Lavender Oil Linked to Abnormal Breast Development in Girls and Boys Interview with:

Kenneth S. Korach, Ph.D. Senior Principal Investigator Chief, Receptor Biology Section Reproductive and Developmental Biology Laboratory NIEHS/NIH

Dr. Kenneth Korach

Kenneth S. Korach, Ph.D.
Senior Principal Investigator
Chief, Receptor Biology Section
Reproductive and Developmental
Biology Laboratory
NIEHS/NIH What is the background for this study?

Response: Lavender oil is among the most popular essential oils used today. Our society deems essential oils and other homeopathic remedies as safe alternatives for medical treatment, personal hygiene commodities, aromatherapy, and cleaning products; however, there are many natural products that have effects on the human body, similar to potent synthetic drugs. What are the main findings? 

Response: In a previous study, my team and I have shown that exposure to lavender oil and tea tree oil is linked to abnormal breast development in males, known as prepubertal gynecomastia. Building on these findings in the new study, our team in collaboration with clinical colleagues, discovered that exposure to lavender fragrance products is also associated with a condition called premature thelarche. This condition causes breast development — without other signs of puberty — in girls younger than eight years of age. This study is the first to report this association.

We also found that breast growth in young girls and boys resolved after discontinuing lavender-containing fragranced products. Our findings also suggest that certain components of essential oils can mimic estrogen and block testosterone, indicating that essential oils could be a source for the breast growth observed in these cases. What should readers take away from your report?

Response: Lavender oil poses potential health concerns and should be researched further, especially because these oils are available without a written prescription from medical professionals and they are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration

The public should be aware of these findings and consider all evidence before deciding when to use essential oils, especially on children. It’s also important that physicians are also aware that lavender oil contains endocrine-disrupting chemicals and although the effects we saw are very rare, such oils should be considered in evaluating unexplained early breast development in girls and gynecomastia in boys and adult men. What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this work?

Response: It is still unknown why a small portion of these children experience abnormal, early breast growth and others are unaffected. Another aspect is the potential of certain individuals having a genetic predisposition of sensitivity to the action of components in the lavender fragrances.



J Tyler Ramsey, Yin Li, Yukitomo Arao, Ajanta Naidu, Laurel A Coons, Alejandro Diaz, Kenneth S Korach, Lavender products associated with premature thelarche and prepubertal gynecomastia: Case reports and EDC activities, The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism 


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Last Updated on August 19, 2019 by Marie Benz MD FAAD