Every so often the news circulates (and re-circulates) the myth that essential oils make male breasts develop. We get asked about this often in our facebook group, and even more often after recent “new evidence” was in the news.

This article is the latest to promote the theory of male breast development allegedly linked to the use of Lavender and Tea Tree essential oils. There are a number of others.

We know essential oils do not contain hormones. But can they disrupt them?

Breaking down the article

Let's look at the BBC article (in quotes) and my responses in bold.

“A suspected link between abnormal breast growth in young boys and the use of lavender and tea tree oils has been given new weight, after a study found eight chemicals contained in the oils interfere with hormones.”

A suspected link. This is not concrete – at least not yet.

Lavender and Tea Tree are probably the two most common essential oils used in bath and beauty products. Keep in mind, it is often the fragrance oils used, not the essential oils. They are added in the soaps, lotions and other products, along with other synthetic chemicals and housed in plastic (where the hormones in the plastic is often leached into the product). Is it fair to blame the essential oils?

“Our society deems essential oils as safe. However, they possess a diverse amount of chemicals and should be used with caution because some of these chemicals are potential endocrine disruptors.”

I agree that there is much safety that needs to be learned by the public in general when it comes to essential oils. 

Notice he said potential endocrine disruptors.

“They were tested on human cancer cells in the laboratory to measure the changes.”

Human cancer cells in a lab is not going to have the same effect as a lotion on the skin of a health individual. For all we know, the essential oils – if truly to blame – were trying to help destroy the cancer.

“The researchers found all eight demonstrated varying degrees of promoting oestrogen and/or inhibiting testosterone properties.”

Varying degrees? Is that “slim to none?” We don't know yet.

“Lavender oil and tea tree oil pose potential environmental health concerns and should be investigated further,” said Mr Ramsey.

Potential. And should be investigated further. It's inconclusive.

“Of course, not everyone exposing themselves to such oils has adverse effects, so it is possible there are particular individuals who may be more sensitive to the effects of the chemicals, or perhaps are using the products in excess.”

Hmm, in excess? If people used essential oils with intent and not willy-nilly in their bath and body products used multiple times a day at dilutions possibly at unsafe levels, then they should not experience adverse reactions.

“The concentration (dose) to which the cells are exposed may not be equivalent to exposure in humans. There is a complex relationship between oestrogen, testosterone and other hormones in the body, that cannot be replicated in these experiments.”

Even this news article is pointing out that this is a complex issue, not replicated, and that further investigation is necessary.

If essential oils do have this kind of power, they should be used in hormone replacement therapy, and replace those dangerous silicone breast implants.

Based on the article, I would say there is NO REASON to start freaking out about using essential oils with boys.

Maybe it's the Petri dishes?

It should be pointed out that the Petri dishes used is a common denominator in this. Petri dishes are made with phthalates, which are known hormone disruptors. Robert Tisserand states in his video that essential oils can extract the chemicals in the plastic, and perhaps that is what was causing the presumably low levels of estrogen in the essential oils.


Why is it always the males who develop breasts? Why don't we hear studies showing the essential oils caused ALL the children (male and female) to develop breasts? And where are the studies showing slathering Lavender essential oil on cup A and B breast will cause them to enlarge a cup size or three? Just saying…

What does Essential Oil Safety say?

Before the BBC article was posted, others were circulating and I've been tagged on Facebook and messaged and emailed about the link between estrogen and essential oils nearly every day for the past two weeks, so I've been doing some research.

After looking at the references in Essential Oil Safety, I was a little confused myself.

Page 151 says “Lavender and Tea Tree did show a weak estrogenic action in human breast cancer,” and “very weak estrogenic activity reported” from some essential oils like fennel  (which is a potential carcinogen). (page 150). Some essential oils are said to have “probable estrogenic action” in people with estrogen-dependent cancers. I found that “Although some essential oil constituents exhibit estrogen-like activity in various in vitro tests, their actions are extremely weak.” (page 150)

It is, however, mentioned that, as far as cancer is concerned, it typically takes “daily exposure to high oral doses over many months” to induce cancer in rodents. (page 167)

We know essential oils have the potential to cause cancer (read about that here), so is it possible for essential oils to cause enlarged breasts? So far there is no solid evidence.

It boils down to this: follow the safety guidelines for essential oils and you'll be fine.

Some tips:

  • use essential oils with intent and for specific issues, not “just because”
  • diffuse essential oils when needed and at the 10 minutes ON/20 minutes OFF interval
  • use essential oils topically for topical skin issues only, otherwise inhale them
  • when using essential oils topically dilute dilute dilute!
  • avoid ingesting essential oils, which increase risk

Craving more knowledge? Enroll in our Using Essential Oils Safely BASICS course as a VIP and get Lea's entire digital resource library free – including her new book, Essential Oil Profiles. (also available as a full color, spiral bound print version here).