When it comes to herbal medicines, it can be difficult to confirm side effects as well as desired effects. Pharmaceutical companies have no incentive to put money into studies that would clarify the benefits and risks of herbs, and this is also not a high priority for the National Institutes of Health. We are left with a hotly debated question of whether topical lavender can make young boys grow breasts.
The Effects of Lavender Lotions and Sleeping Potions:
Q. You wrote some time ago that male breasts grew after contact with lavender (shampoo, soap, etc.) and urged caution. I have just read in Time magazine (April 4, 2016) that “in Germany, lavender tea has been approved as a treatment for insomnia.”
Given the first mentioned concern, could you comment on this?
Do Boys Grow Breasts When They Are Exposed to Lavender?
A. The story on lavender is complicated and controversial. Several years ago three case reports were published in The New England Journal of Medicine (Feb. 1, 2007) linking the use of lavender and tea tree oil skin products to breast development in young boys. The authors raised the possibility that these natural products might have had estrogenic activity.
Needless to say, a lot of people got excited about this hypothesis. A study conducted in female rats exposed to lavender oil concluded that it “gave no evidence of estrogenic activity” (International Journal of Toxicology, Mar-Apr., 2013). Several readers wrote that we should revise our opinion based on this research.
But a recent report in the Journal of Pediatric Endocrinology and Metabolism (Jan 1, 2016) presents three new cases of breast development in young boys exposed to lavender. We’d have to say that the jury is still out on whether lavender acts like estrogen, but until the question is settled we’d recommend that parents not use lavender-containing products on boys.
Lavender for Insomnia:
Taking lavender orally, whether in a tea or a capsule, may help with insomnia, but we remain uncertain if doing so would have hormonal side effects. We don’t think that aromatherapy utilizing the fragrance of lavender to help a person get to sleep is likely to pose a problem.
3/22/18 redirected to: https://www.peoplespharmacy.com/articles/how-safe-are-lavender-and-tea-tree-oils/