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Lavender, Tea Tree Oil & Phytoestrogens

Sugar and spice and everything nice does not necessarily apply to lavender oil, tea tree oil and possibly many more. Actually, there are over 300 foods containing phytoestrogens-chemicals essentially like estradiol. The highest concentration of phytoestrogens is in soy beans, clover, alfalfa, legumes of all kinds, licorice, ginseng and even grains. Many essential oils may contain citral, geraniol and trans-anethole, all of which are estrogenic. (J Pharm Pharmacol. 2002 Nov;54(11):1521-8).

More recently, the NEJM carried an article describing the development of gynecomastia (breast development) in young boys using shampoos or soap, etc containing lavender or tea tree oils, which have estrogenic components. The gynecomastia cleared when the offending products were removed. Of course, the amount of the oils in shampoos or soap is rather minimal compared with essential oils themselves!

In addition to phytoestrogens, there are also petroestrogens, extremely prevalent today in everything from dish detergents to herbicides and pesticides. There has been a remarkable increase in male reproductive disorders, including undescended testes, testicular cancer, and decreased sperm count. Plastics, especially di-n-butyl phthalate (DBP) have been a major contributor as has Linuron in many pesticides and herbicides sprayed freely and widely on various crops. Some of the petrochemicals are estrogenic and some just anti-androgen.

And, the potential negative effect is just as real for girls and women as for boys and men. At least 50% of breast cancers are estrogen dependent. Undoubtedly, ovarian and uterine cancers are also potential hazards of environmental and food estrogenic compounds. The bottom line is that I do not recommend eating lots of soy. I doubt that eating a wide variety of the other estrogen containing foods is as dangerous as soy. If you are going to use essential oils be sure to check the internet for the content of citral, geraniol and trans-anethole. Go lightly on these compounds. If possible, use real soap instead of detergents. Do not drink from or cook in plastic containers. But, remember that attitude may be more important even than these foods and accessories!


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