Essential oils are often used to promote self-care, helping to ameliorate issues like acne and anxiety. However, much to our dismay, new findings just revealed some pretty scary news regarding lavender and tea tree oils that have us rethinking our essential oil usage.
A recent study presented at The Endocrine Society’s 100th annual meeting and expo revealed that lavender and tea tree oils may contain chemicals linked to abnormal breast growth—called prepubertal gynecomastia—in young men.
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“Our society deems essential oils as safe,” J. Tyler Ramsey, lead study author and postbaccalaureate research fellow at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), said in a statement. “However, they possess a diverse amount of chemicals and should be used with caution because some of these chemicals are potential endocrine disruptors.”
The eight chemicals under scrutiny—eucalyptol, 4-terpineol, dipentene/limonene, alpha-terpineol, linalyl acetate, linalool, alpha-terpinene, and gamma-terpinene—were tested in a lab against breast cancer cells, and it was determined that all of these components can promote oestrogen and/or inhibit testosterone in the body.
Even more worrisome, these chemicals aren’t only in lavender and tea tree oil, they’re also found in at least 65 other essential oils currently available on the market.
Ultimately, anything that can disrupt hormones in the body is something to be wary of. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean it’s time to swear off lavender and essential oils forever. Ieuan Hughes, professor of paediatrics at the University of Cambridge, told the BBC that “not everyone exposing themselves to such oils has adverse effects, so it is possible there are particular individuals who may be more sensitive to the effects of the chemicals, or perhaps are using the products in excess.” So, clearly more research needs to be done before definitively eliminating essential oils from your routine, but it’s still worth keeping these findings in mind for the future.
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