News Released Wednesday, January 31, 2007 from the New England Journal of Medicine suggested that repeated topical use of products containing lavender oil and/or tea tree oil may cause prepubertal gynecomastia, a rare condition resulting in enlarged breast tissue in boys prior to puberty, and for which a cause is seldom identified. It has sparked ongoing interest in the topic of endocrine disruptors, or non-hormonal products that can interfere with the function of our hormones.
Essential oils are found in many products including food flavoring, soaps, makeup, lotions, shampoos, hair styling products, cologne, laundry detergents, fabric softeners, and even insect repellents according to a 2020 research article. Moreover, these are very complex substances. Essential oils have hundreds of components that can vary greatly in their composition depending upon the extraction process by the producer or the origin of the plant. Often one oil will have 400 substances, and the compositions can vary from batch to batch. Thus, making it difficult to determine which pathways in the body are affected. But like anything we want to use, it’s important to evaluate the data and to keep our eyes open to both benefits and risks.
There are many benefits to the use of of essential oils. Since essential oils are naturally occurring, they also can help fight infections and have ability to fight bacteria, viruses and fungus infections. Some essential oils prevent bug bites, and thus protect us against infections bug bites can cause. But here are a few precautions not usually talked about in the news.
1. These essential oils might now be considered endocrine disruptors since they appeared to have caused an imbalance in estrogen and androgen signaling. Many essential oils can activate the estrogen receptor, producing estrogen like effects. They also will de-activate the androgen (male hormone) receptors, suppressing the action of these hormones. This combination is what produces some of the effects on children noted above.
2. Endocrine disruptors are naturally occurring compounds or synthetic chemicals that may interfere with the production or activity of hormones of the endocrine system leading to adverse health effects. For a Fact sheet from The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) and NIH.
3. In 1962, Rachel Carson’s ‘A Silent Spring’ claimed pesticide use harmed health of humans and animals.
4. Worldwide male sperm counts were proven NOT to be declining due to wide spread exposure to endocrine disrupters. But obesity is known to disrupt hormones and cause abnormal hormonal side effects such as male gynecomastia.
5. Gynecomastia in obese men is primarily enlargement of fat, not actual breast tissue. CoolSculpting cryolipolisis is effective non-invasive way to deal with unwanted breast fat. For consultation, call Hada Cosmetic Medicine 217-693-4400
In general we support careful and modest use of essential oils, just read labels, be aware of personal health changes, and use your medical provider for consultation if you have questions. Thanks.