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July 27, 2006

BehindTheMedspeak: Can tea tree oil shampoo cause breast growth — in young boys?


Abnormal breast development in boys is called gynecomastia.

Now come National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) researchers Derek Henley and Kenneth Korach with the results of their investigation of this question.

Long answer short: Most likely yes.

Here's Jeffrey G. Ghassemi's July 17 Washington Post story.

    Lavender, Tea Tree Oil May Cause Hormonal Changes in Boys

    Unpublished research looks at effects of some shampoos, soaps and lotions

    A preliminary finding presented at the Endocrine Society's conference last month could prompt parents to read product labels more closely. The unpublished research suggests that shampoos, soaps and body lotions containing lavender and tea tree oils — commonly added for their aromas and marketing cachet — might cause hormonal imbalances and breast growth in young boys.

    The study was carried out by scientists at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences after a Denver pediatric endocrinologist reported abnormal breast development, known as gynecomastia, in five boys, ages 4 to 7, who used products containing the oils. The symptoms subsided after the boys stopped using the products.

    Institute researchers Derek Henley and Kenneth Korach tested the effects of lavender and tea tree oils on human breast cancer cells. They found that both oils mimicked estrogen (a hormone that promotes the development of female breasts) while reducing the activity of androgens, which inhibit such growth.

    "Boys are getting a double hit," said Korach, who added that this hormonal imbalance might explain the Denver cases.

    Steven Dentali, vice president of scientific and technical affairs for the American Herbal Products Association, a trade group, said it's premature to worry about these substances, given the paucity of clinical evidence and many questions that the lab work left unanswered. Still unknown, he said, are the tolerable limits of use and the specific compound in the oils that may be producing the observed effects.

    While they acknowledged that more studies are needed, the NIEHS investigators said they hoped their preliminary research would alert doctors and parents to the possible association. They advised parents to discuss any fears about herbal oils with their pediatrician. Parents who notice potentially related symptoms in their boys should also report them promptly to their physician.


Old ways


are the best ways.

July 27, 2006 at 10:01 AM | Permalink


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Check your recommendations. "Johnson's Baby Shampoo with natural lavender," or in French, "shampooing pour bébés avee lavande naturelle" gives the illusion of the seemingly safety of a supposedly gentle shampoo with exactly the problem oil applied on baby boys' skin.

Parent beware.

Posted by: L. Coleman | Feb 4, 2007 10:01:56 PM

Old ways are the best?? Perhaps we would like to go back to days when leeches were used and they got rid of the demons that caused epilepsy??? Or maybe not?

I think you better double check your Johnson&Johnson - not as safe as you might think. We tend to blindly trust those products that we have been programmed to believe are safe without ever checking out what they are really made of. Maybe - just maybe - the people selling them are looking to make a buck??
Check out this link for a specific look at the shampoo and what's really in it - not very safe, considering it is supposed to be used on children. Then maybe look a little further at more of your household products - it might surprise you how toxic things really are.


If I had the choice of what I would use - J&J or tea tree oil - hands down the tea tree oil. Tea tree oil has been in use for hundreds of years and helped many people. It seems a little short sighted to say that one study - without full conclusion or evidence, should stop us using something that has helped thousands of people cure many health problems. And yet we blindly poison ourselves with every day products all the time - do you ever look those items up??

The bad parent card should go to the parent who has blindly followed the crowd without looking into things themselves.

Posted by: JS | Nov 22, 2006 10:30:42 PM

OK. Issue me a bad parent card (yellow).

Posted by: Mb | Jul 27, 2006 11:55:07 AM

"Old ways are the best ways."

You ain't kidding.

I've switched over to Johnson's Baby Shampoo after reading about its gentle properties a few weeks back (through someones post on this site???) Having had dandruff that was just fricken disgusting and having my dermotologist give me three seperate medicated shampoos that didn't do crap, I switched to the cheap stuff. Cleans the hair, but doesn't strip the natural oils on the scalp. Has the same Ph as water and thus isn't going to change the chemistry of your skin. I gotta say, its been the best one yet.

Ok...back to a less disgusting topic, dandruff and boys with breasts...I think its time to have a drink.

Posted by: clifyt | Jul 27, 2006 10:43:19 AM

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