Tag Archives: tea tree

Are Lavender and Tea Tree Oils Estrogenic?

You may recall the results of a study stating that lavender and tea tree oils caused the development of breast tissue (prepubertal gynecomastia) in three young boys (aged four, seven and ten). This singular study was first published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2007.1 All three boys had used skin care products containing lavender and tea tree oils, and were all diagnosed by the same doctor.

If you take a close look at the study, some issues are raised. The solvent used to dilute the oils was dimethyl sulfoxide, which is an estrogen mimicker.2 The full list of ingredients in these products were not mentioned, nor the possible chemicals included in the packaging of the products. Parabens were likely included in the ingredients and phthalates in the packaging. In a recent study, diethyl phthalate was found in 103 out of 252 products, which included fragrances, hair care products, deodorants, nail polishes, lotions, skin cleansers and baby products.3 Both phthalates and parabens have been shown to have an estrogenicity presence.4&5

A number of researchers and doctors have raised some questions regarding the validity of this study. There were three doctors, who made the following comments:

“The study by Henley et al. (Feb. 1 issue)1 raises many questions. Product names were not provided. Did the authors contact manufacturers to report concerns or ask about constituents? The variability, adulteration, and contamination of herbal products have been widely reported,2,3 as have discrepancies between labels and contents.4 Plastic containers may contain phthalates, known endocrine disrupters.5 What was actually in the products cited in this report?

None of the hormonal testing showed abnormal results, except in Patient 2, who had elevated levels of testosterone (not estrogen). There was no report on ultrasound examination or needle biopsy, nor were subsequent weight changes reported. Might the patients’ gynecomastia have reflected another pathophysiological process that resolved spontaneously?

Traditional use and clinical trials have not suggested estrogenic effects of tea tree or lavender oil, though estrogenic effects have been reported for other essential oils and plants. Are occupational exposures to lavender and tea tree associated with estrogenic symptoms? In vitro testing alone is not adequate grounds for indicting traditionally used products and may raise public fear.”

Kathi J. Kemper, M.D., M.P.H.
Wake Forest University School of Medicine, Winston-Salem, NC 27157
Aviva J. Romm
Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT 06510
Paula Gardiner, M.D., M.P.H.
Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02215
1. Henley DV, Lipson N, Korach KS, Bloch CA. Prepubertal gynecomastia linked to lavender and tea tree oils. N Engl J Med 2007;356:479-485
2. Homer LE, Leach DN, Lea D, Slade Lee L, Henry RJ, Baverstock PR. Natural variation in the essential oil content of Melaleuca alternifolia Cheel (Myrtaceae). Biochem Syst Ecol 2000;28:367-382
3. Keane FM, Munn SE, du Vivier AW, Taylor NF, Higgins EM. Analysis of Chinese herbal creams prescribed for dermatological conditions. BMJ 1999;318:563-564
4. Garrard J, Harms S, Eberly LE, Matiak A. Variations in product choices of frequently purchased herbs: caveat emptor. Arch Intern Med 2003;163:2290-229
5. Schettler T. Human exposure to phthalates via consumer products. Int J Androl 2006;29:134-139

A Canadian doctor also had made some comments regarding the study:

“Henley et al. do a commendable job of sleuthing out the likely cause of prepubertal gynecomastia in the young boys exposed to either lavender or tea tree oil. However, given that estrogenic compounds have yet to be detected in either oil, it is important that we carefully interpret these important findings. A growing number of endocrine disrupters in our environment have been shown to accumulate in adipose tissue.1,2 A number of such industrial by-products have also been implicated in early thelarche.3 Since these molecules with hormone-modulating activity are fat soluble, topically applied oils may serve as very efficient delivery agents for environmental endocrine disrupters by concentrating them and delivering them into cells. Although Henley et al. attempt to show that these oils have estrogenic activity, the results of their reported assays indicate a very weak effect. It would be bewildering if such relatively low hormonal activity alone could instigate prepubertal gynecomastia.”

Shirin Kalyan, Ph.D.
University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC V5Z 1M9, Canada
1. Paris F, Jeandel C, Servant N, Sultan C. Increased serum estrogenic bioactivity in three male newborns with ambiguous genitalia: a potential consequence of prenatal exposure to environmental endocrine disruptors. Environ Res 2006;100:39-43
2. Brevini TA, Zanetto SB, Cillo F. Effects of endocrine disruptors on developmental and reproductive functions. Curr Drug Targets Immune Endocr Metabol Disord 2005;5:1-10
3. Colon I, Caro D, Bourdony CJ, Rosario O. Identification of phthalate esters in the serum of young Puerto Rican girls with premature breast development. Environ Health Perspect 2000;108:895-900

A later study, completed in Denmark, showed that none of the bioavailable tea tree oil constituents demonstrated estrogenicity.6 Bioavailability is the rate, or degree, at which a drug or other substance is absorbed.

Based on the above commentaries and personal experience, I feel that both tea tree and lavender essential oils are safe to use. Many baby care products contain lavender, for its sedative, calming properties. It’s great that essential oils and natural ingredients are being researched, but we shouldn’t be jumping to conclusions after the results of only one study.

Michelle Reynolds, CAHP

1. Prepubertal gynecomastia linked to lavender and tea tree oils. Henley DV, Lipson N, Korach KS, Bloch CA. N Engl J Med. 2007 Feb 1;356(5):479-85. PMID: 17267908 2. Dimethyl sulfoxide is a potent modulator of estrogen receptor isoforms and xenoestrogen biomarker responses in primary culture of salmon hepatocytes. Mortensen AS, Arukwe A. Aquat Toxicol. 2006 Aug 12;79(1):99-103. Epub 2006 Jun 3. PMID: 16828892 3. Phthalates in cosmetic and personal care products: concentrations and possible dermal exposure. Koniecki D, Wang R, Moody RP, Zhu J. Environ Res. 2011 Apr;111(3):329-36. PMID: 21315328 4. Toxic effects of the easily avoidable phthalates and parabens. Crinnion WJ. Altern Med Rev. 2010 Sep;15(3):190-6. PMID: 21155623 5.  Exposure to phthalates: reproductive outcome and children health. A review of epidemiological studies. Jurewicz J, Hanke W. Int J Occup Med Environ Health. 2011 Jun;24(2):115-41. PMID: 21594692 6.  What you see may not always be what you get–bioavailability and extrapolation from in vitro tests. Nielsen JB. Toxicol In Vitro. 2008 Jun;22(4):1038-42. PMID: 18255254


Essential Oils for Summer Ailments


Summer is a season of fruition and beauty and many herbs, flowers and trees are at their peak. As we spend more time outdoors, the effects heat and humidity, insects and the sun are affecting us. Essential oils and hydrosols can bring relief to common ailments such as burns, sunstroke, bites, stings, sore muscles, poison ivy/oak contact and allergies.

Most citrus essential oils are photosensitive, so direct sunlight should be avoided, after their use. As some essential oils decrease the amount of time the skin takes to burn, others protect our skin. Many vegetable based carrier oils, and rose essential oil, have a natural sun protection factor of SPF 6 – SPF 8. These oils include coconut, sweet almond, olive, safflower and sesame. If a burn does occur, recommended essential oils and hydrosols include lavender, chamomile (German or Roman), helichrysum (immortelle), geranium and witch hazel. Hydrosols can be sprayed directly on the area. Note that these plants can help with other skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis, cuts and bruises.

Hydrosols can bring quick relief, as there is not always the need to dilute as with essential oils. Use liberally on the face, arms and legs for relief from a specific ailment, from the heat or to refresh. A small bottle can be kept on you, in a purse, a bag or the car. Hydrosols can be taken internally, with 30ml diluted in 1L of distilled or spring water, and enjoyed throughout the day. A three-week course, with one week off, is recommended.

Natural Insect Repellent
Natural insect repellents such as cedar, citronella, eucalyptus, fleabane, geranium, lemongrass, peppermint, rosemary and sweet gale essential oils and hydrosols can be used, as oppose to the controversial chemical known as DEET (N, N-diethyl-m-toluamide). A combination of the above can be used in a water, lotion or oil based repellent. Some, including children, find the oil based repellent sticky and do not like the feel of the oil on their skin, but it has longer lasting effects. Essentials oils generally do not deter stinging insects such as bees and wasps. After being bitten, the essential oils of tea tree, lavender, geranium, lemon and peppermint, lemon juice and witch hazel can be applied to sooth and take away the itch.

Poison Ivy/Oak
If you are unfortunate and come into contact with poison ivy, it is important to wash the sap (urushiol) from the area as soon as possible. Be sure not to take a bath, which will spread the urushiol to other areas of the body. Tea tree essential oil can be applied neat on the rash and taken internally in hydrosol form. Sweet fern and yarrow are other hydrosols, which can be applied topically. These plants, as well as geranium, will relieve the itching and irritation.

Allergies can affect sufferers in late summer and into the autumn. There are essential oils and hydrosols that have anti-histamine, anti-inflammatory and expectorant properties.  Essential oils, combined with the internal use of hydrosols, can bring relief. These include chamomile, green myrtle, elecampane, eucalyptus, niaouli and peppermint.

First Aid Kit
A basic first aid kit, for the summer, can be made easily and should include the following:

Tea tree essential oil
Lavender essential oil
Witch hazel hydrosol

Tea tree is anti-fungal, anti-bacterial and anti-viral, and can be applied to cuts, insect bites, scrapes, warts and cold sores. Lavender is anti-septic, soothing and sedating, and can be used for burns, sunburns, insect bites and headaches/migraines. Witch hazel is anti-inflammatory, anti-septic and astringent, and can be used for burns, sunburns, bruises and insect bites.

As you enjoy the summer, keep essentials oils and hydrosols in mind. A pampering peppermint foot lotion may even be in order, for those dry, overworked feet!

Michelle Reynolds, CAHP


1. An in vitro evaluation of various Rosa damascena flower extracts as a natural antisolar agent. Tabrizi H, Mortazavi SA, Kamalinejad M. Int J Cosmet Sci. 2003 Dec;25(6):259-65. PMID: 18494908
2. An experimental study of the effects of Matricaria chamomilla extract on cutaneous burn wound healing. Jarrahi M. Nat Prod Res. 2008 Mar 20;22(5):422-7. PMID: 18404562
3. Anti-inflammatory efficacy of topical preparations with 10% hamamelis distillate in a UV erythema test. Hughes-Formella BJ, Filbry A, Gassmueller J, Rippke F. Skin Pharmacol Appl Skin Physiol. 2002 Mar-Apr;15(2):125-32. PMID: 11867970
4. Repellency of essential oils to mosquitoes (Diptera: Culicidae). Barnard DR. J Med Entomol. 1999 Sep;36(5):625-9. PMID: 10534958
5. Bioactivity against Tribolium castaneum Herbst (Coleoptera: Tenebrionidae) of Cymbopogon citratus and Eucalyptus citriodora essential oils grown in Colombia. Olivero-Verbel J, Nerio LS, Stashenko EE. Pest Manag Sci. 2010 Jun;66(6):664-8. PMID: 20205230
6. Efficacy of the botanical repellents geraniol, linalool, and citronella against mosquitoes. Müller GC, Junnila A, Butler J, Kravchenko VD, Revay EE, Weiss RW, Schlein Y. J Vector Ecol. 2009 Jun;34(1):2-8. PMID: 20836800
7. Biological activities of yarrow species (Achillea spp.). Nemeth E, Bernath J. Curr Pharm Des. 2008;14(29):3151-67. PMID: 19075697
8. Hydrosols: The Next Aromatherapy. Suzanne Catty. Healing Arts Press, 2001.


Benefits of Tea Tree Oil

This is the first post in a series, to introduce the most commonly used essential oils. Common facts about tea tree oil (melaleuca alternafolia):

– the melaleuca plant is part of the Myrtaceae family
– the most common plant is a small shrub or tree
– this plant is indigenous to Australia, but is now grown in many other countries
– the leaves are steam distilled, to obtain the essential oil
– it’s scent is medicinal and herbal

Tea tree oil is best known for it’s antibacterial 2,3&4, antifungal9 and antiviral5&6 properties. It has shown to be effective against Staphylococcus strains, including MRSA, and Streptococcus strains.10 If using the oil neat (undiluted) it may irritate sensitive skin, so it’s recommended that a patch test be done prior to use.

There are a number of ailments, of which the use of tea tree oil can aid in recovery:

Acne (acne vulgaris): apply a drop of oil directly to the affected area, add to a natural facial cleanser, or add to distilled water to make a facial toner.11&13

Athletes Foot (tinea pedis): after cleaning your feet well, apply the oil neat to the affected area, add a few drops to a foot bath or add a few drops to a lotion or baking soda base, and apply to the feet.14&15

Chicken pox: as tea tree oil relieves itching, it can be applied to the rash and blisters.

Colds and ‘Flu: the oil can be applied on the back, chest and feet in a lotion base, along with other expectorant and antiviral oils such as eucalyptus and thyme.4&5

Cold sores (herpes labialis): apply a couple drops of oil directly to the sore with a cotton swab.6

Cuts and scrapes: the oil can be applied neat to the area then covered with a bandage.

Gum inflammation: 3-5 drops of oil can be added to a cup of water. To improve the taste of the tea tree, peppermint essential oil can also be added. Be sure not to swallow the mixture. As well, to clean your toothbrush, add one drop of tea tree oil.1&2

Insect Bites: add tea tree oil directly to the bite, to disinfect the area and help with the itching. (including flea, mosquito, horse fly bites).

Lice: the oil can be added to a gentle, unscented shampoo and conditioner.8 A few drops can also be added to the laundry when bedding is washed. Be sure you’re combing through your or your child’s hair with a finely toothed metal comb.

Sinuses: as above for colds.4

Warts: apply a drop of oil, neat, directly to the wart.3

Yeast infections (candidiasis or thrush): add 7-10 drops of oil to a bath, up to your pelvic bone, and soak for 10-15 minutes. A few drops can also be added to a panty liner.9&10

Additional types of infections include eczema7, herpes simplex6, nail infections, ringworm, earaches, allergies12 and scabies, for which tea tree oil can be beneficial.

It is also great for cleaning, if you would like to avoid the chemicals found in many commercial cleaning products. It can be used for mold, in a general cleaning spray, added to the dishwater, added to the laundry and used in an antiseptic spray.

Michelle Reynolds, CAHP

1. Effect of mouthwashing with tea tree oil on plaque and inflammation. Saxer UP, Stauble A, Szabo SH, Menghini G. Schweiz Monatsschr Zahnmed. 2003;113(9):985-96. PMID: 14567294
2. Susceptibility of oral bacteria to Melaleuca alternifolia (tea tree) oil in vitro. Hammer KA, Dry L, Johnson M, Michalak EM, Carson CF, Riley TV. Oral Microbiol Immunol. 2003 Dec;18(6):389-92. PMID: 14622345
3. Successful topical treatment of hand warts in a paediatric patient with tea tree oil (Melaleuca alternifolia). Millar BC, Moore JE. Complement Ther Clin Pract. 2008 Nov: 14(4):225-7. PMID: 18940708
4. Antibacterial activity of essential oils and their major constituents against respiratory tract pathogens by gaseous contact. Shigeharu Inouye, Toshio Takizawa and Hideyo Yamaguchi. Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy (2001) 47, 565-573.
5. In vitro antiviral activity of Melaleuca alternifolia essential oil. Gazozzo A, Timpanaro R, Bisignano B, Ferneri PM, Bisignano G, Castro A. Department of Microbiological and Gynaecological Sciences, University of Catania, Catania, Italy. PMID: 19843207
6. Comparative study on the antiviral activity of selected monoterpenes derived from essential oils. Astani A, Reichling J, Schnitzler P. Phytother Res. 2009 Aug 3. PMID: 19653195
7. Tea tree oil attenuates experimental contact dermatitis. Wallengren J. Arch Dermatol Res. 2010 Sep 24. PMID: 20865268
8. A randomised, assessor blind, parallel group comparative efficacy trial of three products for the treatment of head lice in children–melaleuca oil and lavender oil, pyrethrins and piperonyl butoxide, and a “suffocation” product. Barker SC, Altman PM. BMC Dermatol. 2010 Aug 20;10:6. PMID: 20727129
9. Inhibition of Candida albicans biofilm formation by antimycotics released from modified polydimethyl siloxane. De Prijck K, De Smet N, Honraet K, Christiaen S, Coenye T, Schacht E, Nelis HJ. Mycopathologia. 2010 Mar;169(3):167-74. PMID: 19774486
10. The battle against multi-resistant strains: Renaissance of antimicrobial essential oils as a promising force to fight hospital-acquired infections. Warnke PH, Becker ST, Podschun R, Sivananthan S, Springer IN, Russo PA, Wiltfang J, Fickenscher H, Sherry E. J Craniomaxillofac Surg. 2009 Oct;37(7):392-7. PMID: 19473851
11. The efficacy of 5% topical tea tree oil gel in mild to moderate acne vulgaris: a randomized, double-blind placebo-controlled study. Enshaieh S, Jooya A, Siadat AH, Iraji F. Indian J Dermatol Venereol Leprol. 2007 Jan-Feb;73(1):22-5. PMID: 17314442
12. Tea tree oil reduces histamine-induced skin inflammation. Koh KJ, Pearce AL, Marshman G, Finlay-Jones JJ, Hart PH. Br J Dermatol. 2002 Dec;147(6):1212-7. PMID: 12452873
13. A comparative study of tea-tree oil versus benzoylperoxide in the treatment of acne. Bassett IB, Pannowitz DL, Barnetson RS. Med J Aust. 1990 Oct 15;153(8):455-8. PMID: 2145499
14. A novel aromatic oil compound inhibits microbial overgrowth on feet: a case study. Misner BD. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2007 Jul 13;4:3. PMID: 17908343
15. Treatment of interdigital tinea pedis with 25% and 50% tea tree oil solution: a randomized, placebo-controlled, blinded study. Satchell AC, Saurajen A, Bell C, Barnetson RS. Australas J Dermatol. 2002 Aug;43(3):175-8. PMID: 12121393

Coping with mid winter colds and ‘flu

Colds and influenza take hold when your immune system’s response is low and your body is weakened. The use of essential oils can aid in the prevention of colds and ‘flu, and help with the symptoms if the infection takes hold. They can also fight secondary infections caused by bacteria. If the symptoms have already developed, essential oils can shorten the duration and help build your immune system. Treating infections without the use of antibiotics will strengthen your immune system. It is important to use essential oils at the first sign of a cold or ‘flu, to prevent the infection.

A few of the essential oils, which have proven effective, include eucalyptus (eucalyptus radiata and globulus), ravensara (ravensara aromatica), peppermint (mentha piperita), tea tree (melaleuca alternifolia), lavender (lavendula alternafolia), (rosemary (rosmarinus officinalis – verbenone type) and thyme (thymus vulgaris). These essential oils have anti-viral, anti-bacterial, decongestant and expectorant properties, to name a few.

For colds and ‘flu, essential oils can be applied topically after dilution in an unscented lotion or carrier oil, through inhalation and absorption in a bath, inhalation on a tissue, or inhalation with a diffuser or humidifier. If applied topically, massage

There are some tactics which can help in staying healthy and avoiding infection, these include staying healthy (by eating properly, getting adequate exercise and sleep), washing hands regularly, eating a lot of garlic, making tea from fresh, shredded ginger root, drinking a lot of water, getting fresh air (especially when enclosed in office space with poor air quality), resting when required and taking supplements such as vitamin C.

Michelle Reynolds, CAHP

1. Antibacterial activity of essential oils and their major constituents against respiratory tract pathogens by gaseous contact. Shigeharu Inouye, Toshio Takizawa, Yamaguchi. Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy.
2. Screening of the antibacterial effects of a variety of essential oils on microorganisms responsible for respiratory infections. Fabio A, Cermelli C, Fabio G, Nicoletti P, Quaglio P. Phytother Res. 2007 Apr;21(4):374-7. PMID: 17326042

3. Essential oils of aromatic plants with antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral, and cytotoxic properties–an overview. Reichling J, Schnitzler P, Suschke U, Saller R. Forsch Komplementmed. 2009 Apr;16(2):79-90. PMID: 19420953
4. In vitro antiviral activity of Melaleuca alternifolia essential oil. Garozzo A, Timpanaro R, Bisignano B, Furneri PM, Bisignano G, Castro A. Lett Appl Microbiol. 2009 Sep 18. PMID: 19843207

Essential oils in aiding the prevention of the ‘flu

Each year a growing number of people are concerned about the possibility of contracting the ‘flu. The essential oils mentioned here can be used for common ‘flu strains. What many are starting to discover is that there are a number of holistic alternatives to protect themselves and their families. For some there are personal reasons for avoiding vaccines, for which holistic remedies may provide an alternative.

One such branch of holistic medicine that can aid in the fight against the ‘flu is Essential Oil Therapy. Essential oils have many chemical properties, which have been shown to be an effective treatment, both preventative and post infection, against influenza. These chemical properties, such as being antiviral, antimicrobial and antiseptic, protect against influenza and/or shorten the duration of its symptoms.

For example, oils from the Myrtaceae family (niaouli, ravensara, tea tree) are effective against viruses, due to their high levels of terpenes, terpineol and cineole. Terpenes are antibacterial and antiseptic. Additional essential oils with antiviral, antimicrobial and/or antibacterial properties include cinnamon, clove, eucalyptus, lavender, peppermint, rosemary and thyme. Some of these same essential oils also help to boost the immune system, helping to protect you and your family from a myriad of ‘flu season viruses.

The wonderful thing about essential oil therapy is that there are several methods to use and apply the essential oils, which, in most cases, mean that use and application of essential oils are both convenient and flexible. Some methods of application include using an aroma pot, which includes placing a few drops of oil in water and heating it; the oil evaporates into the air and is inhaled as well as attacking any airborne viruses; adding a few drops to the bath, which not only gives direct contact with your skin, but also allows for a relaxing method of inhalation; putting a few drops on your pillow at night, providing you with both inhalation and killing any viruses or bacteria found in and on your pillow; adding a few drops to a plain, unscented lotion and rubbing it onto the back, neck, chest and soles of the feet; or using an inhaler. Where the influenza virus is concerned, the best methods of application are through inhalation and/or topical application to the body.

A natural hand sanitizer can be made using aloe vera gel and 10% essential oils. Alcohol can also be added, but this may dry out your hands. Add 24 drops of essential oil to 240g of aloe vera gel and mix well. The gel can be put into small squeeze bottles and should be used within six months.

To prepare for this cold and ‘flu season, we have our Cold & Sinus formula with pure essential oils and the milder Children’s Cold & ‘Flu formula. Our two newest products are an Antibacterial Spray and Cold & ‘Flu Essential Oil Inhaler.

Michelle Reynolds, CAHP


In vitro antiviral activity of Melaleuca alternifolia essential oil. Garozzo A, Timpanaro R, Bisignano B, Furneri PM, Bisignano G, Castro A.

Screening of the antibacterial effects of a variety of essential oils on microorganisms responsible for respiratory infections. Fabrio A, Cermelli C, Fabio G, Nicoletti P, Quaglio P.

Antibacterial activity of essential oils and their major constituents against respiratory tract pathogens by gaseous contact. Shigeharu Inouyea, Toshio Takizawab and Hideyo Yamaguchia.

Inhibitory effect of cinnamaldehyde derived from Cinnamomi cortex, on the growth of influenza A/PR/8 virus in vitro and in vivo. Hayashi K, Imanishi N, Kashiwayama Y, Kawano A, Terasawa K, Shimada Y, and Ochiai H.

Medical Aromatherapy, Kurt Schnaubelt, PhD.