Thursday, February 8, 2007

Important Lavender Essential Oil Research Review

The following is a review of a recent small study on lavender oil and its potential estrogenic effects (with associated breast enlargement in young boys) by ACHS Professor Dr. Arianna Staruch ND.

You may also view this full review online at

This recent experience highlights that essential oils contain biologically active constituents which can have physiologic effects when used topically. The use of these oils should be by those with appropriate training. Indiscriminate exposure of the public to essential oils may need to be evaluated for possible risks.

Is Lavender Essential Oil Associated with breast enlargement in young boys?

A study published in the NEJM this week raised the possibility that lavender essential oil found in common beauty products had caused breast enlargement (gynecomastia) in three young boys in Colorado. The breast enlargement resolved when the boys stopped using the products. The products all contained lavender essential oil, and included a healing balm, soap, body lotion, shampoo and hair gel. (The shampoo and hair gel also contained tea tree oil.) Hormone levels in all three boys remained normal throughout.
The researchers then tested tea tree and lavender oil in vitro, and both were found to stimulate the estrogen receptor and block the androgen receptor. This kind of disruption of hormone signaling pathways is thought to be responsible for gynecomastia and early puberty associated with known endocrine disruptors such as soy, pharmaceuticals, dioxins, furans, and organohalogens. Assessment of estrogenic activity of essential oil constituents has found that citral and geraniol can bind to estrogen receptors in vitro, but did not show estrogenic activity in a mouse model. Lavender essential oil contains geranyl acetate, a compound related to geraniol.

So was it the lavender that cased the abnormal breast enlargement? We can only suspect but not be sure. Because the gynecomastia resolved when the products were stopped, we can make a strong assumption that the products were the cause. None of the boys had been exposed to any known hormone disruptors including soy. The only obvious similarity in the products was the presence of lavender oil, however even the author of the study states that we cannot rule out that other components in the products also possess endocrine disrupting capability. Lavender essential oil was shown in vitro studies to bind to and stimulate the estrogen receptor but animal studies have not shown that this binding translates to estrogenic activity in vivo. However, children are extremely sensitive to estradiol, and no threshold has been established below which no hormonal effects can be seen in children exposed to known endocrine disruptors.

Does this mean that lavender essential oil is not safe for use in children? Compared to the number of children that are exposed to products containing lavender essential oil every day, only a very few may have had this response. In fact in the reported study, a fraternal twin brother of one of the boys also used the lavender skin lotion, but not the lavender soap, and did not show any signs of gynecomastia. However it is only prudent to be aware that the indiscriminate use of essential oils in frequently used household and beauty products may pose some risk to some children.

Should we change the way use lavender essential oil therapeutically? Lavender essential oil has long been viewed as an oil with few if any contraindications or side effects. In light of this study, maybe we should reconsider the use of lavender during pregnancy, nursing or in those with a history of hormone sensitive cancers.

This recent experience highlights that essential oils contain biologically active constituents, which can have physiologic effects when used topically. The use of these oils should be by those with appropriate training. Indiscriminate exposure of the public to essential oils may need to be evaluated for possible risks. It is recommended that the public seek out a Registered Aromatherapist (RA) by searching the Registered Aromatherapists Register at All RA's have passed the national ARC Registration Examination in Aromatherapy and have completed a minimum of a one year Level 2 program in aromatherapy from a college or school that is in compliance with the current NAHA Educational Guidelines. Registration is a mark of the candidates dedication to the Aromatherapy field and to the safety of his or her clients and customers.

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How do environmental estrogen disruptors induce precocious puberty? Massart, et al; Minerva Pediatr 2006 Jun; 58(3):247

Assessment of estrogenic activity in some common essential oil constituents. Hoews MJ, et al; J. Pharm Pharmacol. 2002 Nov; 54(11):1521

Anticonflict effects of lavender oil and identification of its active constituents. Umezu T; et al; Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 2006 Dec; 85(4):713

The sensitivity of the child to sex steroids: possible impact of exogenous estrogens. Aksglaede L, et al; Hum Reprod Update. 2006 Jul-Aug; 12(4):342
Dorene Petersen
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Thursday, February 1, 2007

Natural Solutions for Winter Skin Care

Photo copyright Joel Strimling Photography
Used with permission

Winter is here! In many places, temperatures are cold and the ground is covered in a blanket of snow. After spending time outdoors, sitting by a cozy fire in the fireplace is a nice way to thaw out. However, the cold, wet outdoor air and the dry heat indoors can wreak havoc on our skin.

I have to admit, winter is not my favorite season, which is why I live in Southern California. But even here it is impossible to escape the dryness and chapping caused by the cold outdoors as well as the dry, heated indoor air. Unfortunately, many products on the market that are supposed to help the skin can actually dry it out even more. Here are some natural solutions to help protect and moisturize your skin.

Avocado Honey Mask (for face and hands)
The face and hands are more exposed to the winter elements than the rest of the body and may require extra special attention. This mask is an inexpensive and easy way to pamper yourself. All you need is half of a ripe avocado and a tablespoon of honey. Cut the avocado in half and remove the peel and pit, then mash half and add the honey mixing well (you can use a blender or a food processor to get a smoother product). Spread the mixture liberally over the face and hands, lie down and prop up your feet for 15 to 30 minutes. Rinse your face and hands with warm water and follow with a pure vegetable oil such as cold pressed Almond or Grapeseed. Avocado is high in oleic acid, linoleic acid, lecithin, and vitamin D, and is especially beneficial for eczema. Honey is an emollient (soothes irritated skin), a humectant (draws needed moisture to the skin), and an exfoliant (removes dry, dead skin cells).

Sugar Scrub
Scrubs exfoliate and polish the skin, stimulate cell renewal, and promote velvety-soft, smooth skin. Sugar cane produces glycolic acid, one of the natural alpha-hydroxy acids that exfoliate the skin. Aloe is soothing to irritated skin. Neroli oil is an astringent, is great for aging skin, and helps reduce stretch marks. Ylang ylang stimulates skin cell regeneration and is helpful for dry skin. Grapefruit is an astringent; it is useful for skin congestion.

1/2 cup organic white sugar
1/4 cup Apricot Kernel oil
1/4 teaspoon citric acid
1 teaspoon Aloe Vera gel
1 teaspoon Cocoa butter
6 drops (total) Neroli (Citrus aurantium var. amara), Ylang ylang (Cananga odorata var. genuina) or Grapefruit (Citrus paradisi) essential oil (or a blend)
Mix together the first four ingredients. Gently warm the Cocoa butter by placing the container in a bowl of hot water to soften it. Add Cocoa butter and blend well using a hand mixer on high speed for 3 to 5 minutes. Add essential oil. In the shower, wet the skin then rub the sugar scrub all over the body (don’t use scrubs on broken or irritated skin). Do NOT wash with soap afterward. Can be used up to twice a week. Makes 1 cup.

Exotic Rose Cream (for dry skin)
1/3 cup Jojoba oil
1/3 cup Apricot Kernal oil
1/3 cup Rosehip Seed oil
1/8 tsp Vitamin E
¾ oz. beeswax
¼ cup Rose Hydrosol
¾ cup distilled water
essential oils:
20 drops Rose absolute (Rosa damascena)
10 drops Jasmine absolute (Jasminum officinalis)
5 drops Black Pepper (Piper nigrum) essential oil
5 drops Sandalwood (Santalum album) essential oil
5 drops Ylang Ylang (Cananga odorata var. genuina)
Pour Rose hydrosol and distilled water into blender. Heat Jojoba, Apricot Kernal, and Rosehip Seed oils and beeswax in top of double boiler until beeswax melts. Remove from heat, add Vitamin E oil. Allow to cool just until hardened ring of beeswax begins to appear around top of bowl. Turn on blender and slowly pour the oil mixture into the water in the blender until it emulsifies (a chopstick is very handy if the blender becomes clogged). Add essential oils and blend again. Pour into clean jars. (Yield: 16 ounces)

Essential oils and other ingredients discussed here are available through the Apothecary Shoppe.

If you’d like to learn more about natural body care, contact the ACHS admissions department regarding Nat 201 Certificate in Nutrition, Body Care, and Herbalism