Study claims chemicals in essential oils can disrupt hormones

Study claims chemicals in essential oils can disrupt hormones

A new study lends further evidence to a suspected link between abnormal breast growth in young boys - called prepubertal gynecomastia - and regular exposure to lavender or tea tree oil, by finding that key chemicals in these common plant-derived oils act as endocrine-disrupting chemicals.

A new study from a team at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) is rekindling a debate over the safety of essential oils. Kenneth Korach, a scientist who co-authored the current study with Ramsey, had then run tests in the lab only to find that lavender and tea tree oil could mimic effects of female hormones on human cells. Various consumer products contain lavender and tea tree oil, including some soaps, lotions, shampoos, hair-styling products, cologne and laundry detergents.

Lavender and tea tree oil are essential oils that have become popular in the United States and the UK as alternatives for medical treatment, personal hygiene and aromatherapy.

However, a growing number of cases of prepubertal gynecomastia have been reported to coincide with topical exposure to lavender and tea tree oils, in which the condition went away after the youths stopped using oil-containing products, according to a press release.

"Our society deems essential oils are safe".

'However, they possess a diverse amount of chemicals and should be used with caution because some of these chemicals are potential endocrine disruptors'.

Young men who are regularly exposed to lavender or tea tree oil may be at risk of developing large breasts, according to a new study.

Adding to a growing body of evidence for hormone disruption effect of essential oils, a new study claims to have identified eight chemicals that make boys develop breasts. Four components in the oils were common in both lavender and tea tree and the remaining four were selective to each oil.

Researchers at the NIEHS earlier found laboratory evidence that lavender and tea tree oil have oestrogen-like properties - as well as blocking the male hormone testosterone.

All eight chemicals demonstrated varying oestrogenic or anti-testosterone properties, with some showing high or little to no activity. As many as 65 essential oils have chemicals that researchers examined.

"Lavender oil and tea tree oil pose potential environmental health concerns and should be investigated further", Ramsey advised. Importantly, the report also questioned whether any hormonally active chemicals potentially in the oil could effectively penetrate the skin.

Their hormone effects may cause cancer, diabetes, male infertility and endometriosis.

Breast development in males is termed as gynaecomastia and this is a condition which has been associated with certain disease conditions and also as a side effect of certain drugs or medications.

"However, there are important factors that must be taken into account when interpreting these results".

However, the BBC reported that paediatric endocrinologist Dr Rod Mitchell said because the tests were conducted in cancer cells, that might not represent the situation in normal breast tissue. The study results are to be presented today (19th of March 2018) at ENDO 2018, the Endocrine Society's 100th annual meeting in Chicago.