Essential Oils Suspected of Acting As Endocrine Disruptors

The magazine 60 million, warns against the use of two essential oils: lavender and tea tree. These two widely used essential oils could cause hormonal imbalances by acting as endocrine disruptors.

Essential oils are increasingly popular among people who wish to use o more “natural” methods for treatment. They are nonetheless very powerful substances to use with caution. The magazine 60 million consumers has just pointed out a form of toxicity not previously discussed: an action assimilated to that of endocrine disruptors. Some essential oils are known to interact with our hormonal system and therefore have many contraindications. This is not the case for the two essential oils mentioned by the magazine: the essential oil of lavender and the essential oil of tea tree (tee tree).

These two essential oils are particularly sought after for their ” natural anti-lice effect “, as highlighted by the magazine, and therefore used in children and adolescents. While the recommendations for use are numerous for children under 6, they are almost non-existent, including for pre-adolescents, who are particularly vulnerable to hormonal disturbances.

As early as 2016, the poison control center of Lille issued an information bulletin alerting on cases of alleged toxicity. Experts describe three cases of gynecomastia (abnormal breast thrust), which occurred in young boys in the context of using lavender essential oil. Even if “no etiology was found” , the symptoms disappeared after stopping the use of the essential oil. According to the newsletter, these cases could be linked to “a possible estrogenic stimulation of the components of the essential oil of lavender” , before stating that “the essential oil of tea tree would also be suspected”. By mimicking the action of hormones (according to a mechanism that remains to be proven), these two essential oils could therefore behave like endocrine disruptors.

The toxicity (as well as efficiency) of essential oils remains poorly studied. Among the few publications, a 2007 study published in the New England Journal of Medicinehad considered the hypothesis of endocrine disruption linked to exposure to essential oils. She describes in more detail the case of these three young boys (aged 4.7 and 10) who had suffered from gynecomastia, who frequently used cosmetics containing lavender and tea tree essential oils. In furthering their investigations in the laboratory, the researchers found that human cells sensitive to estrogen hormones were also influenced by these two essential oils. Evidence, according to them, activity comparable to that of natural estrogen.

Assumptions that have yet to be proven

What do the manufacturers of essential oils say? They refer to the opinion of a European scientific committee which considered “not plausible” the correlation between the use of these essential oils and the breast attacks described in the American publication. For its part, the National Health Security Agency (ANSES), carries out research on the toxicity of essential oils. This research focuses solely on acute toxicity. “The character of” potential endocrine disruptors “does not fall within the scope of this work,” regrets 60 million . It will therefore be necessary to wait for further research to confirm or refute these suspicions.

In the meantime, precautionary measures should be applied. The magazine noted in its December 2017 issue that “Aromatherapy (the use of essential oils for medical purposes) is to be reserved for healthy adults.” For pregnant women, children under 12 and people with asthma, it is imperative to check with a doctor.”

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