Useful Essential Oils
Which essential oils are useful in treating head lice?
The following essential oil has traditionally been used for head lice:
- Citronella - Dilute to 2% in any carrier oil (10 drops per tablespoon) and massage onto head. Leave on for at least one hour.
Safety Precautions: Citronella is considered non-toxic, non-irritating and non-sensitizing. It may cause contact dermatitis in some people, so use with care.
About the Condition
What Are Head Lice?
Head lice are tiny six-legged insects about the size as a sesame seed. They can be white, brown, or dark gray in color. They tend to cling to the scalp and neck because they like to feed on human blood. They often hide at the back of the head or behind the ears. Lice eggs (also called nits) are even harder to spot, as they are generally glued onto hairs near the scalp. They can be round or oval in shape, and they can be hard to move.
Both adults and children can get lice, but they tend to spread more quickly amongst younger children because they are more likely to touch each other’s hair or to share combs, etc. They can’t jump or fly from one person to another, but they can survive temporarily on clothing or on an item like a brush.
The best way to check for lice is to comb through wet hair.
Some children don’t even notice they have lice. Others can have them for weeks or months before they feel any itching or other symptoms. Sometimes, they only feel itchy if they have an allergic reaction to the bug bites.
However, infection can occur if they scratch the scalp a lot. Medical attention should be sought if the skin becomes swollen, red, or painful, or if the neck lymph nodes become tender.
If you do suspect that you or your child has a head lice infestation, you should notify everyone who may have come into contact (e.g. the school). Everyone should be treated at the same time to stop any chance of reinfestation.
What Are Conventional Medical Treatments For Head Lice?
Lice killing treatments made from extracts of chrysanthemums or a synthetic version that is similar are available over the counter, but some lice are resistant to these. Your doctor will know if the lice in your area are resistant. Follow the instructions carefully, and a second treatment may sometimes be needed 9 to 10 days later.
It is also recommended that you wash the clothing and bedding of anyone infested with lice in hot water and then place them in the hot dryer for at least 30 minutes. Toys should also be put in the hot dryer for at least 30 minutes, but it isn’t necessary to wash them.
What Are Alternative Treatments For Head Lice?
Some people believe mayonnaise will smother lice if it's applied thickly and kept on overnight under a shower cap. Vinegar is thought to dissolve the glue that keeps nits stuck to the hair, but there is no actual evidence to support these claims. However, essential oils may help (see the Useful Essential Oils tab for details).