Aromatherapy side effects?
When boys are exposed to certain vegetable oils, this can trigger abnormal breast growth, which is also known as prepubertal gynecomastia. Lavender or tea tree oil in particular seem to cause this effect. These oils are found in cleaning and personal care products, but are also widely used in aromatherapy.
- Vegetable oils can affect boys' development.
- Lavender and tea tree oil promote prepubertal gynecomastia.
- Essential oils are found in many products.
- Some chemicals contained are potential endocrine disruptors.
- Many of the substances tested are contained in at least 65 other essential oils.
In their current study, the scientists at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) found that vegetable oils such as lavender or tea tree oil can lead to prepubertal gynecomastia. The experts published the results of their study at the 100th Annual Endocrine Society in Chicago (ENDO 2018).
What are lavender or tea tree oil used for?
Lavender or tea tree oil contain certain key chemicals that act as endocrine disruptors in these common vegetable oils. These essential oils are used for medical treatments, as personal care and cleaning products and in aromatherapy. But various everyday products also contain lavender and tea tree oil, including some soaps, lotions, shampoos, hair styling products, and detergents.
Are essential oils harmless?
"Our society believes essential oils are safe," says study director J. Tyler Ramsey of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS). "However, they contain a variety of chemical compounds and should be used with caution as some of these compounds are potential endocrine disruptors," the expert added in a press release. An endocrine disruptor is a substance in the environment that interferes with hormones and their actions in the body.
How do essential oils affect puberty?
Male gynecomastia, which occurs before puberty, is actually relatively rare. However, an increasing number of cases have been associated with topical exposure to lavender and tea tree oil. However, this effect disappeared after the boys stopped using the oil-containing products, the researchers explain. Lavender and tea tree oil appear to have estrogen-like properties and cause testosterone-inhibiting activities. That means these oils compete or hinder the hormones that control male properties, which could affect puberty and growth.
What was examined?
The scientists selected eight components from the hundreds of substances contained in lavender and tea tree oil for their analysis. Four of the substances tested are available in both oils: eucalyptol, 4-terpineol, dipentene and alpha-terpineol. Other substances were contained in each of the oils: linalyl acetate, linalool, alpha-terpinene and gamma-terpinene. The substances were applied to human cancer cells to measure changes in estrogen receptor and androgen receptor target genes and so-called transcription activity.
The substances stimulate gynecomastia in boys
All eight substances had different estrogenic and / or antiandrogenic properties, with some showing high or low to no activity, the researchers reported. These changes were consistent with endogenous or physical hormonal conditions that stimulate gynecomastia in prepubertal boys, Ramsey adds.
Harmful substances are also found in many other oils
Many of the substances tested are found in at least 65 other essential oils, says the study author. Essential oils are freely available without a prescription. Therefore, the public should know these results and consider all evidence before deciding to use essential oils. Lavender oil and tea tree oil are a potential environmental pollution, which should be examined in more detail, the doctor adds. (as)