Head Lice

lice-220px-Fig._5._Louse_nitsHead lice have become epidemic in our schools. As a former school teacher, I encountered the lice issue many times a year with children from all types of families and walks of live.

Things haven't gotten much better in the schools. Just yesterday, I got this email question about lice:

"I had read that a lady had mixed clove oil with a shampoo and conditioner to help kill lice. Has anyone else tried this and how much (ml, or oz) would you recommend mixing with the shampoo and conditioner?"

I told her I haven't heard about using clove for that, but I think it could work, since clove is so powerful. It may be worth a try.

As far as dilution, I've heard of people mixing melaleuca alternifolia 50/50 with vegetable oil (olive is good) and rub it through the hair and scalp. With clove oil, I'd probably use less – probably 8-10 drops to a couple of tablespoons of oil. It's important to be very careful about keeping the oil away from the eyes and mucous membranes – clove oil burns!

These days, lice can be extremely difficult to get rid of. When I was teaching 4th grade, one of my students, who had thick, long, curly hair, got lice. Nothing she and her mother tried or her doctor prescribed – or anything her friends and family suggested – would get rid of them.


Week after week went by and every time she tried to return to school, a quick check by the school nurse sent her home again. After six weeks of this, she was getting quite behind in her studies.

In desperation, they had to shave her beautiful long locks down to the stub, slather her head with vaseline, and send her to bed with a shower cap covering the goo for several days and nights.

Poor thing was quite traumatized by it all, especially having to be practically bald where her flowing locks had been for most of her life.

That was 15 years ago, long before I knew about essential oils. I'm hoping she didn't suffer any lasting trauma from the emotional stigma I could see she was experiencing. And I hope no child has to experience the anguish of resistant lice week after week and having to have their beautiful hair cut off.

The physical issues may be more complicated. After this, she had to use an asthma inhaler frequently. I don't know if it was related to the medications she used for the lice or not, but I did notice her using an inhaler often where I didn't notice an inhaler before.

Head lice pesticides and the solvents they are mixed with are very toxic. Surprisingly, the solvents, although "inert" are also extremely toxic. According to the NPA, "Exposure to such inerts or solvents can result in significant toxic effects that, in many cases, exceed the toxicity of the active pesticide ingredients."

NPA (National Pediculosis Association) warns: "There are no over-the-counter or prescription treatments to kill lice that are totally safe and scientifically proven to be 100% effective against head lice and nits. These treatments are potentially harmful pesticides and reliance on them promotes repeated use and contributes to ongoing infestations, outbreaks and resistant strains of head lice."

The NPA further warns against the use of chemicals, "designed to kill or destroy head lice in any individuals who have a pre-existing illness. This would include, but not be limited to, those with asthma, epilepsy, brain tumors, cancer or AIDS. Those on medication, or who have been previously treated for head lice, as well as pregnant and nursing mothers may be more vulnerable to side effects and should avoid chemical lice treatments for use on themselves or applying them to others."

There have been many people who have had great success with essential oils – not just any essential oils, the oils must be therapeutic-grade, like the ones on this website.

Here's what they have to say about their experiences:


"I've gotten rid of my son's head lice using an old method involving essential oils. But when treating lice, I learned there's more to it than just "What oils do I use?" — it's important to follow a whole eradication protocol, to avoid a long battle with many re-infestations.

I used essential oils, diluted half-and-half with olive oil, rubbed all over the scalp and in the hair, and left on for 15 minutes, then shampooed out. My old recipe uses pennyroyal oil, mixed 1:1 with olive oil. You can't get pennyroyal oil easily any more, but I believe the EODR (Essential Oils Desk Reference) has a recipe for a mixture, perhaps including rosemary and tea tree oil. I've talked to other parents who've reported using mixed essential oils with a carrier oil, with good results.

I followed this BASIC METHOD:

  • Mix the essential oils about 1:1 with a carrier oil, KEEP AWAY FROM EYES AND OTHER MUCOUS MEMBRANES
  • Use fingers to spread thoroughly on scalp and hair
  • Leave on for 15 minutes
  • Thoroughly shampoo out (it might take a couple of rounds of shampoo and rinse), being careful to avoid any oils or oil-carrying shampoo getting in eyes.

Head lice are terribly hard to get rid of; that's why they're epidemic in schools. They are resistant to the prescription AND over-the-counter shampoos and lotions — but kids, unfortunately, aren't always (possible side effects include liver or nerve damage). Many times parents are forced to repeat the chemical treatment two or three times, before they finally give up and turn to natural remedies.

To be sure the essential oil treatment worked on my son, I did a complete eradication program. The elements of it were:

  1. Initial essential oil treatment (described above). All other steps must be followed, AND a repeat oil treatment done within about 5 to 7 days (because the nits, or eggs, can survive the oil treatment, and then hatch afterward.)
  2. Getting rid of the nits (eggs) and larvae, which can survive in towels, hats, beds, clothes, even couch cushions. For the furniture and rugs: vacuuming should do it. For the other stuff, options are: Hot water wash; OR hot water dryer; OR 48 hours in the freezer. This applies to bedding, clothing that's been worn since the lice were discovered, hats, coats. . . everything. If this step isn't done, people find themselves repeating the treatment, over and over and over! (Oh. . . I also learned that you can bag stuff up, tightly sealed, for 2 weeks. I did this with some large pillows and a comforter that I couldn't wash and couldn't fit in the freezer.)
  3. combing out lice

    combing out lice

  4. REMOVE NITS from children's hair. This keeps the newly-hatched nits from infecting other family members, classmates, friends. A lot of lice combs are on the market; take it from me, most of them don't work, and they can really tear up hair. There's a website for the National Pediculosis Association (www.LiceMeister.org), which has information about their nit comb — it really works, and it's easy on hair! They'll tell you where you can buy one, or you can order from them. Daily use of the nit comb, until you know the lice are gone for good, is recommended.
  5. Assume other family members have head lice, too. Check carefully for nits. Use the nit comb. I got myself checked by a faculty member at my son's school who knew how to identify nits. School faculty (nurses, or even teachers) may be glad to help, because they hate these epidemics.
  6. If anyone else in the family has lice, I'd think it would be important to treat everyone at pretty much the same time — otherwise, the infestation would just keep getting passed 'round. And the essential oil treatment isn't so bad to submit to; it takes time, but it's not toxic like the pesticide treatments.
  7. And finally, as stated in step 1, a repeat oil treatment in about 5-7 days to kill any recently-hatched nits.

Whew! It's a lot of work, but the alternative is not very attractive. And by the way, people who use the chemicals STILL have to do all the laundry, vacuuming, etc. — AND often end up doing a number of repeat treatments, too.

It's great that essential oils can accomplish the job, isn't it? I hope my experience is helpful — of course, it's not medical advice, only a sharing of how I coped with the problem.

– Jody N


Lemon Oil

"We have had great success using lemon oil for adult and children head lice. In 2 days even the eggs have fallen out. Just put a drop on the front hairline, one on the crown, one on the brain-stem area and rub a couple of drops on the feet 3-4 times per day. Then to keep them away, use lemon oil in some way regularly."

- Grace H.


Melaleuca (Melaleuca alternifolia – Tea Tree Oil)

"Tea tree oil (melaleuca alternifolia) full strength melts head lice eggs into a goo you can wash out. Ends the problem in one application."


"Here is a paper I found at Headlice.org. It appears to show that you get a pretty good kill rate in using Tea Tree Oil (melaleuca alternifolia) to kill adult head lice. Looks like you would need a stronger than 10% solution. "

- Dale W


This worked for me…for head lice when my kids got it:

Legacy with olive oil. I used about 8-10 drops with a couple tablespoons of oil, soaked in in my scalp and hair, put a shower cap on and left it on over night. In the morning, comb through hair with lice comb and rinse. – Arani

Head Lice
2 drops eucalyptus
1 drop lavender
1 drop geranium
1 tsp V-6


This is an antiseptic rinse. Pour over the head making sure every hair is rinsed. Let dry naturally and repeat daily until lice and eggs are gone. My friends little girl had head lice and had three spots the size of a quarter on her head where there wasn't any hair because of the lice and the medication the doctor had her on. After using the above recipe the lice are all gone and her hair has grown back and she is no longer fighting her mother about going to school.

Mix and massage into scalp and leave for 1/2 hour then shampoo with Lavender Shampoo (or Lemon Sage Shampoo) and rinse well.

Next, apply:
2 drops eucalyptus
2 drops lavender
1 drops geranium
1/2 oz. apple cider vinegar
8 oz water

- Nancy S.


These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information and products mentioned are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

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Comments on Head Lice »

September 28, 2010

melanie @ 7:12 am

that is sick and nasty

Essential Oil Diva @ 12:41 pm

Yes, Melanie, head lice are very nasty. I wish it wasn't so, but it's a reality of life, especially in our schools today. Luckily, the right essential oils can make a big difference in stubborn head lice situations in a completely non-toxic way.

The Essential Oil Diva

July 7, 2012

Debbie K @ 1:32 pm

I just tried using Tea Tree Oil full strength and it didn't melt anything. The nits are still there.

Essential Oil Diva @ 4:20 pm

Debbie,

The question is, what quality of Tea Tree Oil did you use? It's very hard to know what essential oils are high quality and which are not, but one indication is the price.

The low-cost oils generally have little real Melaleuca alternifolia in them. They are usually heavily thinned or nothing more than chemicals created in a lab. Read, "The Therapeutic Grade Essential Oil Difference" for more information.

I'd say either try a higher quality oil, or try a different oil. One person had great success with lemon oil, others with some of the recipes listed above. But be sure to use quality oils (you can get the best on this website).

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