For head lice an essential oil treatment containing eucalyptus and lemon-scented tea tree was more effective than conventional insecticides. [Photo: Bigstock]

Essential oils a more effective way to treat head lice

26 May, 2017

Natural Health News – If your kids have head lice and you don’t want to douse them in pesticides, what do you do?

Head lice infestation, most often seen in children aged 3 to 14 years, causes itching and irritation, as well as parental anxiety. There is also the risk of spreading the infestation to the rest of the family creating an endless cycle of discomfort and embarrassment.

The conventional approach of insecticidal treatments containing neurotoxins raises legitimate safety concerns – as well as concerns about the growing resistance of head lice to these chemicals. This has led to many parents seeking safer and more natural approaches to help get rid of lice.

In a new study from Australia the researchers conducted two separate trial to compare the safety and efficacy of a natural head lice treatment (MOOV Head Lice Solution) made from Australian eucalyptus (Eucalyptus globulus) oil and lemon-scent tea tree (Leptospermum petersonii) oil  with a neurotoxic mousse containing pyrethrins and piperonyl butoxide in children.

What you need to know

» Conventional approaches ot lice infestation involve neurotoxic chemicals that many parnets are keen to avoid.

» In a new study, an essential oil based formula containing Australian eucalyptus (Eucalyptus globulus) oil and lemon-scent tea tree (Leptospermum petersonii) oil was tested against a pyrethroid based formula.

» Used over a period of 7 days the essential oil proved to be nearly twice as effective as the insecticide.

A more effective treatment

In the first trial they looked at the efficacy of the two approached when applied several times daily over a 7 day period. In the second they assessed the efficacy of a single application of the essential oil treatment. The scientists also conducted a skin irritation test, involving adults.

Analysis of the first trial which involved 76 children showed a significant difference in cure rate at 7 days. In the natural treatment group 83% of the EO/LP group were cured of their infestation compared with 36% of those using the insecticide. This difference increased from day 1 to day 7 with the biggest difference seen at the end of the trial.

Where the treatment was not successful, the authors suggest, it could possibly be due to louse eggs surviving a treatment on the hairy scalp, but it is most likely due to re-infestation. Indeed, whatever louse treatment is used, needs to be accompanied by scrupulous attention to hygiene to prevent spread and re-infestation.

For the second smaller trial 11 children with live lice received a single treatment with the essential oil solution. The authors report that the 1,418 head lice collected were considered dead as they were wet-combed out of the hair. Further examination 30 minutes after combing confirmed that all lice were  dead.

For the skin irritation test the authors report that no erythema, edema, or other adverse effects were observed.

The authors (both of whom work for the company producing the natural formula) conclude that “the EO/LP solution contains a proprietary combination of essential oils that has been shown to be safe and effective in eliminating head lice in Australia,” and because the solution is both volatile and quickly effective, “it is unlikely to cause the development of head lice resistance in the community.”