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Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Safety of Lavendar in Pregnancy by Robert Tisserand

ROBERT TISSERAND, one of my favorite ESSENTIAL OIL researchers and lecturers recently sent out a research paper on the disputed safety of Lavender essential oil for Pregnancy.  After all the years of using Lavender so successfully - and in seeing it's amazing therapeutic and safe results I was shocked that there still is confusion!  Robert states:

"Three herbal safety texts have concluded that lavender flowers are safe to use in pregnancy, and one of theses includes the essential oil. (These are the only such texts in my possession – there may be others that draw different conclusions.) McGuffin et al (1997) give lavender flowers a “Class 1” rating, meaning generally safe to use, with no contraindication for pregnancy or breast-feeding. They apply this to Lavandula angustifolia (true lavender) L. latifolia (spike lavender), L. stoechas (Spanish lavender) and L. x intermedia (lavandin). Mills and Bone (2005) state that using lavender flowers (L. angustifolia and L. spica) is compatible with breast feeding, and is safe in pregnancy: “No increase in frequency of malformation or other harmful effects on the foetus from limited use in women.”

The Complete German Commission E Monograph for lavender lists L. angustifolia, both flowers and essential oil, as officially “approved” and with no side effects and no contraindications. This includes internal use of 1-4 drops (20-80 mg) of the essential oil as a daily dose (Blumenthal et al 1998). The Commission E Monographs are generally regarded as the most authoritative source on the safety of herbal medicines.

What the research shows:
Camphor (one of lavender's chemical constituents) is neither reproductively toxic nor abortifacient except in almost fatal doses, and a lethal human dose is approximately 200 mg/kg. No adverse fetal effects were seen from feeding camphor to pregnant rats at 1,000 mg/kg/day, or pregnant rabbits at 681 mg/kg/day (Leuschner 1997). This non-fetotoxic rabbit dose is equivalent to an adult human dose of 48 g (1.6 oz), and a person would have to ingest 24 kg (52.9 lb) of lavender oil to reach that amount of camphor. Therefore the camphor in lavender oil presents no risk.

Linalool (another amazing chemical constituent in essential oils) is not reproductively toxic. When it was administered by stomach tube to pregnant rats at 250, 500 or 1,000 mg/kg/day, on gestational days 7-17, no fetal toxicity or teratogenicity occurred at any dose level (Politano et al 2008). The high dose is equivalent to an adult human ingesting 70 g of linalool, or approximately 200 g (7 oz) of lavender oil. Linalyl acetate has not been tested on animals for reproductive toxicity.

The research shows that lavender oil (L. angustifolia) is not a uterine stimulant. When used on the isolated rat uterus, it in fact reduced contractions (Lis Balchin and Hart 1999). And, lavender oil has no apparent adverse effects during childbirth. It was one of ten essential oils offered to 8,058 women in an 8-year study at the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford, UK. Aromatherapy did, however, reduce the need for pain medication. During the years of the study, the use of pethidine in the study center declined from 6% to 0.2% of women (Burns et al 2000).

One in vitro study found that lavender oil had a very weak estrogenic action in MCF-7 breast cancer cells (Henley et al 2007). However, there is no evidence that lavender oil has any adverse effects on human hormonal activity. In another in vitro study, lavender oil inhibited the growth of MCF-7 cells (Zu et al 2010) suggesting that, while it may bind to estrogen receptor sites in the body, it is not an estrogen mimic, and so does not promote estrogen.


Proving safety in pregnancy is always a challenge, but all the indications are that lavender oil is completely safe to use. It is certainly not a uterine stimulant – in any dose. The online references to lavender oil as a uterine stimulant presumably originated from the few books (probably beginning with Valnet in 1964) that describe it as having an emmenagogic action. An assumption was then made that this was due to a uterine stimulant effect, and a further assumption was made that therefore lavender oil could pose a risk of miscarriage in pregnancy. However, there is not even any evidence that either lavender flowers or lavender oil stimulate menstruation. Thus are myths conceived. Patricia Davis, I’m sure, felt her caution was well-founded, but with the benefit of hindsight we can see that it was an over-reaction. Erring too heavily on the side of safety has a downside – it creates fear, doubt and confusion.

Finally…while searching the internet for the alleged dangers of lavender oil in pregnancy, I came across this advice on a Vitamins and Health Supplements Guide page: “Pregnant and breastfeeding women should avoid using lavender, as it is a uterine stimulant.” What, breastfeeding women too? The logic of this escapes me. Surely a woman wants her uterus to contract back to it’s normal size after childbirth. (Not that lavender oil would do this anyway.)

Jacque's Comments:  Lavender is the safest of all essential oils and it would be absurd to call it dangerous or toxic when years and years of historic use show no risks.  When I used Lavender with one of my daughters-in-law for delivery to calm her down, it also slowed down her delivery - thus it would be strange to call it abortifacient (at delivery time the body is trying to abort the baby!).  Pregnancy and Nursing are perfect times for Lavender's beautiful calming effect - as both the mother and the baby benefit.  The key thing is to have a QUALITY, ORGANIC essential oil source.  Yep, I still use Forevergreen's line of TruESsence essential oils because they qualify for the European markets with their labeling showing Batch and Lot numbers, and backed with gas chromatographs showing the levels of chemical constituents.  I want GUARANTEED RESULTS!  You can buy them from me or get your FREE membership by logging on to http://www.8468701.myforevergreen.org/ and click on SIGNUP!


Bartram T 1995 Encyclopedia of herbal medicine. Grace Publishers, Christchurch UK, p166
Blumenthal M, Busse WR, Goldberg A et al 1998 The complete German Commission E monographs: therapeutic guide to herbal medicines. American Botanical Council, Austin, Texas, p160
Burns EE, Blamey C, Ersser SJ et al 2000 An investigation into the use of aromatherapy in intrapartum midwifery practice. Journal of Alternative & Complementary Medicine 6:141-147
Culpeper N 1652 The English Physitian, or an Astro-physical discourse of the vulgar herbs of this nation. Being a compleat method of physick, whereby a man may preserve his body in health; or cure himself, being sick. Thomas Kelly, London
Davis P 1999 Aromatherapy an A-Z. CW Daniel, Saffrom Walden, p322
Franchomme P, Pénöel D 1990 L’aromathérapie exactement. Jollois, Limoges, p364
Henley DV, Lipson N, Korach KS, Bloch CA 2007 Prebubertal gynecomastia linked to lavender and tea tree oils. New England Journal of Medicine 365(5): 479-485
Lawless J 1992 The encyclopaedia of essential oils. Element, Shaftsbury, p118
Lis-Balchin M, Hart S 1999 Studies on the mode of action of the essential oil of lavender (Lavandula angustifolia P. Miller). Phytotherapy Research 13:540-542
McGuffin M, Hobbs C, Upton R et al 1997 Botanical safety handbook. CRC Press, Boca Raton, p68
Mills S, Bone K 2005 The essential guide to herbal safety. Churchill Livingstone, St. Louis, p493
Politano VT, Lewis EM, Hoberman AM et al 2008 Evaluation of the developmental toxicity of linalool in rats. International Journal of Toxicology 27:183-188
Tiran D 2000 Clinical aromatherapy for pregnancy and childbirth. Churchill Livingstone, Edinburgh p137
Valnet J 1964 Aromathérapie. Librairie Maloine, Paris, p225 (English translation: Valnet J 1990 The practice of aromatherapy. CW Daniel, Saffron Walden, p144
Zu Y, Yu H, Fu Y et al 2010 Activities of ten essential oils towards Propionibacterium acnes and PC-3, A-549 and MCF-7 cancer cells. Molecules 15:3200-3210

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