It is interesting to hear anyone speak with conviction about the positive or negative effects of cannabis consumption. There are some people that argue there has been a great deal of research on marijuana, and from a certain perspective that is true. However, to know the exact effects of cannabis and its 483 known chemical constituents and at least 85 different cannabinoids, that would take the intense and rigorous research of a true professional scientist which has not happened because of the Schedule 1 status of cannabis. Another interesting fact is that the essential oil industry is expected to grow to $11.6 billion by 2022 according to Grand View Research Inc.. Lavender and tea tree oil are two very popular essential oils and they are commonly found in everyday consumer products like soaps and lotions. As opposed to cannabis, there is really no regulation on essential oils.

Essential oils are not even regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. In other words, researchers could examine essential oils to their heart’s content, and they have started to. One particular group has discovered that many essential oils contain endocrine-disrupting chemicals which can have wild impacts upon certain vulnerable individuals such as making boys going through puberty grow breasts. This information does not remove the benefits of essential oils, it simply goes to show that rigorous research is necessary to protect consumers. The federal government does not do anything to protect consumers from the potential adverse health effects of essential oils. With marijuana, they do the exact opposite. They regulate so strictly that even scientists that have received clearance to research it find it so challenging that they struggle making any headway. What sense does it make for the federal government to manage both of these natural products in a completely opposite manner?

“Our society deems essential oils as safe,” said study lead investigator J. Tyler Ramsey, a postbaccalaureate research fellow at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), part of the National Institutes of Health. “However, they possess a diverse amount of chemicals and should be used with caution because some of these chemicals are potential endocrine disruptors.”

Male gynecomastia occurring before puberty is relatively rare, but a growing amount of cases have been reported to coincide with topical exposure to lavender and tea tree oil, and the condition went away after the boys stopped using the oil-containing products, Ramsey said. Researchers at the NIEHS, including Kenneth Korach, Ph.D., a co-investigator for the new study, previously found laboratory evidence that lavender and tea tree oil have estrogenic (estrogen-like) properties and anti-androgenic (testosterone inhibiting-like) activities, meaning they compete or hinder the hormones that control male characteristics, which could affect puberty and growth.

Of further concern, according to Ramsey, is that many of the chemicals they tested appear in at least 65 other essential oils. Essential oils are available without a prescription and are not regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Thus, the public should be aware of these findings and consider all evidence before deciding to use essential oils. The NIEHS Division of Intramural Research funded this study through its support of Korach.