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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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104 Responses to Does Lavender Oil Cause Estrogen Imbalance?

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.)

  5. 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)

  6. Teresa says:

    Hi Heather, I too realize this is an old thread, but I wonder if you realized that the 3 young boys exhibited gynecomastia, which resolved after ending the use of lavender oil/tea tree oil (in one case). This condition sometimes occurs in boys during puberty, and resolves itself, but these were pre-pubertal boys and there were no other hormone disruptors found that they had been exposed to. The small sample does not necessarily discount the findings. Also, other research on the effect of lavender oil and tea tree oil were found to be similar to estrogen. http://www.hormones.gr/691/article/physiological-effects-and-mechanisms-of-action%E2%80%A6.html Just thought you might find this interesting. There are many treatments coming into our culture from other cultures who have used these remedies for thousands of years. And that can be a good thing…I am all for natural cures if possible. However, we in America tend to go wild with things sometimes and over do them – sometimes inappropriately.

    • Stacy says:

      The paper you linked to was merely citing the same study that we are discussing here (no new research). So far it is the only study that claims that lavender and tea tree essential oils act as hormone disruptors.

  7. Emilia says:

    Thank you for this nice article. What about infusing a few dried Lavender flowers in tea? In case there is a slight chance of Lavender EO disrupting hormones, would the same be valid for teas?

  8. 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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