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Lavender and tea
tree oils may cause breast growth in boys

Lavender and tea
tree oils may cause breast growth in boys

Repeated topical use of products containing lavender oil and/or tea tree oil may result in enlarged breast tissue in prepubescent boys, a rare condition known as prepubertal gynecomastia, reports a study in The New England Journal of Medicine.

Clifford Block, MD, in Colorado suspected the lavender and tea tree oils after diagnosing three young male patients with prepubertal gynecomastia. The three Caucasian boys, ages 4, 7, and 10 years, were otherwise healthy and had normal hormonal levels when they were diagnosed with gynecomastia. All had either used lavender-scented soap and skin lotions, or shampoos and styling products containing tea tree oil and lavender oil. Several months after they stopped using the products, the gynecomastia had lessened or reversed.

In the current laboratory study, researchers at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences sought to verify whether the oils effected abnormal hormonal changes in the boys.

"The results of our laboratory studies confirm that pure lavender and tea tree oils can mimic the actions of estrogens and inhibit the effects of androgens," said Ken Korach, of the Laboratory Reproductive and Developmental Toxicology at NIEHS and author of the study in a release. "This combinatorial activity makes them somewhat unique as endocrine disruptors."

Researchers caution that the findings are only applicable to young males with unexplainable enlarged breasts who are regularly using products containing these essential oils. Further research is needed to determine if the oils have similar endocrine-disrupting effects in prepubertal girls, adolescents, or adults. (The Advocate)

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