When we were children, our mothers used to spend endless hours to get rid of head lice and nits from our hair.
It is quite an embarrassing issue to have lice and nits on your hair. Many think that these parasites on the head are a result of dirt and dust on your hair. And for this reason, you are condemned to be a dirty person.
Fortunately, there are now several over-the-counter medications, shampoos and proven natural remedies that work great for eliminating louse and nits.
In this article, we shall exclusively discuss how to use essential oils for lice prevention and elimination.
What are Head Lice?
Head lice (pediculus humanus) are tiny parasites found on the scalp and hair of humans.
Head lice are highly evolved parasitic insects in existence since the beginning of mankind.
They feed on the blood they suck from the scalp of your head. Their movements on the scalp can cause irritation.
Lice bites cause a mild allergic reaction and itchy red bumps, or sores which are visible on the scalp, neck and behind ears.
Luckily, they are not dangerous and do not cause any infections. They spread from one person to another via direct physical contact or via shared hair accessories or personal items.
An essential oil is a concentrated hydrophobic liquid. It contains natural chemical compounds which have a volatile aroma.
An essential oil is extracted from the seeds, stems, flowers, barks or roots of a plant.
Each of the essential oils has varied natural healing properties like anti-microbial agents and several other therapeutic properties.
Some of chemical compounds and aroma of certain essential oils are excellent insects and parasite deterrents.
These oils are fully natural and safe to use. However, some may cause mild irritation or harm to your body due to their wrong usage.
How Do Essential Oils Work for Head Lice Prevention?
Human head lice are highly evolved, and they cannot survive for more than 2 days without human blood. They are attracted to the odor and warmth of the human body.
The strong aroma of some of the essential oils is repelling for the lice.
A few essential oils, like tea tree oil, have powerful chemical properties that produce an insecticidal effect on the head lice.
Using essential oils on hair and scalp can eliminate both lice and dandruff. Some of them are also beneficial for hair growth and prevention of hair fall. According to a research report published in the Journal of Medical Entomology, “scientists tested a number of essential oils against head lice (one study included 54 different essential oils) and found many of them effective. Eucalyptus globulus, Marjoram Origanum majorana, pennyroyal Mentha pulegium, and rosemary Rosmarinus officinalis essential oils were more effective than phenothrin and pyrethrum (active ingredients in over-the-counter lice treatments).
Warning: There is no verified scientific evidence that supports the claim that essential oils can prevent lice infestation. Only a few pieces of research suggest the possible effectiveness of essential oils in for lice removal.
Best Essential Oils for Head Lice Prevention and Removal
It is true that no proven scientific evidence available to back the efficacy of essential oils treatment for lice removal. However, EOs are in use since 100s of years for treating dandruff and head lice infestation.
There are about a half a dozen essential oil which have shown remarkable potential in lice removal and prevention. Tea tree oil seems to be the best bet in vanquishing nits, lice, and dandruff from your scalp and hair.
Best essential oils for treating head lice infection are:
- Tea tree oil
- Eucalyptus oil
- Lavender oil
- Rosemary oil
- Peppermint oil
Besides these top 5 essential oils, you can also try Geranium oil and thyme oil as substitute oils for the Rosemary, Peppermint and Lavender oils.
Tea Tree Oil
Tea Tree oil is the most popular oil for dealing with prevention and elimination of head lice.
The strong odor and pro-pesticide (repellent) properties in this oil are great for keeping lice at bay. Two chemicals, 1,8-cineole and terpinen-4-ol, contained in this oil produce a repellent effect that chokes and eliminates lice.
Either you can use diluted tea tree oil or over-the-counter lice treatment products that contain tea tree oil.
Wet the teeth of your nit comb with a few drops of tea tree oil and use it for applying the oil on scalp and hair.
Alternatively, you can add 5 drops of tea tree oil to the shampoo you are going to use for shampooing.
Do not apply tea tree oil on the scalp without diluting it with coconut, olive or almond oil.
According to a 2008 study, the Eucalyptus oil possesses a broad spectrum of biological activity including fungicidal, acaricidal, nematicidal insecticidal/insect repellent, and herbicidal. Many cultivators of organic vegetables and fruits are using Eucalyptus oil against insects, fungi, bacteria, weeds, mites, and nematodes.
The strong aroma and insecticidal effect of eucalyptus oil work great for eliminating and preventing head lice.
It is not recommended for children below the age of six because of a high content of 1,8-cineole contained in this oil.
You can mix 7 drops of eucalyptus oil to an ounce of water and spray this mixture on the scalp hair. Repeat the treatment thrice a week till the lice disappear.
Lavender oil is in use for hundreds of years as a bug repellent for both pets and humans.
Many of the natural mosquito and insect repellents have this oil as a major ingredient in them. A combination of lavender and citronella oil used as a mist pray can keep away rodents, insects, and parasites.
The strong aroma of this oil is highly repelling for the bugs and head lice.
To get rid of the head lice you can apply this oil on scalp and hair. Using this oil in shampoos and conditioners can also prevent the infestation of lice.
This oil is an active ingredient in many of the natural and commercial insecticides.
According to a research report published by the Pharmaceutical Biology Journal, Rosemary essential oil has insecticidal properties. The combination of several chemical constituents in this oil creates a mild toxicity that helps to eliminate head lice.
Peppermint oil is a natural repellent for mice, spiders, mosquitoes, bugs, and lice.
The strong scent of this oil works to drive away the lice. Lice are fond of the smell of the human body, but peppermint oil can mask the smell of the human body.
Generally, Peppermint oil does not cause any allergic reactions for most people. Applying peppermint oil (diluted with a carrier oil) on scalp and hair may help remove lice and nymph.
Ways to Use Essential Oils for Head Lice
Essential oils contain powerful chemical concentrates which may cause skin irritation to some of the users. Therefore, it is important to dilute the essential oils with a carrier-oil before you apply it on the skin and scalp.
Here are some of the best ways you can make use of the essential oils for lice treatment.
- Take a few drops of the essential oil and add it to an ounce of coconut oil or any hair oil; apply this mixture on scalp and hair.
- Add a few drops of your chosen essential oil to the shampoo you are going to use for the day.
- Dilute the essential oil with water and spray this mixture on hair and scalp.
- Apply a thin layer of essential oil on your hair and cover the hair and head with a shower cap and leave it overnight.
- Prepare essential oil recipes or blends containing two are more essential oils and carrier oil for lice treatment.
Note: It is important to do the essential oil treatments thrice a week till the lice and nits from hair are fully removed.
The following steps are recommended to prevent the recurring incidence of head lice infestation:
- Check the whole family members’ heads (especially of school going children) once a week and if you spot any louse do the needful to eliminate it immediately.
- Shampoo your hair once a week with essential oils diluted in your shampoo.
- Don’t use others items that touch the head like combs or towels.
- Instruct your children to avoid activities that lead to head-to-head contact with other children in the school.
- Keep your belongings, especially upper body clothing, away from shared cupboards and coat closets.
Warnings and Safety Measures in Using Essential Oils for Treating Head Lice
In the US, essential oils are rated as ‘Natural” and not regulated by the FDA.
No proven scientific research recommends the use and effectiveness of essential oil for lice removal.
Many of the essential oils, like tea tree oil and peppermint oil, contain powerful natural ingredients that may cause skin irritation to some.
They should not be applied on the scalp and skin without diluting them with carrier oil or water. Some of the best carrier oils for hair are olive, coconut, almond and castor oil.
A few of the essential oils in pure from containing toxic, irritant or cutaneous burning properties. For this reason, avoid using undiluted essential oils for children below the age of six and pregnant women.
It is safe to use essential oils for head lice treatment by adding a few drops of essential oils to a dollop of conditioner or shampoo. Alternatively, you can add a few drops of essential oils to the hair-oil you are going to apply on hair.
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