- Kids Health
Tea Tree Oil - Lice Treatment
Got lice? These pesky little buggers can invade your child's head and a "cousin" can invade the nether regions of adults (they're called crabs). How do you get rid of them? The usual treatment involves products such as Nix or Rid, which typically use a chemical called permethrin, which is also used in...Raid and other insect sprays.
Tea Tree Oil, harvested from the tea tree of Australia, can be used as a natural alternative to the permethrin-based treatments you'll find at your local pharmacy.
What you'll need:
- tea tree oil (either pure, or 5% solution)
- olive oil or coconut oil (if using pure tea tree oil)
- shampoo (if using pure tea tree oil)
- nit comb (very fine-toothed comb that can remove dead lice and nits)
Use Tea Tree Oil to get rid of lice
Tea tree oil contains terpinen-4-ol, which is effective against lice, crabs, scabies and other Acari group arachnids. However, this compound and other terpenoids in tea tree oil can provoke a severe skin reaction in some people, so before proceeding, test a drop of your tea-tree solution on your skin (the underside of your arm, for instance) and make sure you don't have any reaction within 20 minutes, before proceeding.
If using the 5% solution
Massage the 5% tea tree oil solution into the hair, working it into the scalp to make sure the scalp and hair are fully wet with the solution. Let the solution sit for 30 minutes, optionally using a shower cap to prevent dripping.
Then, using the nit comb, carefully remove any dead lice and nits, before bathing. Reapplication of the solution might be necessary.
If using pure tea tree oil
First create an emulsion, adding 1 part tea tree oil to 10 parts olive or coconut oil. Mix well, and apply to the hair and scalp. Wait 15 minutes, and then remove the dead lice and nits using the nit comb.
Next, add 5-10 drops of tea tree oil to your usual dose of shampoo, and wash your hair thoroughly with this mixture. This will help kill and remove any lice that the nit comb didn't catch. Rinse and repeat.
Since nits are really small, well-hidden and can be especially resistant to treatment and removal during certain stages of their lifecycle, you will have to repeat this process. It's a good idea to check the scalp every day for any nits you might have missed, or any that might have hatched. If you detect any more nits or living lice, then you should repeat this entire process again. You're not in the clear until you don't see any lice or eggs for at least 2 weeks.
Warning! Although tea tree oil is natural and preferable to synthetic chemicals, that doesn't mean it should be regularly used on the scalp. Tea tree oil has naturally-occurring estrogenic compounds that can be absorbed through the skin, especially through the scalp. Only use tea tree oil for specific, short-term treatments. A NIH-sponsored study in 2007 discovered that tea tree oil and lavender oil can cause gynecomastia (male enlarged breasts) in young boys.