Lavender and tea tree oil, especially, are considered endocrine-disrupting chemicals. I wrote about this a few years ago , and wanted to re-post this information. Be informed and use essential oils with caution! FN
This post was originally published on March 6, 2014.
They are drugs, after all
As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, How NOT to whiten your teeth, I enjoy Pinterest. What I don’t enjoy is the poor health advice that gets pinned and re-pinned hundreds of times over. Like putting acid (lemon juice) on your teeth and then brushing with an abrasive substance (baking soda). Bad idea if you like your enamel. But I see variations of this “recipe” pop up dozens of times every day.
Essential oils are another frequently-used ingredient on the home remedy boards. There are hundreds of home remedies using essential oils to treat just about anything—insomnia, fatigue, gout, upset stomach, menstrual cramps, bruising, fungal infections, ADHD, and on and on and on…
I don’t have a problem with using essential oils for aromatherapy—maybe the scent of lavender does aid in falling asleep. (I’m allergic to lavender, however, so it just makes me sneeze.)
And I readily believe that some essential oils might be useful when rubbed into the skin. (Bengay is oil of wintergreen.)
But I get really nervous when I see recipes—and a recipe is never just one essential oil, but usually several—that are meant to be taken internally. Then I think “Whoa, wait a minute. How safe are these, really?”
So I read with much interest a post by Dr. Roy Benaroch, a pediatrician, in response to a patient’s question: Is there evidence of essential oils being harmful—especially when taken internally?
(It’s a good question to ask of a pediatrician, because they are experts in poisonings!)
He points out that many essential oils can be dangerous, even fatal, if swallowed, even in small doses. And some essential oils, when rubbed into the skin, can be absorbed into the bloodstream. Apparently lavender and tea tree oils, two I frequently see used, can have estrogen-like effects in the body.
Dr. Benaroch concludes:
Essential oils are concentrated liquids containing volatile compounds from plants. . . . What they are and what they do depends on what plant they’ve come from (and sometimes what part of the plant.). . . Whether taken internally or used topically, essential oils should be used with caution.
Be wary of marketing claims
I noticed that a lot of the pins using essential oils show pictures of one brand name—dōTERRA.
Dr. Benaroch explains that dōTERRA is actually one of those multi-level marketing schemes, like Herbalife, Amway or Mary Kay Cosmetics. Anyone can become a salesperson and can host “parties” to sell product.
No wonder so many essential oils are showing up on Pinterest—it must be an amazing platform to direct potential buyers to the sellers’ websites and blogs.
Essential oils are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. Like herbs and supplements, they fall under the loose guidelines of the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994.
Almost always you will find somewhere on the packaging the usual disclaimer, aka the Quack Miranda Warning: This statement has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.
In other words, There is no scientific evidence whatsoever to back up the claims we are making about this product. If you use it, you do so at your own risk.
As Dr. Benaroch says,
Statements referring to essential oils collectively as having near-magical health benefits are just plain silly. If you wouldn’t say “chemicals are healthy,” then you shouldn’t say “essential oils are healthy.”
I looked on dōTERRA’s website. These oils are expensive! The prices depend on the type of oil, but they run between $20 and $100 for a 15ml bottle.
Keep in mind these people want to sell you something. Be a smart consumer: be informed, stay healthy and save money.
Protect yourself and your children
Bottom line: Essential oils should be used with caution and should be kept out of the reach of children.
I would never take any of these oils internally. I would, however, use them for aromatherapy.
If you want to use an essential oil topically, patch test first to make sure you are not allergic. Rub a small amount onto the inside of your arm and wait 24 hours. If there is no skin reaction, it is probably OK to use.
Also, check out the Supplement Safety links on my Resources page for more information on the uses and safety of essential oils.