diagnosed with congenital adrenal hyperplasia, and I was told she could die within 10 days. She’s 7 now, but takes medication to stay alive. Some of the products I used often were on a list provided to me of things to avoid. So, for 7 years we’ve avoided those products. 2 years ago my oldest daughter was diagnosed with an endocrine disorder as well, and now my niece has been diagnosed with one (among a host of other health issues). It’s been hard, since those are the best 2 natural products, but I’ve continued to avoid them under the “better safe than sorry” umbrella.

    • Sarah says:

      @Monique, I see your comment was posted a long time ago, but I also have a child with endocrine disorder (not related to EO’s), but I just wanted to share that the MAGIC Foundation has support groups for children with CAH and other disorders, that are great.

  23. […] Does lavender oil cause estrogen imbalance? […]

  24. Susan says:

    I’m so sorry to hear about the difficult pregnancies and special needs in some of your families and your doubts about the safety of lavender. These are all some valid questions and concerns, I’m a certified aromatherapist and have been studying and using essential oils for over 20 years. I’ve been using lavender on all of my children since birth (I have 4 boys & 2 girls ages 4-17) and none of them have had side effects. I used lavender essential oil through all of my pregnancies without complication. I am studying clinical aromatherapy with a British nurse where essential oils are used more readily in Europe for therapeutic purposes in hospitals. Lavender essential oil has been listed in the British Pharmacoepia as a medicinal therapy (a listing of British pharmaceutical standards). I’m saddened to see the stories flying around the internet striking fear into women to avoid an amazing tool for raising healthy families. In the aromatherapy community, lavender essential oil is considered the “swiss army knife” of patient care. It speeds wound healing (especially after birth), calms fussy babies and stressed moms. It eases the pain from burns and can stop a bloody nose. The chemistry of essential oils is complex and there is just not any evidence to suggest that lavender is estrogenic when we are surrounded by xenoestrogens (synthetic estrogens) from plastics, petrochemicals and growth hormones for food to mention a few. Synthetic fragrance is the worst,(anything with the term “fragrance” in the ingredients) and is just a combination of unknown chemicals that are most likely having a greater impact on the hormone health of our children than anything else. It can be overwhelming sifting through the sea of information, especially as new parents. If you use lavender essential oil, make sure it is therapeutic/food grade, this is the only guarantee that the oil is free of synthetics and chemical fillers (which could affect hormones). If you really want to have strong research to back your decisions for raising a healthy family, I encourage you to check out This non-profit organization is dedicated to research and informing consumers about the safety of our personal care products.

    There are some essential oils that can balance hormones, some that should be avoided during pregnancy like fennel, anise, sage and clary sage.

    Thanks for posting such an important article!

    • CMerie says:

      My OB recommended Lavela WS 1265 which is basically encapsulated lavendar oil for use to reduce anxiety. She said it was fine while nursing, but while doing my research I read the article mentioned above about lavendar affecting hormones. Especially since I’m nursing a little boy and wanted to also offer these to my husbad, I was concerned. Would you say that it’s fine and to go ahead and use it?

    • steph says:

      do you think that if it were possible that chemicals were leached from the plastic lab equipment in these studies that EO could leach chemicals from plastics in our daily lives too? such as use in diffusers with plastic pieces, shampoos/toiletries containing oils and sold in plastic packaging, etc.?

  25. Vikki Stefans says:

    Tea tree oil agrees with me so it is not ANTI-estrogenic either. I found out the hard way that grapeseed oil contains some aromatase inhibitor and I was probably making myself miserable with this most of the winter by using a progesterone cream that had some. I also got terribly ill taking DIIM that was recommended to me for “estrogen dominance;” it turns out have to avoid most phytoestrogens not because they increase estrogenic activity but because of competitive binding (higher affinity, lower potency) at alpha and beta estrogen receptors. I cannot tolerate anything that downregulates estrogen receptors either; I happen to need my limited supply of estradiol to stay at work for me pretty badly due to genetic insulin resistance issues and migraines. A lavender infused drink I had recently gave me one of my worst migraines ever, so if anything I’d tend to suspect something like that for it also – a very weak estrogenic effect such that it is essentially anti-estrogenic. Take anything you read about “estrogen dominance” with a grain of salt – the actual hormone receptor biochemistry is a lot more complicated than that, and the other thing they don’t explain clearly is that progesterone is not anti-estrogenic but in fact sensitizes estrogen receptors.

  26. Christina says:

    I actually am still concerned about tea tree oil. I was never really worried about lavender oil, but tea tree has always made me feel suspect. With appreciate that you’ve found a study saying lavender is okay, but being a small set of three cases of problems in boys doesn’t make it inaccurate for tea tree. Even if there were other problem ingredients in the products used, that doesn’t mean it wasn’t the tea tree oil that caused or contributed to the problem. This doesn’t disprove the possibility that tea tree oil is a hormone disruptor. It just means more research is needed.

  27. Carmen Z. says:

    Concerned about lavender oil being estrogenic..not really! There are far more estrogenic causes out there to make lavender oil pale by comparison. It’s a serious subject: we have plastics we all use on a daily basis that leak synthetic estrogen into our systems; we have pesticides in foods that contain estrogen-mimicking compounds; our cattle are given overdoses of extra estrogen so they can produce milk at a faster rate. Today, the meat of hormone-treated cows has been found to contain up to 5 TIMES the amount of estrogen as untreated cattle. Don’t think a little lavender oil or tea tree oil will make much difference. Thank you for your insights!

  28. […] Tea tree oil is a natural anti-fungal, as is coconut oil. Many parents report success with applying 5 drops tea tree oil mixed with 2 tablespoons of coconut oil. Notes: Do not apply undiluted tea tree oil to skin – it will burn! And no, I personally do not think tea tree oil will cause an estrogen imbalance. Here’s why. […]

  29. […] * Lavender and tea tree essential oils are considered by some to mimic estrogen. After looking into the study that sparked this claim I have concluded that it was poorly contructed and desperately lacking meaningful analyses. On the other hand, according to three doctors representing Wake Forest, Yale and Harvard respectively, “Traditional use and clinical trials have not suggested estrogenic effects of tea tree or lavender oil, though estrogenic effects have been reported for other essential oils and plants.” You can read more about the original study and subsequent studies here. […]

  30. […] A NOTE ON THE ‘STUDY’ WARNING NOT TO USE LAVENDER OR TEA TREE ON BOYS – It’s pretty bogus! It wasn’t even done using pure essential oils, but on man made chemical versions, which you shouldn’t be using anyway. You can read more here: […]

  31. […] 1/4 teaspoon lavender essential oil, optional. Reduce to 1/8 teaspoon if this salve will be used on children. (Concerned about the “estrogenic” effects of lavender. You might be interested in this article) […]

  32. Sarah says:

    I wouldn’t be too quick to dismiss the study implicating tea tree oil and lavender as estrogenic. The paper making the connection was published in one of the most prestigious medical journals in the world, the New England Journal of Medicine.

    From the report:
    “This report raises an issue of concern, since lavender oil and tea tree oil are sold over the counter in their ‘pure’ form and are present in an increasing number of commercial products, including shampoos, hair gels, soaps, and body lotions. Whether the oils elicit similar endocrine-disrupting effects in prepubertal girls, adolescent girls, or women is unknown. Since gynecomastia is labeled idiopathic in approximately 10% of men, one might speculate that unidentified exogenous sources of endocrine-disrupting chemicals may contribute to the onset or progression of the condition, or both, in such patients. The results of our in vitro studies indicate a dose-response relationship in the estrogenic and antiandrogenic activities of lavender oil and tea tree oil, suggesting that susceptibility to gynecomastia or other manifestations of endocrine disruption may require exposure to a threshold dose of these oils. The threshold might depend on several undefined factors, including the concentration of the oil in a product; the duration, frequency, and quantity of use of the product; and the genetic characteristics of persons exposed. Until epidemiologic studies are performed to determine the prevalence of gynecomastia associated with exposure to lavender oil and tea tree oil, we suggest that the medical community should be aware of the possibility of endocrine disruption and should caution patients about repeated exposure to any products containing these oils.”

    No one “needs” tea tree oil or lavender. Subjecting our children to these products, which laboratory studies have shown to be both estrogenic and antiandrogenic, is to my mind irresponsible parenting.

    • Heather says:

      Hi Sarah! I don’t think I was quick to dismiss the study. After carefully reviewing it, though, I came to the conclusion that the solvent used to test the oils in vitro were most likely what yielded the “estrogenic” result. It is a known endocrine disruptor. In contrast, I find the rebuttal from the representatives of Yale, Harvard and Wake Forest very compelling. As a mom who makes the soap, shampoo and even toothpaste my kids use in order to reduce their exposure to toxic materials, I can honestly say that I do not think I am being irresponsible at all. We all have to decide what research is most compelling with us and act on it. :)

      • Ben says:

        You are right that it could have been any ingredient in those products – however, this was not the result – it was simply the catalyst to do further testing.

        “After Bloch discussed the cases with Korach, the NIEHS researchers conducted experiments using human cells to determine if the oils mimic the effects of estrogen, the female hormone that stimulates breast tissue growth, or inhibited the effects of androgen, the hormone known to control masculine characteristics and inhibit the growth of breast tissue. The researchers tested the ability of the oils to modulate or inhibit gene expression.

        “The results of our laboratory studies confirm that pure lavender and tea tree oils can mimic the actions of estrogens and inhibit the effects of androgens,” said Korach. “This combinatorial activity makes them somewhat unique as endocrine disruptors.”

        • Heather says:

          HI Ben, it is my opinion that the solvent used to test the oils in vitro yielded may have yielded the “estrogenic” result. One of the foremost experts on essential oils, Robert Tisserand, suggests it might have been due to another problem with testing methods here:

          Either way, I personally find the rebuttal from the representatives of Yale, Harvard and Wake Forest very compelling.

          • steph says:

            i find it interesting that this study links the estrogenic results to chemicals leaching from lab equipment, but Tisserand still sells EO products in plastic packaging and diffusers with plastic pieces. seems like he is more interested in profits than safety. especially since i’m sure he is aware of the studies now that show all plastics leach chemicals.

          • Heather says:

            Are you referring to Tisserand Aromatherapy? I believe he consults for them (which he discloses here), but from what I can tell he is not a business partner there. I don’t know the story and may be remembering incorrectly, but I think they may have parted ways awhile ago. This is his website:

            I don’t see any particular brand of EO’s sold there in the store.

          • steph says:

            in his disclosure statement it reveals that he is a shareholder of the company that owns tisserand aromatherapy, so that = profit.

            also, do you think we should be concerned about chemicals leaching from the plastics in diffusers from companies like doterra and young living? or from products containing tea tree oil/lavender (or any essential oils) that are packaged in plastic containers – like the cleaning concentrates from melaleuca or even like natural deodorants that people make out of EO and then package in plastic deodorant cases purchased empty and wholesale (for example). these studies may have cleared the oil themselves, but have opened up more questions about using the oils safely. it would nice to see a follow up post on this :)

          • steph says:

            this is the disclosure statement i was referring to – last paragraph before the references.


          • steph says:

            I am still interested in hearing your thoughts on the plastics if you have a moment – email is fine if you don’t want to answer here.

  33. AutumnD says:

    My brother grew breast tissue as a boy. He was using soap made with lavender oil. His doctor asked about lavender in anything he used. He stopped using the soap and it went away.

  34. […] Air Freshener: Lavender has a beautiful aroma. It has a light floral scent with slight woody undertones. Check out my Air Fresheners post to learn how to make a variety of air-fresheners using less than 5 ingredients!Something to note about Lavender- there has been some talk that Lavender oil could be linked to estrogen imbalance in young boys. There are studies that say yes, and others that say no (like everything out there!) My thoughts on the matter? If my son is going to be exposed to something I would rather it be organic natural lavender oil than some synthetic crap (pardon my language). That being said, while my son is young and I am breastfeeding I have chosen to use a few different scents like chamomile in his homemade baby powder. Read more here.Resources: […]

  35. […] 5. The test solvent may have skewed results Once the researchers saw the results of removing the potential offender, they decided to test their hypothesis. They tested lavender and melaleuca in a petri dish with human cells. There were signs of estrogenic growth. However, the solvent used to dilute the oils was dimethyl sulfoxide…a xenoestrogen itself! […]

  36. Nikki says:

    My daughter’s pediatrician just posted information from that same bogus 2007 study about lavender and tea tree. I hope you don’t mind that I sent her YOUR very well researched and thoughtful remarks. Thank you for your due diligence. Now, if we could just get the medical community to do the same.

    • Heather says:

      Thank you for sharing it! You know, I used to work for a doctor and it was shocking with how much “info” he was bombarded with. (I use that term loosely because it often seemed more like propaganda designed to push a particular medication.) I don’t envy the task of trying to sort through all that junk, which is why I think it’s so important for docs respect patients who research and make personalized, informed healthcare decisions. I love my pedi because he partners with me rather than trying to squeeze my family into a “one size fits all” approach.

  37. Danielle says:

    Thank you so much for this post! I had also heard about lavender causing an estrogen problem with boys, so I was always cautious about using it with my toddler son. Now I can give a sigh of relief and use it more often!

  38. Annetta says:

    Thank you!! I was so bummed when I heard about this because I used lavender and tea tree oil in my baby wipes I make, and I love the scent not to mention the great benefits from them…. my mind is not at rest as well!

  39. Thank you so much for writing this! There are so many vague “studies” out there with poor research on the effects of natural products. What can you find on the study of soy effecting the estrogen levels in boys and men as well? I’ve read that GMO soy is pretty bad but organic soy seems to be a different story. However I don’t have a complete search on this!

  40. David says:

    “The results of our laboratory studies confirm that pure lavender and tea tree oils can mimic the actions of estrogens and inhibit the effects of androgens,” said Korach. “This combinatorial activity makes them somewhat unique as endocrine disruptors.”
    You imply that the culprit in this 2007 study might be an additive to the products used. The statement above, from the study, seems to implicate pure byproducts of lavender and tea tree oils.

    • Dave says:

      David… have you read a full analysis of this so called “study”?
      Any good researcher, privately, would laugh this study into the trash can. I can hear them responding to these claims… “You’re not SERIOUS are you? Did you even read this rubbish?”
      I have NOT gone too terribly in depth on this… after reading the published material… I couldn’t believe anyone published this “Click Bait” (<—the truth about publishing poorly researched "studies" that sound scary).

      Pretty amazing… lavender and tea tree are dangerous… but (in the U.S.) there is no "conclusive evidence that mobile phones pose radio frequency risks to humans".

      I'm sure there's no industry shenanigans involved in any of it. Right.

  41. Jude from Australia says:

    This documentary was shown last week in Australia. It expires on 20 April 2014. It does mention lavendar oil as being oestrogenic and how it affected 2 young boys. Very worthwhile watching

  42. Ben says:

    I think this article is misleading. Yes, there were 3 boys involved – but they were not the study. They were being treated for gynecomastia and found that in each case – the boys were using some product that contained either tea tree oil/lavender or a combination. Once they stopped using these products, the gynecomastia symptoms subsided. Now, I don’t necessarily disagree with you and the research may be bunk – but people are making decisions based on your article and should be fully informed.

    You are right that it could have been any ingredient in those products – however, this was not the result – it was simply the catalyst to do further testing. “After Bloch discussed the cases with Korach, the NIEHS researchers conducted experiments using human cells to determine if the oils mimic the effects of estrogen, the female hormone that stimulates breast tissue growth, or inhibited the effects of androgen, the hormone known to control masculine characteristics and inhibit the growth of breast tissue. The researchers tested the ability of the oils to modulate or inhibit gene expression.

    “The results of our laboratory studies confirm that pure lavender and tea tree oils can mimic the actions of estrogens and inhibit the effects of androgens,” said Korach. “This combinatorial activity makes them somewhat unique as endocrine disruptors.”

  43. Jess says:

    Could it effect me if inhaled? I put a drop on my pillow at night to help me sleep.

  44. Incense says:

    I’ve definitely pulled out the lavender for my kids on many events because lavender oil gives estrogenic effects as compare to other oils.Thank you so much for writing this! There are so many vague “studies” out there with poor research on the effects of natural products.I would also like to use these oils.Thanks for sharing your information.

  45. James says:


    With all due respect, you keep linking to this Robert Tisserand fellow who may very well know his oils and but he owns a company and website that sells….essential oils! He’s not a doctor, nor a biologist, nor does he have any sort of medical degree. I’m beginning to think this post of yours is an example of your blog’s notice saying that you sometimes receive payment for your posts…

    Im not saying he or you are being disingenuous here, but here’s what we know: 1) at least two studies have shown significant estrogenic effects of tea tree and lavender oils in vitro — and yes it *could have been* due to the plastic used in the lab (you, unlike the scientists behind the study, seem to throw out the results based on this low to medium probability event); 2) one study, the one reported by Tisserand, does say that no estrogenic actions were found when large doses of lavender oil were administered to rats.

    Assuming these studies were done in good faith and not funded by those who stand to gain from biased results, what to do, which results can we trust more? Should I continue giving lavender/tea tree oil to my child because it’s just so soothing and our ancestors (many of whom less educated and scientifically advanced) did so?

    The truth is no one knows for sure.

    So why not err on the side of caution and stop using these non-essential for your babies bum oils?

    Wouldn’t that be the sound thing to do, as a responsible parent who doesn’t know better than the scientists giving us these contradictory results?

    • Heather says:

      Hi James – Just to be clear I was not compensated in any way for this post. While I agree with you that it is best to err on the side of caution, whose cautions we heed really comes down to who we trust. Personally, I feel confident in the individuals whose opinions I have based my conclusion. According the FDA raw milk is dangerous, but I have been drinking it for years with only positive effects. They are not a source I rely on unequivocally for safety information. On the other hand Robert Tisserand is one of the most respected essential oil experts in the world, and his conclusions are backed up by three doctors representing Wake Forest, Yale and Harvard. Do I know the motives of the other study? Nope, but I think it was poorly constructed regardless. Readers here know that I encourage everyone to do their own research and make the decisions they feel most comfortable with. Personally, I feel comfortable using tea tree and lavender with my children.

      • reader says:

        why is your post tagged with an “affiliate link” label then? isn’t that compensation?

        • Heather says:

          That’s a standard disclosure that goes on all my pages because some do contain affiliate links to books, products I personally use and review, etc.

          However, I was not compensated in any way for this post, and there are no affiliate link in the article.

  46. Dave says:


    You said… “He’s not a doctor, nor a biologist, nor does he have any sort of medical degree.”

    Ben Franklin and Leonardo DaVinci were uneducated twits… so what’s your point?

    Talk to any HONEST academic researcher that isn’t overly impressed with himself, and they’ll fill you in on the state of “science” and research grants.

    Bill Gates and Steve Jobs were drop-outs. Your version of “bonafides” is a relatively new one, in Western society… and takes little stock of a great many in history that were “uneducated”, and made massive contributions to science, mathematics and society.

    Nice try though…

  47. James says:

    @dave: You seem to take it very personally that I mention the fact that Mr. Tisserand is not a doctor nor trained physician. Your (over the top?) reaction is puzzling given that only someone who has first hand knowledge/training/studies in the science concerning what disrupts endocrines and the like in humans should be seen as an authority on the subject. Make no mistake, we are are not talking about his knowledge/appreciation of oils but on their particular, unknown and potentially disruptive effects on us.

    Not too long ago, soy was touted as a wonderful food to be given to men until it had been shown to substantially increase their estrogen and lower their testosterone levels, and in a few very well clinically-documented cases caused gynecomastia (enlargement of male breats). Many doctors are still not aware of this yet as as the science is still young just as it is with tea tree and lavender.

    @heather: fair enough, though erring on the side of caution normally means avoiding any non-essential substance when not enough studies have been done, or when a couple of studies have shown results that indicate ill effects to our health.

  48. Dave says:

    Actually, no James… that’s not it at all.

    I have just learned that “credentials” have been abused horribly to sell every manner of nonsense to a public that has tended to “deify” medical professionals and scientists. My own expertise is in advertising and marketing, or, “applied cognitive psychology”. I am particularly sensitive to unchallenged “logical fallacies”, generally… please don’t take it personally.

    FWIW, the “soy is good food” fallacy was challenged by “non-credentialed” folks LONG before the professional community backed it up with “accepted” studies. The original infatuation for soy foods in the U.S. was a well funded campaign by Archer Daniels Midland, a large Ag commodities broker… (yeah, big surprise, I know.)

    Any reaction certainly isn’t to your positions, per say… I do think it is probable our various “perceptive attenuation” to things around health and well being may be informed from pretty divergent sources. If the both of us sat down and chased, to both of our satisfactions, the origins of most of the “news” our society is awash in, I feel quite certain, upon following the money, you would be surprised how much “news” is vetted by marketing departments. Since studying these tools, I have never seen media and politics the same since.

  49. D. says:

    There are several different kinds of lavender. Not only that, but how the oil is extruded from the plant is important too, because it will change the amount of percentage of actual plant oil to the amount of carrier oil used in most OTC lavender oils.
    I am a post menopausal woman who can state without a doubt that lavender has hormonal effects of some type. Whenever I use any type of organic lotion containing it, or make my own with coconut oil and lavender essential oil (of any kind – french, spike – whatever) within the same 24 hour time period I will have enlarged feeling boobs. Sorry to be graphic but don’t know how else to say it. They feel almost engorged like they did when I was breastfeeding years and years ago. I haven’t noticed any other type of reaction, but internally (ovaries, etc) it could be having an effect not felt. I would advise to be careful with using lavender oil (I don’t know about tea tree oil because I can’t stand the smell of the stuff so I never use it). Better to err on the side of caution. There are many other oils to apply to the skin for healing purposes, and lavender can always be used for sleep/relaxation by applying it to a kleenex and placing it near your head at night or something.

  50. […]  However, since the time of the article I just linked to, many strong rebuttals have come out (see here and here for examples).  I personally feel that the rebuttals appear stronger than the original […]

  51. Holly says:

    Hi there…I was just referred to this post, so I am a little late in commenting. What I would like to add is this story. My good friend had been faithfully applying tea tree oil to her daughter’s severe eczema, and she had shown her how lovely lavender was to spray on her pillow, which she found out later her daughter had been doing pretty excessively. She was about 6 or 7 at the time. One night my friend noticed when her daughter was in the bath that she was indeed growing breast tissue. She took her to the doctor, who told her that she had just been reading about the effects these oils could have and to stop using them on her daughter immediately. She did, and thankfully the breast tissue went away. However, the issue had been so severe that her bones had started to fuse as they do during puberty, and she had an early growth spurt. I have been terrified to use these products ever since, and especially on my boys. I don’t think this article helps me to change my mind, although it sounds good. I will always do my research anytime I use anything, medicinal or homeopathic, and if there is any chance of a risk like this, I will choose to be on the safe side.

  52. Toni says:

    I am so relieved. I was in tears, literally sobbing, because I’ve been using lavender oil a whole lot the past few weeks. It’s bee one drop mixed with 2oz of coconut oil, for the bottom of his feet when he’s extremely fussy, or along his jawline when he”s teething. and a drop by itself on bug bites that wont go away. Some one told me to “be careful because it contains phytoestrogens” …….. and I immediately began to freak out. Heather, is there anyway I can be 100% positive I didn’t mess with my son’s hormones? I feel like a terrible mother right now.

  53. jak says:

    I just got some oils and had been using a drop or two of lavender and peppermint on the bottoms of my feet each night before bed just for relaxation. I did this for a couple of weeks. I had the same reaction as D. and didn’t think to connect the cause at first. My chest was huge and sore. That was a few weeks ago and I think it really messed up my hormone balance. Last week was PMS and I had terrible cramps in my left ovary. Once my cycle started I’ve had the worst cramps in my life, plus a much heavier than normal flow. I usually barely have cramps at all, and never have them before the period! I know I’m more sensitive to things that affect hormones, as I can tell when I’ve had too much flax seed, or miso, etc. This was an over the top reaction for me though, and I was not consuming the phytoestrogen foods out of the norm. I think people need to get it into their minds that just because something is natural, does not mean it doesn’t have side effects. Also, just because you don’t FEEL a negative difference in your body it doesn’t mean it’s not affecting your chemistry negatively. These oils are potent “medicines” and not necessarily any less detrimental to our health just because they are natural. Perhaps it’s just a negative effect for some and not all, but I’m getting lavender out of my house and away from my family. I’ll miss the lovely, calming smell, but even though it’s “pure” and “all natural” and helps me relax the possible endocrine disruption makes it no more safe (in my opinion) than a synthetic endocrine disruptor.

    • Dave says:

      JAK, so let me understand this…

      You had this reaction to “oils”, in this case, “lavender and peppermint”, and had this huge reaction.

      Have you ever wondered why, after centuries of use, people are just now having reactions to lavender of the scope you outline in your post?

      The sheer enormity of the compendium of uses and effects of herbals over the last few centuries dwarfs western medicines body of knowledge, regarding the efficacy of “drugs”.

      You may just not have gotten up to speed on how to properly read labels… “Pure” and “All Natural” are marketing terms, and have NOTHING to do with the quality of ANY food or herb product that is approved as “safe” by the FDA.

      Anyway… presuming you are who you say you are, and your motives are, in reality, what you say they are… that strong of a reaction to what you put on your feet is not about lavender essential oils.

      If you are sincere, I would strongly scrutinize the ingredients label of that product, or the origins of the product vis a vis the manufacturers source. Real lavender EO won’t do what you are suggesting by a long shot. That’s just the facts.

  54. Jo says:

    I realize that this is an older thread, but I have concerns as well. I have menstrual migraines, and they worsen with the use of lavender oil. I do use the name brands (both of them.)

  55. ant says:

    I had personally experienced hormonal effect from tea tree oil and won’t touch any care products containing it again (would still use it for a short time/matter of few days, to treat specific condition)

  56. Teri says:

    THANK YOU for pointing this out! When these essential-oil-network-marketing companies started becoming more widespread I did my research and learned the same thing. They use these trademark phrases to bash other essential oil companies and yet the phrase “certified pure, theraputic grade” was patented by the company so that no others can use it! I have been very happy purchasing my oils from Mountain Rose Herbs a great deal cheaper than MLM companies and I know that I’m still getting the real deal!

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