Lice are small parasitic insects that infest body hair and feed on your blood. According to the Mayo Clinic, there are three types of lice: head, body, and pubic. Body lice live in clothing and bedding and usually affect people who aren’t able to perform regular hygiene. Head lice, however, transfer easily from head to head and can infest people with good hygiene, especially children and those who have children. Full grown lice are approximately the size of a sesame seed, and nits are a smaller than lice, so careful, thorough treatment is necessary to prevent recurrence. Visiting your doctor is only necessary after home treatment has failed.
The Mayo Clinic explains that combing the hair with a special nit comb or very fine-toothed comb can remove lice and nits from wet hair. Combing needs to be performed every three to four days for two or more weeks. In “1000 Cures for 200 Ailments”, conventional medicine expert Dr. Christine Gustafson recommends combing with neem oil, which is a vegetable oil made from the fruit and seeds of an Indian evergreen tree. It’s a natural insecticide and insect repellent, and because it’s an oil, it will condition the hair so that it isn’t damaged during combing.
The Mayo Clinic mentions several over-the-counter shampoos that you can use to kill lice and nits. Try a shampoo containing either pyrethrin or permethrin. Follow the directions on the bottle closely and you may not need to visit your doctor for a prescription shampoo.
Topical use of pesticides is often effective, but care must be taken. Dr. Gustafson explains that malathion hasn’t been shown to be toxic to humans when used topically, but it is toxic to the environment. Lindane is a very strong pesticide, but there have been reports of toxicity in the elderly. Dr. Gustafson explains that it is still a treatment option when used on the skin for less than 10 minutes at a time, which is how it should be used to treat lice. Ivermectin is a newer pesticide treatment that needs more research, but it seems to be both effective and without side effects.
In “1000 Cures for 200 Ailments”, naturopathy expert Dr. Geovanni Espinosa explains that a blend of plant-based oils can help kill lice. He advises that you mix 10 drops of ylang ylang oil, 10 drops of anise oil, 20 drops of coconut oil, and one to two oz of almond or apricot oil. Comb the mixture through the hair twice a day, leave it on for two hours, and then wash and comb the wet hair thoroughly. Also in “1000 Cures for 200 Ailments”, herbalism expert Dr. David Kiefer warns that anise oil may irritate the scalp, so you might want to mix it into a gentle shampoo instead of applying it directly as Dr. Espinosa suggests. He goes on to recommend Chrysanthemum extract, as it contains a natural insecticide called pyrethrin, which is effective against head lice. In fact, the lice shampoos mentioned above contain pyrethrin extract. Dr. Kiefer warns not to ingest or inhale Chrysanthemum extract.
About this Author
Jeffrey Rice became an ACE-accredited personal trainer in 2007, and began writing about fitness to support his business. Soon, however, he found himself writing more than training, and has since written health, fitness and supplement articles for numerous websites. He holds a M.F.A. in creative writing from Cleveland State University.