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Grapefruit and Estrogen

Q: Stephanie, do you know if grapefruit essential oil, or pink grapefruit essential oil, increases estrogen in the body?

I have read that eating grapefruit can, because there are compounds in grapefruit which can inhibit the liver's ability to expell estrogen.

But is this true for the essential oils as well?

-Megan via Facebook

A.  That's a great question, Megan, and one that has proven to be a complex issue.  Here's an article that describes how eating grapefruit can interact with certain medications and possibly lead to an increase of estrogen in the body by inhibiting certain liver enzymes:

And there are some studies that have found grapefruit consumption to increase estrogen:

But other studies have found that certain compounds in grapefruit are able to inhibit the growth of breast cancer cells:

And indeed, this human study found that there was no increase in estrogen-dependent cancers in women who regularly ate grapefruits.

Parenthetically, this study found that Grapefruit decreased risk of heart disease:

So it appears that while grapefruit may increase estrogen levels, it also seems to inhibit some of the side effects that high estrogen levels create (breast cancer, etc).  There is no definite answer to the question:  should women with estrogen dominance issues avoid grapefruit or take it for its positive benefits? My suggestion is that each person should carefully consider the question with their naturopath or doctor, and perhaps try diets of both with and without grapefruit and see if there is an effect on their symptoms either way. 

So this brings us back to the question these effects apply to grapefruit essential oil?

The quick answer is no.  It is believed that the compounds that affect estrogen are flavonoids, which are not present in grapefruit essential oil.  So, using a product with grapefruit essential oil wouldn't affect estrogen levels.  Now, grapefruit seed extract...that's a different story...

One note of caution with grapefruit eo, however.  Grapefruit eo contains a high amount of bergapten, which can lead to photosensitivity in certain formulations and indivuals.  Using grapefruit oil-containing products with caution in the sun. 


Reader Comments (3)

Hello Stephanie! Thanks for this helpful article! Is there any chance of making grapefruit-scented products? Although I don't like eating them, I adore the grapefruit scent.
Anyway, if I use a lotion or a lip balm containing grapefruit eo, how long should I avoid the sun? Couple of hours or a day, or just until its completely absorbed?

Fri, September 30, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMaggi

@Maggi--It's going to be the most active in the first couple of hours, so you should be fine after a bit.

It is possible for us to make grapefruit-scented products, however we have chosen not to, just to be safe in regards to the sun-exposure issues.

Fri, September 30, 2011 | Registered Commenter[Stephanie Greenwood]

Ok, thanks!

Sat, October 1, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMaggi

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