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Research Rebuttal: Gynecomastia & Essential Oils

Posted: March 5, 2007

A report entitled “Prepubertal Gynecomastia Linked to Lavender and Tea Tree Oils” appeared in the February 1, 2007 New England Journal of Medicine (Henley et al. 2007). The authors “investigated possible causes of gynecomastia in three prepubertal boys who were otherwise healthy and had normal serum concentrations of endogenous steroids. In all three boys, gynecomastia coincided with the topical application of products that contained lavender and tea tree oils. Gynecomastia resolved in each patient shortly after the use of products containing these oils was discontinued. Furthermore, studies in human cell lines indicated that the two oils had estrogenic and antiandrogenic activities. We conclude that repeated topical exposure to lavender and tea tree oils probably caused prepubertal gynecomastia in these boys.” To put the context of this paper into perspective it is worthwhile reviewing some information pertinent to this report.

Conclusions Drawn from the New England Journal of Medicine Report

Question 1: Were the chemical compositions of the oils of lavender and tea tree determined and were the oils pure, natural and genuine?

Answer: No analyses were performed or reported, so the purity and genuineness of the oils used in the study remain unknown.

Question 2: Was the in vitro test using human breast cancer (MCF-7) cells a conclusive study to draw the above conclusion?