Head Lice

Head lice are epidemic in children of school age, and they are fast becoming  “super-lice” as they become immune to treatment.
Head lice are highly contagious, and they will travel rampantly among groups of children who play together. They move from child to child, especially from long hair, which is not tied up, and they can live for 24 hours away from the body.

Head lice are wingless insects that feed off the skin by attaching themselves to the scalp. The female louse lays approximately eight eggs a day, which stick to the hair and are visible as little white specks; they are called nits.

After eight days the eggs hatch, and each louse lives for a further five weeks or so, piercing the skin or the scalp several times a day when hungry to feed from the blood; this causes the characteristic itching and scratching of the scalp.

The bites produce inflammation of the skin, which looks like red pinpricks on the scalp. The itching and irritation they cause ultimately produce a skin rash.

Black lice are very difficult to spot, but are easily identifiable by their sticky, yellow-white eggs or nits, which nest in the hair and can be removed with a fine-toothed comb. They usually settle above and behind the ears, on the crown and at the nape of the neck. These lice can affect the pubic hair as well.

These pests are passed on through direct contact with others, regardless of personal hygiene. Lice do not jump, they run quickly. If one child in a school class has head lice, those lice can quickly affect the others in that class.
Although head lice are most common among young adults, adults in the family will also be affected. Head lice can also be spread through sharing combs, towels, bedding or clothing such as hats, scarves and coats.

Short hair will help prevent the spread of head lice.

The normal treatment with chemical products won’t give great results today due to lice having become more immune to the chemicals used for 50 years or more.
Natural products don’t have this problem due to the slight variation between plants, even of the same species.

Head lice can easily be killed with a wide variety of natural products which are also very safe for the children using them.
One of the most effective remedies used for head lice can even be used as a tea for digestive problems.

Quassia Bark tincture is a very effective remedy for killing head lice; it can even kill the eggs or nits.
I usually recommend it to be sprayed on to the hair at night and washed out in the morning using a fine-toothed comb so as to comb out the nits.
Repeat the procedure the next night and again in 10 days’ time to eliminate all head lice: it’s wise to treat all of the children in the family at the same time in order to limit the spread of the infestation.

Many patients like to try to prevent an infestation by adding essential oils to their children’s shampoo. Essential oils are naturally deadly to insects since the plants that produce these oils use them to protect themselves from attacks from insects.

Adding oils such as Lavender, Geranium, Rosemary, Eucalyptus and Tea Tree essential oils to shampoo may help prevent an attack from the dreaded head louse. Be sure to use only a few drops of these essential oils in a bottle of shampoo – too many may cause irritation to the scalp. 

David Foley
MNIMH, MRCHM
Medical Herbalist