Answer: Lavender, a plant with beautiful purple flowers, has historically been used in many cultures for healing. The deeply fragrant oils are also common in aromatherapy for calming purposes and to assist with anxiety and sleep. Today, many cosmetics, including bath and body products like lotions, soaps, and shampoos, have been infused with small amounts of lavender for its pleasant smell and purported health effects, despite limited scientific proof. As for potential harm with topical use, the U.S. National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (nccam.nih.gov) cautions, “There have been reports that topical use can cause breast growth in young boys.” This is primarily based on one very small case report published in the New England Journal of Medicine. In weighing this report and all of the scientific data we have, I agree with Aviva Romm, M.D., an integrative medical doctor and world-renowned herbalist, who lets her patients know that while “essential oils have some potential to act like a pro-estrogen, this effect is dose dependent; if you’re concerned, don’t slather the product on, keep use to a minimum, and discontinue it if you notice any adverse effects.”
Lawrence D. Rosen, M.D., is the founder of the Whole Child Center in Oradell, New Jersey, one of the first green, integrative primary care practices in the U.S.
Have a question for Dr. Rosen? E-mail him at [email protected]