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Posted August 16, 2019

Lavender Oil Linked With Abnormal Breast Growth in Children

The use of products containing lavender oil has been linked to 16 cases of premature and/or abnormal breast development in girls and boys under the age of 8, according to a new report published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism. In investigating these cases, researchers showed that lavender has estrogenic activity that could be responsible for these effects.

The researchers identified 24 cases of premature breast development in girls and abnormal breast development in boys between the ages of 3 and 7 who were treated at Nicklaus Children's Hospital in Miami, Florida over the past seven years. In 16 of these cases, other causes were ruled out and exposure to lavender oil through regular use of lavender soaps, lotions, and essential oils, was suspected to be the cause. In all of these cases, breast development occurred without other signs of premature puberty, and resolved within 3 to 6 months after use of the lavender products was discontinued. 

For example, a 3-year-old girl who had regularly been bathed with Baby Magic Calming Baby Bath with Lavender and Chamomile developed breast tenderness and growth which regressed 6 months after the use of the soap was discontinued. In another case, a 7-year-old girl who was seated for one year near a lavender oil diffuser in her school classroom developed premature breast growth which resolved 3 months after she was no longer exposed to the diffuser. In a third case, a 7-year-old boy who had been exposed since infancy to a "violet water cologne" containing lavender oil had breast enlargement which resolved within six months after discontinuation of the cologne. 

While there are several past reports of breast development in boys exposed to lavender oil, the researchers noted that there do not appear to be any previous reports of premature breast development in girls exposed to lavender, and essential oil components have not been classified as endocrine-disrupting chemicals (substances that can affect hormonal activity). As part of their investigation, they conducted laboratory tests which showed lavender oil had estrogen-promoting activity as well as anti-androgen (male hormone) activity. They also tested corn and soybean oil, common ingredients in lotions and other personal care products, but did not detect any estrogenic activity.

The researchers concluded that while they did not recommend avoidance of products containing lavender, discontinuing use should be considered in girls with premature breast development and boys with breast development without a known cause.

To read the study abstract, use the link below.