If you notice that your child is constantly scratching his or head, you might want to take a closer look and see if there are any head lice.

Also called pediculosis, head lice infestation is a common problem worldwide affecting people of different socio-economic backgrounds but particularly school-aged children [1, 2].

In fact, a 2002 study notes that this condition affects children more than “all other childhood communicable diseases combined” [3].

Although, head lice do not carry or spread disease, this condition can create social distress and personal embarrassment as well as reduce cognitive function and learning performance among children [3, 4].

All these are reasons enough to treat this problem right away with the use of safe and effective natural remedies.

12 Natural Remedies for Head Lice

1. Tea Tree Oil

One of the quickest and most effective ways to treat head lice is with tea tree oil.

In 2012, Italian researchers investigated the efficacy of tea tree oil and nerolidol in treating head lice and eggs [5].

These two products were used independently in different concentrations, and in combination using 8 percent dilution [5].

The various preparations were tested against 69 head lice and 187 louse eggs [5].

After six months of daily use, it was found that 1 percent tea tree oil can kill all the parasites in as short as 30 minutes [5].

However, nerolidol was more effective in preventing the eggs from hatching [5].

Tea tree oil could also inhibit egg hatching but the concentration has to be doubled [5].

Two other studies revealed that tea tree oil inhibited the activities of an enzyme that is believed to be causing head lice drug resistance [6, 7].

The growing resistance of parasites to medications has caused for a surge of infestation over the last 10 years [6].

It’s a good thing that natural remedies like tea tree oil works in combating drug-resistant head lice [6].

According to experts, tea tree oil’s major compounds namely terpinen-4-ol and 1,8-cineole combat head lice by inhibiting acetylcholinesterase [7].

What You’ll Need:

  • 1 teaspoon of tea tree oil
  • 3 tablespoons of coconut oil
  • 1 ounce of organic shampoo

Recommended Directions:

  • Combine all the ingredients.
  • Slather generously on your hair.
  • Apply evenly.
  • Wrap your head with a clean, dry towel.
  • Wait for 30 minutes before rinsing with warm water.
  • Comb wet hair with a fine-toothed comb designed for removing nits.
  • Repeat once a day for one to two weeks.

RELATED: 12 Incredible Health Benefits of Tea Tree Oil (Backed by Evidence)

2. Lavender Oil

In one study, lavender oil has been described to be among the natural remedies to have the “best knockdown effect” on head lice [8].

A study that can be found in the BMC Dermatology Journal confirmed this, saying that lavender oil is even more effective in removing head lice than commonly used products that contain piperonyl butoxide and pyrethrins [9].

This was the result of a comparative analysis of three head lice treatment products designed for children, which included tea tree oil and lavender oil combination, pyrethrins and piperonyl butoxide combination, and a product for suffocating head lice [9].

A total 123 children diagnosed with live head lice participated in the study [9].

They were divided into three groups, with each group using a different product three times a week [9].

Over 97 percent of the children who used the tea tree oil and lavender oil combination were louse-free after the last application [9].

A similar study done by Australian researchers compared the effects of tea tree oil and lavender oil combination with eucalyptus and lemon oil combination, and another suffocation product [10].

The participants with at least 20 live eggs of head lice were asked to use each of the three treatment methods [10].

Once again, the lavender and tea tree oil combination proved superior in eliminating head lice, with a reported rate of ovicidal efficacy at 44 percent [10].

What You’ll Need:

  • 1 ounce organic shampoo
  • 1 teaspoon of lavender oil
  • 1 teaspoon of tea tree oil

Recommended Directions:

  • Dilute lavender oil and tea tree oil in organic shampoo.
  • Rub this solution gently on the hair and scalp.
  • Cover your head with a shower cap for 30 minutes.
  • Rinse with warm water.
  • Use a fine-toothed comb to remove the nits.
  • Repeat remedy everyday for up to two weeks.

RELATED: 11 Health Benefits of Lavender Oil That You Should Know

3. Eucalyptus Oil

Apart from the cooling sensation that eucalyptus oil leaves on the skin, people also love this oil for its host of health benefits, and one of these is getting rid of those pesky little head lice.

In a study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, it was found that eucalyptus oil contained terpenoids that are toxic to head lice [11].

Results from another study done in 2004 showed that eucalyptus was even more potent than standard head lice treatment such as pyrethrum and delta-phenothrin [12].

Eucalyptus oil was one of the 54 essential oils tested against head lice using fumigation and direct contact methods [12].

It turns out that this oil was one of those with the strongest anti-head lice activities along with marjoram, rosemary and pennyroyal oils [12].

It was noted that eucalyptus worked more efficiently in killing parasites when contained in a sealed environment instead of an open one [12].

This suggests that it’s better to cover the head with a shower cap or towel after application of eucalyptus oil.

What You’ll Need:

  • 1 tablespoon of eucalyptus oil
  • 1 cup of olive oil

Recommended Directions:

  • Mix eucalyptus oil with olive oil.
  • Apply on the scalp and hair.
  • Put on a shower cap.
  • Be sure to cover the head entirely.
  • Let it sit for half an hour.
  • Rinse with warm water.
  • Remove nits by combing hair with a fine-toothed comb.
  • Use this remedy once a day for up to two weeks to get rid of lice.

4. Peppermint Oil

For many years, peppermint oil has been used to treat numerous health issues, including head lice infestation.

Among the botanical and synthetic remedies for head lice tested in a 2007 study, peppermint oil has been found to have the strongest repellent activities along with tea tree oil [13].

There have been a few reports of skin irritation but most are very mild and were resolved right away [13].

In another study, researchers assessed the efficacy of a head lice formulation made with peppermint oil and lemongrass oil [14].

It was reported that these oils have significant pediculicidal activities that inhibited the growth and spread of these parasites [14].

What You’ll Need:

  • 1 teaspoon of peppermint oil
  • 1 ounce organic shampoo

Recommended Directions:

  • Stir in peppermint oil into the shampoo.
  • Slather shampoo on the hair and scalp.
  • Let it sit for 30 minutes before rinsing.
  • Repeat procedure daily for one to two weeks.

RELATED: 12 Uses and Health Benefits of Peppermint Oil

5. Neem

A powerful anthelmentic, neem has been proven to be an economical and effective way of controlling infestations of parasites.

It’s one of the top remedies recommended for killing and expelling intestinal worms.

Aside from getting rid of parasites that live in your tummy, it can also help get rid of annoying head lice crawling on your scalp.

Scientists collected 14 head lice from school children and immersed these in a formulation made with neem seed extract [16].

They discovered that neem can kill 94 percent of the head lice in three hours [16].

Compared to standard head lice treatment product which only killed 74 percent of the head lice in same period, the effects of neem seed extract were quicker and more pronounced [16].

What You’ll Need:

  • 20 drops of neem oil
  • 1 cup of coconut oil

Recommended Directions:

  • Put these ingredients in a bowl.
  • Mix well.
  • Apply mixture on your scalp and hair.
  • Wrap your head with a towel.
  • Leave it on for three hours before rinsing.
  • Remove nits with a fine-toothed comb.
  • Follow remedy everyday for one to two weeks.

6. Garlic

People typically add garlic to their dishes to add flavor and aroma.

This herb is also popularly used as medicine for a wide range of health problems, particularly those that are related to bacterial infections.

That’s because garlic is widely recognized for its antibacterial actions [17, 18].

What many do not know is that it’s also active against parasites like head lice.

Scientific findings indicate that the juice extracted from garlic cloves can kill 90 percent of head lice in a matter of three hours [19].

It is therefore recommended as an efficient way to control head lice and prevent further infestation [19].

What You’ll Need:

  • 10 cloves of garlic
  • 3 teaspoons of lime juice
  • 1 cup of olive oil

Recommended Directions:

  • Grind garlic cloves to form a paste.
  • Add lime juice and olive oil.
  • Mix well.
  • Spread a generous amount onto the scalp.
  • Let it sit for 30 minutes.
  • Rinse with warm water.
  • Use this technique three times a week for one to two months.

7. Petroleum Jelly

Petroleum jelly is one of the top remedies when it comes to diaper rash.

However, this isn’t all that it could do.

It could also help remove the stubborn head lice that make your kid’s scalp itchy.

Among the six home remedies for head lice evaluated in a 2004 study, petroleum jelly in fact, had the highest mortality rate [20].

It treated the infestation by drowning the head lice and depriving them of oxygen that they need to survive [20].

Unfortunately, it doesn’t do well in preventing the head lice from laying their eggs [20].

It did prevent hatching though.

Petroleum jelly allowed only 6 percent of the louse eggs to hatch, making it an ideal means for controlling this problem [20].

What You’ll Need:

  • 4 tablespoons of petroleum jelly

Recommended Directions:

  • Spread petroleum jelly on the scalp before you sleep.
  • Cover head with a shower cap.
  • Rinse the next day.
  • Comb hair to get rid of the lice fast.

8. Clove Oil

Clove oil’s pediculicidal properties can be compared to the effects of medications commonly used for treating head lice [21].

Studies suggest that its monoterpenoids, eugenol and methyl salicylate served as toxic components against these parasites [22, 23].

Positive results were derived from a study that evaluated the ability of clove, eucalyptus and other formulations in controlling head lice [22].

The methods used by the researchers included direct contact, fumigation, and human hair wig mortality bioassays [22].

Head lice that have grown resistant to standard medication were suppressed by clove oil and other essential oils [22].

These findings are enough to justify the folkloric use of clove oil as home remedy for this parasitic infestation.

It’s not only safer and less toxic to humans, it’s also lower in cost [21].

What You’ll Need:

  • 15 drops of clove oil
  • 3 tablespoons of coconut oil

Recommended Directions:

  • Combine the two ingredients.
  • Apply on the scalp and hair.
  • Wait for 30 minutes to an hour before rinsing.
  • Wash hair with warm water.
  • Use this remedy everyday for one to two weeks.

9. Custard Apple Seed Extract

Custard apple sounds like a delicious dessert, but its extract is actually an efficient way to control head lice infestation.

In a clinical trial that probed the efficacy of 20 percent custard apple extract, it was revealed that it worked in killing head lice in school children [24].

Results show that within three hours of application, over 90 percent of the lice were killed [24].

Although this sounds promising, since there’s limited scientific evidence to prove both safety and efficacy of this remedy, further research should be done on this subject [24].

More “adequately designed” controlled trials are required to assess cure rates and possible side effects [24].

Once these things have been cleared, there’s a possibility that natural head lice remedies such as custard apple seed extract may replace chemical insecticides in the near future [24].

What You’ll Need:

  • 1 teaspoon of custard apple seed extract
  • 1 cup of coconut oil

Recommended Directions:

  • Combine custard apple seed extract and coconut oil.
  • After shampooing your hair, apply this mixture.
  • Wrap head with a towel.
  • Rinse after 30 minutes.
  • Brush hair with fine-toothed comb.
  • Use this technique everyday for up to two weeks.

10. Coconut Oil and Anise Oil

The combination of coconut oil and anise oil has been found to be useful in killing head lice reared in the laboratory [25].

In an open clinical study conducted in the Hebrew University Medical School in Israel, a mixture composed of anise oil, coconut oil and ylang ylang oil was applied on the hair and scalp of children with head lice three times daily for 15 minutes at five-day intervals [26].

Other children participating in the study were given a standard head lice product containing permethrin, malathion, propellant gas, isododecane and piperonyl butoxide [26].

This product was applied on the children’s head twice a day for 10 minutes each with 10 days interval in between [26].

Out of the 940 children who joined the experiment, over 92 percent of both groups were treated successfully [26].

The good news is, not only were both formulations effective, both did not cause any strong side effects [26].

It’s important to note though that ylang ylang oil on its own did not demonstrate toxicity against these parasites [24].

What You’ll Need:

  • 1 tablespoon of anise oil
  • 1 cup of coconut oil

Recommended Directions:

  • Mix the two oils in a bowl.
  • Put mixture on your head and gently massage.
  • Wear a shower cap for 30 minutes.
  • Rinse with warm water.
  • Repeat once a day for up to three weeks.

RELATED: Coconut Oil for Dandruff and Lice: 6 Natural Remedies

11. Thyme Oil

Many people who cook love using thyme for its wonderful aroma and rich flavor.

Herbalists, meanwhile, recognized its oil extract as a potent remedy for numerous health problems.

One of these is head lice infestation.

In a 1996 study published in the Complementary Therapies in Nursing & Midwifery, it was reported that thyme oil was among the essential oils with the strongest activity against head lice [27].

It was particularly effective when applied for one whole day, and rinsed the next day with water or vinegar mixture [27].

Its phenols and phenolic compounds are pointed out as the main cause of head lice mortality [27].

What You’ll Need:

  • 1 tablespoon of thyme oil
  • 1 cup of almond oil
  • 1 cup of water
  • 1 teaspoon of vinegar

Recommended Directions:

  • Put thyme oil and almond oil in a bowl.
  • Blend well.
  • Apply on the hair and scalp.
  • Wrap your head with a clean towel.
  • Rinse the next day with a mixture of water and vinegar.
  • Do this three times a week for up to one month.

12. Nutmeg Oil

Like thyme oil, nutmeg oil is also an edible oil that’s commonly added to dishes.

For head lice, it can do the same thing and prevent infestation.

It’s also one of the essential oils which can efficiently combat head lice, reports a 1996 research [27].

But take note that unlike other essential oils, this one cannot be used independently, and should be blended with other oils [27].

What You’ll Need:

  • 1 teaspoon of nutmeg oil
  • 1 teaspoon of thyme oil
  • 1 1/2 cups of coconut oil

Recommended Directions:

  • Put the two oils in a bowl.
  • Slather oil blend on your head.
  • Massage gently for 15 minutes.
  • Wear a shower cap for one hour.
  • Rinse with warm water.
  • Repeat once a day for up to three weeks.

Bottom Line

Head lice should be combated right away.

Use these proven home remedies to get rid of head lice problem once and for all.

Let us know your experience of using any of the natural remedies for lice discussed above. Write in the comment section.

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