How Essential Oils Can Cause Gyno: Precautions You Must Take To Avoid Side Effects
If you’re someone who’s worried about man boobs, you must’ve already carried out some independent research into its causes, and would’ve most likely come across the BBC article that quotes a couple of studies linking the regular use of essential oils with gynecomastia.
We carried out some research of our own into the connection between the two and figured that there’s indeed some validity in these claims. Let’s tell you more about it.
What Are Essential Oils?
Essential oils are highly concentrated versions of natural oils found in plants. They are concentrated hydrophobic liquids that contain volatile aroma compounds, obtained from plants. These oils are also commonly referred to as aetherolea, ethereal oils or volatile oils (owing to their tendency of vaporizing easily).
Why they’re termed as essential is because they have the essence of the corresponding plant’s fragrance or the characteristic fragrance of that plant.
It’s important to note that the ‘essential’ here doesn’t signify that they are indispensable in nature.
As against the fatty oils, essential oils can evaporate entirely without any sort of residual stain, when dropped onto a filter paper.
These oils obtained from plants through a process referred to as distillation, normally distillation through water or steam, wherein several parts of the plants are used, including the bark, flowers, stems, leaves and/or roots.
Once the distillation is through, you get a highly concentrated essential oil that has the basic properties and fragrance of that plant (from which it has been extracted) and also contains its true essence.
This isn’t just limited to the smell of the plant, but also its healing properties and various characteristics.
Which Kind Of Daily Products Contain Essential Oils?
Essential oils can be seen commonly used in all kinds of day-to-day products including soaps, cosmetics, perfumes, lotions, aromatherapy oils, shampoos, creams, moisturizers and several other products.
These are also extensively used for flavoring beverages and food items, and for adding fragrance to the household cleaning items and incense.
Are Essential Oils Toxic?
It’s important to note that some of the constituents of essential oils can be highly toxic, especially in case of people who’re vulnerable to them, for instance, pregnant women, young toddlers, and elders.
The toxicity of these oils generally comes into play whenever these are taken internally, something that is really not recommended.
Few of these toxins contained in essential oils can be dangerous even when inhaled or applied externally.
However, in many cases, owing to the balance of the constituents in these oils, or because of the balance of essential oils contained in a remedy, or just because of their calming influence, such oils can still be used in a safe manner.
It’s only when you start using these oils in larger quantities that such dangers can possibly become a reality.
Hence, it is very important to abide by the recommended proportions of these oils.
Please remember that just one tiny drop of essential oil is equal to 25 g to 35 g of its corresponding plant!
Even the IFRA (International Fragrance Association) has set certain guidelines regarding the potential toxicity of essential oils.
They have issued a list of such oils that are restricted for usage in the industries where fragrances are used in the products, for example, household items and cosmetics.
IFRA has defined strict proportion control measures in this regard, and also in case of aromatherapy.
Some of the oils that are covered in this regard are cinnamon cassia, verbena, bergamot, angelica root, sassafras, cumin and Baune de Perou.
Although IFRA doesn’t have any international legal implications, majority of the fragrance companies abide by their guidelines.
Apart from the oils that are restricted for use by the IFRA, you must also be careful with the use of the following ones: sage, coriander, aspic, clove, hyssop, and anise.
These oils can be problematic because of their constituents like thujone, estragole (methyl-chavicol) and anethole.
You must also exercise caution while using oils that consist of eugenol (which is capable of corroding metals).
The toxic reactions of essential oils can be felt almost immediately, leading to anything from nausea to dizziness to exhaustion. Some people might even suffer from epilepsy attacks and even death.
These toxins might also lead to allergies, for instance, tansy flower incorporated in perfumes can lead to terrible eczema (hence has also been banned for industrial use by the French Ministry of Health).
How Essential Oils Cause Man Boobs: Research And Studies
Scientific studies have revealed that regular use of essential oils like lavender and tea tree oil can lead to abnormal growth of breast tissues in young boys.
The researchers at National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) conducted a study whereby they discovered the presence of 8 distinct chemicals in essential oils which can potentially interfere with the hormone development in boys, and lead to gynecomastia.
The results of this study were presented at the Endocrine Society’s 100th Annual meeting (ENDO 2018) in Chicago recently.
It revealed that essential oils contain certain chemicals that can increase the levels of estrogen (female hormone) in male bodies, while simultaneously suppressing the testosterone (male hormone) production. The reaction varies from person to person.
Developmental biologist J. Tyler Ramsey of National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), who led this research is of the opinion that essential oils of any kind must be used with great caution by the boys.
He found that these oils can prove to be endocrine disruptors that might alter the hormone balance of the body and lead to all kinds of problems.
He emphasized that while majority of these oils are generally considered to be safe, there have been quite a few cases of gynecomastia among the users, particularly when applied directly on the skin.
But the symptoms reduced gradually over a period of time once the oils’ use was stopped.
The co-author of the study, Dr. Kenneth Korach had carried out similar research in the past and had proved that regular use of lavender and tea tree oils can impact the male characteristics development during the puberty stage of young males.
However, this new study in collaboration with Tyler Ramsey looked into the chemicals contained in these essential oils, in good detail.
They narrowed down the list of potentially harmful chemicals to 8 major ones, out of many hundreds.
Interestingly, 4 of these chemicals are also present in both lavender and tea tree oil.
These 4 chemicals were:
The other 4 which were present in either of these two oils were:
The team of researchers isolated all these chemicals and then tested them individually on the human cells in laboratory conditions.
These tests revealed that these chemicals could be classified as Endocrine Disruptor Chemicals (EDCs) which displayed different levels of anti-androgenic and/or estrogenic properties.
Hence, their primary observation was that these chemicals successfully reduced the testosterone levels and increased the estrogen levels in different degrees (something that is directly responsible for gynecomastia or man boobs).
What was even more alarming is that these EDCs (8 chemicals) were just limited to lavender and tea tree oil, but were also present in 65 types of other essential oils being sold in the market today.
While the United States Food and Drug Administration (US FDA) approved the essential oils’ labels as ‘Generally Recognised as Safe’ (GRAS), with directed usage, the new NIEHS study proves that their usage must be done with great caution, especially by prepubescent boys.
Talking to BBC about the study, pediatrician Ieuan Hughes of the University of Cambridge stated that:
“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.
There’s a complex relationship between estrogen, testosterone and other hormones in the body that cannot be replicated in these experiments.”
The Precautions You Should Take:
Following are some of the precautions you must take while using any type of essential oils:
1. As essential oils are highly concentrated, they must always be diluted before skin application. Applying them undiluted on the skin can lead to skin sensitization or irritation.
The only time you might need to use them undiluted on the skin is in case of spot treatments on affected areas from a rash, minor burn or bug bite.
2. Avoid using essential oils on children. If you have to, give them very low doses and in consultation with a qualified aromatherapist.
3. Anyone who is pregnant or is suffering from liver damage, cancer, epilepsy or some other type of health problem, must always use essential oils under proper guidance, and with great care.
4. You must never use essential oils internally. These are highly concentrated substances which can potentially damage your digestive tract’s lining.
Many of these essential oils can even be toxic when consumed internally. If at all you need to ingest them for some purpose, it must be only under direct supervision of a qualified expert.
5. Always check the label of an essential oil before using it, especially if you’re suffering from high blood pressure or epilepsy. Children, infants and pregnant women must also exercise precaution in this regard.
6. Some essential oils, especially the citrus ones, accelerate skin pigmentation upon exposure to sunlight.
You must wait for at least 6 hours before going out into the sun if you’ve applied any of the orange, angelica root, lemon or bergamot essential oils on your skin.
7. Exercise great caution when using these oils after or before going into water (in swimming pool, shower, rain etc.).
You might experience skin irritation as your pores would be more open and the water would drive oils into the skin.
8. Never allow children to play with any of the essential oils. Please note, the residue from these oils often remains on the outer surface of the bottles, even after use.
Children might get this residue on their fingers, and then into their eyes or skin, thereby causing injury or pain.
9. Never put any of these oils into your nose, eyes or ears.
In the event that you accidentally put a bit of it into your eye, never flush with water as it can make the oil go deeper and cause pain; sometimes even major damage.
You must use some carrier oil (coconut, grapes or olive oil) to draw it out.
While there is a valid link between man boobs and regular use of essential oils, it doesn’t imply that you cannot use these oils safely.
You’d most likely not experience any harmful effects as long as you regulate their concentration and usage.
Having said that, this topic is very sensitive and critical for young men, so you must keep track of the developments in this field, and stay constantly updated.