Lavender, Estrogen, and Cancer: A review of the research
compiled by Curtis Swift, Ph.D., Mesa Lavender Farms
A recent request for information came from one of our wholesale customers regarding the effect lavender has on cancer. One of her customers was told lavender increased cancer and thus should not be used when one is undergoing cancer treatment.
Mesa Lavender Farms is not in the profession of practicing human medicine and thus leaves the decision to use lavender (and/or CBD) when dealing with cancer up to the patient and practitioner. We do however, enjoy following up on scientific literature and trying to answer questions of this nature.
To start the discussion, it is known that endocrine disrupting chemicals can have major risks by targeting human organs and systems to include reproductive systems, breast tissue, adipose tissue, and the pancreas. (Giulivo, M., et al. 2016. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27504873 )
What does the scientific evidence tell us about lavender essential oil and if it disrupts the endocrine system? Links to the literature cited are provided for your further evaluation.
In 2007 lavender and tea tree essential oils were reported to cause enlarged breasts in three pre-pubertal boys “suggesting lavender oil, and perhaps tea tree oil, may possess endocrine disrupting activity that leads to development of gynecomastia.” (Henley DV, Lipson N, Korach KS, Bloch CA. Prepubertal gynecomastia linked to lavender and tea tree oils. N Engl J Med. 2007;356:479–485. [PubMed]) Gynecomastia is characterized by enlarged breast tissue.
In 2013 Robert Tisserand refuted this assessment and explained why the products the boys used could not possibly have caused this problem. (Neither lavender oil nor tea tree oil can be linked to breast growth in young boys. 2013. https://naha.org/index.php/naha-blog/neither-lavender-oil-nor-tea-tree-oil-can-be-linked-to-breast-growth-in-you/)
In addition the following articles refute the claim that lavender increases estrogen production or even mimics estrogen resulting in an increase in cancer.
- Simoes, B., et al., 2018. Estrogenicity of essential oils is not required to relieve symptoms of urogenital atrophy in breast cancer survivors. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5888815/
- “…11 oils were tested for estrogenicity using the ERE-luciferase reporter assay and, with the exception of Lavandula angustifolia (LA), all demonstrated a statistically significant increase in luciferase activity.
- Overall, both LA and Chamaemelum nobile (CN) oils demonstrated minimal stimulation in ERE-luciferase activity and demonstrated little or no stimulation of MCF-7 cell growth at 0.01% v/v.
- The luciferase test is used to identify endocrine disruption and lavender essential oil was shown not to cause endocrine disruption.
- Gautum, et al. 2014. Essential Oils and Their Constituents as Anticancer Agents: A Mechanistic View (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4070586/)
- Provides a review of 130 studies of essential oils (EOs) and their anticancer benefits.
- The authors of this review state “EOs-mediated therapy cannot be a substitute to the standard chemotherapy and radiotherapy but can be used in combination with cancer therapy to decrease the side effects of drugs.”
- The lipophilic nature of these EOs enables them to easily cross the membranes of the cells and reach inside the cell. EOs are described as strong antioxidants [10, 17] and antimicrobial  and are in use for the management of severe diseases like cardiovascular , diabetes , Alzheimer’s , cancer , and others.)
- Zhao, et al. 2017 studying Prostate Cancer, (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5739122/pdf/10.1177_1534735416645408.pdf) demonstrated lavender essential oil was effective in inhibiting tumor growth of human prostate cancer xenografts in nude mice.
- Linalool, but not linalyl acetate, mainly contributed to this effect. This antitumor effect was associated with apoptosis induction (cell death) and stopping of cell proliferation.
- Their data suggest that the lavender essential oil and linalool have the potential to be developed as a novel therapeutic agent for prostate cancer treatment. Note: Linalool is a large component of lavender essential oil.
- Proteomics analysis of MKN45 cell line before and after treatment with Lavender aqueous extract. 2012. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4017446/ studied lavender and found lavender reduced Gastric cancer problems.
- The authors found “…Lavender aqueous extract has a significant effect on cell proliferation and inhibits their growth via necrosis.” In simpler terms lavender extract prevents the spread of cancerous cells and caused their death.
- The authors conclude lavender extract may be a suitable candidate for more investigations as an anti-cancer drug.
- Aqueous Extract of Lavender angustifolia Inhibits Lymphocytes Proliferation of Hodgkin’s Lymphoma Patients. 2013. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4142939/
- The anti-cancer properties of Lavender aqueous extract on lymphocytes derived from patients with Hodgkin’s lymphoma was studied.
- The effective concentration of Lavender that decreased viability of Hodgkin’s lymphoma cells below Lethal Concentration 50 (LC50) value was 100 µg/ml and this was half of the therapeutic dose. In addition, apoptosis was the main mechanism the Hodgkin’s lymphoma cell encountered when exposed to the aqueous extract of Lavender.
- Note: apoptosis is a naturally occurring programmed and targeted cause of cellular death
- This experiment proposed that aqueous Lavender extract can be regarded as a potential anti-cancer agent for future studies.
There are conflicting thoughts on lavender, endocrine disruption, and cancer. However, the research reporting lavender does not cause or contribute to an increase in cancer is overwhelming.
After reviewing this information you might want to consider the use of Mesa Lavender Farms salves and tinctures containing CBD plus lavender as CBD and lavender both appear to have anti-cancer properties.