Lavender may seem as an ultimate mom’s friend. Lavender aroma has time-tested soothing abilities and is known to promote sleep when used in baths, massage oils, and room diffusers. Small studies reported that lavender helps relieve anxiety and even relieve low-back pain.
Lavender distillate and essential oil have antibacterial and antimicrobial action – definitely useful in surface disinfectants and diaper rash treatments alike. Several studies claim that lavender is useful to relieve eczema and depression. Animal studies suggest that an ingredient in lavender called perillyl alcohol may even help treat cancer when taken by mouth, but there is not enough evidence to recommend lavender for any type of cancer [Source: IntelliHealth].
Last but not least, lavender has been studied as an additive to bathwater to relieve pain in the perineal area and soothe and disinfect perineal stitches after childbirth.
Such remarkable qualities of lavender aren’t without certain side effects that I find troubling enough not to use lavender-scented baby products anywhere near my baby.
Here are some of the well-documented dangers of lavender:
Allergy risk. Lavender essential oil ingredients are well-known to trigger allergies and contact dermatitis.
Endocrine disruption. Lavender is a known and quite potent xenoestrogen. In some women, regular aromatherapy with lavender caused them to menstruate heavily or prompted their periods to return abnormally soon after pregnancy. Reports of young boys developing breasts after skin treatment with lavender are also well-documented. The breast tissue disappeared when lavender was removed.
General toxicity. Nausea, vomiting, headache and chills are sometimes reported after inhaling lavender or absorbing it through the skin. The essential oil of lavender may be poisonous if taken by mouth.
Skin rashes. Lavender may cause skin rashes and sun sensitivity. Lavender may also increase free radical damage when used in skin moisturizers and sunscreens.
Drowsiness. Lavender inhalations may increase the drowsiness resulting from certain insomnia and depression medications, as well as after alcohol and codeine.
Drug interaction. Lavender may react adversely with some drugs. There have been reports of bleeding occurring with simultaneous intake of aspirin, acetaminophen, ibuprofen and other pain relievers along with lavender aromatherapy. When taken orally, lavender may cause bleeding when taken together with gingko biloba and garlic. Lavender may disrupt the action of cholesterol-lowering drugs and certain anticoagulants. [Source: IntelliHealth, reviewed by Harvard Medical School]
Today it’s really hard to find a natural and organic baby product prepared without lavender. Many well-meaning naturopaths continue prescribing lavender for everything from skin rashes to cradle cap and colics. Please keep in mind that lavender is a potent and not quite well-studied plant, and centuries of its use in adults do not warrant its use in babies. After all, women were using lead and mercury skin bleaches for centuries, and who in sane mind would knowingly put these toxic metals on her face today?