Head Lice --Causes and Top 10
Natural Remedies

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September 8, 2011, last updated July 8, 2014

By Alison Turner, Contributing Columnist










No matter where you are on the planet, you are never entirely
safe from head lice.  If you are in the United States, however,
you are far more attractive to the insects if you are a
preschooler in child care or a student in elementary school – or
living with one.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
states that “an estimated 6 million to 12 million infestations
occur each year in the United states among children 3 to 11
years of age.”   Worldwide, head lice affects approximately 20%
of all children, according to a 2008 study led by Dr. Matthew
Falagas of the Alfa Institute of Biomedical Sciences in Athens,
Greece.

While the majority of cases may begin amongst the young, the
insects spread to those of all ages through direct contact with
the hair, and occasionally by less direct contact with sheets,
hats, scarves, and other clothing. What causes head lice? Are
there any natural remedies for head lice?

Causes of Head Lice  

The culprit of this worldwide annoyance is "Pediculus humanus
capitis", known on the streets as the head louse, a parasite that
crawls amongst the hair, eyebrows and lashes of its victim, and
feeds on its host’s blood several times a day.  

The louse inhabits human hair in three forms, as an egg/nit, a
nymph, or as an adult.  If an egg/nit is laid on a victim it
attaches to the hair shaft, sometimes appearing yellow or white
and the size of a thread.  

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention warns that nits
are often confused with dandruff.  If left untreated, however,
nits hatch into nymphs, which feed on blood to survive.  After 9-
12 days a nymph matures into an adult, which is the size of a
sesame seed with six legs and a gray-ish white color. Adults
continue to feed on blood and can live up to 30 days – though if
it falls off or is removed from its host it dies in about two days.
The NHS of the UK warns that, once the insect becomes an adult,
it can crawl from one head to another.

Symptoms of Head Lice  

Does your “dandruff” seem worse than it’s ever been before?  
Have you tried all the special shampoos available and nothing is
helping?  This could be because you have head lice.  If you
suspect that you or your child is infected, check for other
symptoms, such as irritability and difficulty sleeping, tickling
around the scalp, and sores on the head.  

Treatment of Head Lice  

For many who become infected, head lice is more than an
inconvenience – it is an embarrassment, as if the tiny creatures
carry a neon sign that warns  “this person does not bathe!”  But
this could not be farther than the truth: The Center for Disease
Control and Prevention assures that “personal hygiene or
cleanliness in the home or school has nothing to do with getting
head lice.”  

So while there is little you can do to avoid playing host to lice,
there are many options for kicking them out.  There are topical
chemicals available, but several studies – including one
performed by the Harvard School of Public Health as early as
1999 – report that the head louse is gaining resistance against
the most popular insecticides (more specifically called
“pediculicides”) .  

This growing resistance has inspired experimentation of parents
and infected adults for solutions. In fact, a quick internet search
reveals hundreds of so-called “home remedies.”  Some of these
“solutions,” however, are either ineffective in the long-term, or
more dangerous than their worth.  

We have searched the existing studies from universities and
medical authorities to compile the following the list of the Top 10
remedies effective for treating head lice.

Top 10 Natural Remedies for Head Lice





























1.        Petroleum Jelly.  Sometimes, the simplest ideas are the
best. Ordinary petroleum jelly is effective in fighting head lice.

Scientists from The University of California at Davis and The
University of Massachusetts joined forces in 2004 to publish a
study in The Journal of Pediatric Medicine that looked at six
supposed home remedies against head lice (familiar ingredients
on the list included vinegar, mayonnaise and melted butter).  

Out of these six, however, the team found that “only the
application of petroleum jelly caused significant louse mortality.”
Indeed, after the application of the jelly to infected areas only
six percent of lice eggs were able to hatch.

2.        
Eucalyptus Oil.  Though eucalyptus leaves may first bring
to mind cuddly koalas and the land down under, the plant offers
several uses for humans as well.  In 2004, The Journal of
Agricultural and Food Chemistry published the work of several  
scientists from Seoul National University and The University of
Massachusetts studying eucalyptus leaf oil’s potential use
against the head louse.   

The study concludes that the oil was more effective than several
commonly used pediculicides, and therefore may prove to be a
viable option against head lice.

3.        
Chick-Chack. “Chick-Chack” is as exotic a combination of
materials as the sounds of its words are to Western ears.  It
consists of oils from coconuts, anise and ylang ylang (a tree
generally used for perfumes), and experts at the Hebrew
University Medical School in Israel published findings in 2002
that suggest the mixture as a natural remedy for head lice.  After
applying this mixture to the hair of infected children three times
at five day intervals, the researchers concluded that Chick-Chack
was “very effective in controlling louse infestations under clinical
conditions and caused no serious side effects.”

4.       
 Cinnamon.  You put it on yogurt you bake it in bread –
and now you can use it to kick out the critters on your head!  In
2006, Lowana Veal, a researcher affiliated with The Medical
Entomology Centre at the University of Cambridge performed an
experiment that tested various oils against the head louse.  Veal
found that essential oil from the cinnamon leaf was “effective”
when applied to the affected area in an alcoholic solution, and
then followed by a rinse the next morning that is composed of
the cinnamon oil mixed with vinegar and water.   

5.        
Neem Tree Shampoo Kills Lice.  

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Itchy scalp is often the first sign of
head lice.
Petroleum jelly (Vaseline) is a
natural  remedy for head lice.