Essential oils (EOs) are perhaps more popular than ever before. There are many companies making high quality EOs and many who are not. Information about their use and safety differs just about as much as the companies making them. It can be hard to know what to believe. In this Fertility Q&A, I cover common questions about the impact of EOs on hormone balance, the truth about ingesting them, and about their “volatile organic compounds” level of toxicity.
Q1: “I have heard that lavender is a hormone disruptor and should be avoided when TTC. Do you know anything about that?”
A: We don’t have strong evidence that Lavender is a hormone disruptor. To my knowledge only a few very small studies – one with only three subjects using an unknown essential oil product – related to hormonal balance exist. As a result of these poorly designed/validated studies, researchers speculate that young males may experience hormone imbalance causing breast buds to form from Lavender and Tea Tree oils. Essential oils experts highly disagree.
Perhaps one of the best opinion pieces I’ve seen yet on this very topic is that of Chagrin Valley Soap & Salve owner Ida Friedman Kasdan Are Lavender and Tea Tree Essential Oils Hormone Disruptors? (January 7, 2019).
Lavender has so many benefits. It is effective at reducing stress, which naturally helps lower cortisol levels, healing to the skin, it promotes calm and sleep, can help relieve pain and offers antioxidants, etc. Most people will only ever experience the positive benefits of Lavender EO.
To learn more visit: Aromatherapy for Fertility
Q2: I also have a question regarding essential oils. I did a consultation and I was told taking the EO internally wasn’t a good idea, but Young Living makes some that are meant to digest. How do you feel about that? I wonder if it’s just like a liquid extract. I have a lemon EO from them and its meant to take internally like in your water or cook with it. I’d like to add lemon if it helps my immune system, but not if you think that’s silly and not effective.
A: We ingest a certain amount of essential oils each day, particularly those of us whose diets are filled with whole plant foods. The amount we ingest from whole plant foods is a mere fraction of the amount one would ingest in even just one drop of a concentrated essential oil.
Essential oils are not the same as liquid extracts.
The German Commission E has approved of only a few specific essential oils for internal use. These are often marketed as “food-flavorings” and they are of low concentration. The essential oils used in aromatherapy and sold for therapeutic use are highly concentrated, and with some there are health risks if improperly used.
To be honest, squeezing the juice of 1/4 to 1/2 an organic lemon into your water, even tossing in the piece and letting it soak all the while you drink the water is likely to be just as effective, less expensive and perhaps all around better than using one drop of Lemon EO.
We feel it is best practice to only use essentials oils internally with advice and guidance of a formally-trained, clinical aromatherapist. It is my understanding that many representatives for essential oil companies do not have formal training.
I hope this helps you choose what’s best for your needs.
Q: Elevated Estrogen Levels Linked to Toxins in Body Care Products, your story is good but then it recommends harmful essential plant oils. All have been proven, including certified organic, to produce harmful VOC’s. What a shame to have a good story and then make it so toxic with bad essential oils. Dr. Anne Steinemann researched them and she has a PhD student who is soon to publish another paper on EO’s all being harmful and which confirms her prior study that proved that.
A: I by no means wish to discredit Dr. Anne Steinemann, as I do not know her work at all. What I do wish to share is what I know as a Master’s Degree holding Certified Herbalist. Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to do so.
Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are found in all living things.
Essential oils are VOCs and give off VOCs, otherwise, they could not be smelled. That said, this does not mean they are harmful or toxic.
VOCs from essential oils and from synthetic chemicals are very different. VOCs given off by synthetic chemicals accumulate in the body and create inflammation and disease. The VOCs in essential oils actually breakdown and clear away synthetic chemicals that are stored in your body and help ease inflammation and disease, among their many other benefits.
Essential oils do not bio-accumulate in the cells and facilitate improved cellular communication. VOCs from pollutants do (the list shared below). For many, the VOCs from conventional personal care and cleaning products are far more hazardous to their health than blends of essential oils.
VOCs that are released from burning fuel, such as gasoline, wood, coal, or natural gas, oil and gas fields, and those that are released from diesel exhaust, solvents, paints, glues, and other products are hazardous air pollutants. Examples of volatile organic compounds are gasoline, benzene, formaldehyde, solvents such as toluene and xylene, styrene, and perchloroethylene (or tetrachloroethylene), the main solvent used in dry cleaning.
To eliminate all VOCs, anything and everything on the planet that has an odor or a scent, including every plant, every flower, tree, grass, grain, etc., would need to be eliminated. Doing so would be the end of everything we know, namely of our food supply…
Back to EO use therapeutically, beyond cleaning, pure essential oils will be utilized by the body within 3-6 hours of application or inhalation. Using essential oils in low concentrations and/or inhaling the vapors of essential oils are safe for most people. Safety testing of essential oils has shown they have few negative side effects when used as directed.
If wishing to use essential oils therapeutically, working with a trained aromatherapist is the best choice for many people. Only very small amounts of essential oils are needed and dosing guidance from a professional can be very helpful.
It is important to continue to educate yourself and work to discern the truth. I applaud that. The use of essential oils or anything for that matter depends on the specific substance or item, and on the individual, the way their body reacts or responds. Ultimately we need to choose what is best for us, by finding information we trust about that which we put on and in our bodies.