Medicinal herbs with insecticidal properties have been used to treat or get rid of head lice since ancient times.
It is usually the essential oils extracted from certain herbs that have been used as a natural treatment for head lice. Some constituents found in these essential oils have been shown to be toxic to head lice and their eggs.
Most essential oils are very potent and highly concentrated volatile oils that should only be used in diluted form. For less aggressive treatment herbal tinctures have been used.
Head lice (Pediculus humanus capitis) are a very common problem affecting millions of people around the world every year. As they mostly affect children it is usually not advisable to use strong insecticides.
Herbal medicine could offer alternative methods in the battle against head lice compared to strong industrial pesticides. Additionally, head lice are becoming more and more resistant to industrial insecticides as they slowly gain immunity by each generation. But as with most health problems prevention is the best choice.
While most herbal remedies used to treat head lice are considered safe when used as directed, there are medicinal herbs that have a tendency to cause allergic reactions or dermatitis in some people.
Because of this, it is always advisable to use herbal remedies that are provided by a trained herbalist or consult a professional health care provider that has knowledge in herbal medicine.
Prolonged use of some herbal remedies could result in temporary hair discolouration, or loss, if used in ways other than instructed so caution is advised.
Medicinal Herbs Used to Get Rid of Head Lice
Citronella Grass (Cymbopogon nardus, Cymbopogon winterianus))
The essential oil extracted from the citronella grass is used in soaps, candles and as an insect repellent in insect sprays. Some studies indicate that these insect repellent qualities could work against head lice as well.
Quassia (Quassia amara)
Quassia is a tree native to the Amazon rainforest. Extracts made from the bark of this herb contain compounds called quassinoids known to have insecticidal properties which could be useful against several types of insects. There is some indication that these quassinoids could also be used to get rid of head lice.
Balsam of Peru (Myroxylon balsamum)
Balsam of Peru is a liquid resin extracted from the variant Myroxylon balsamum pereirae found in Central America. This herb has been used as an herbal remedy for head lice due to its antiparasitic properties which are thought to destroy both the head lice and its eggs.
Sugar Apple (Annona squamosa)
In Mexico, one of the traditional uses of this herbs includes rubbing the leaves on floors and leaving them in the nest of hens to ward off lice and in India, the grounded seeds have been used to get rid of head lice.
There are some studies that indicate that sugar apple could be used to treat head lice and further testing is warranted but has not yet been funded.
Tea Tree (Melaleuca alternifolia)
The essential oil from tea tree contains constituents known for their antiseptic and insecticide properties. The tea tree oil has been used traditionally to repel and get rid of head lice.
Lavender ( Lavandula angustifolia, Lavandula officinalis)
Lavender essential oil has antiseptic properties and it is thought to have insect repelling properties as well. It has been used as a traditional herbal remedy to treat head lice but no studies are available, at the moment, to confirm the effectiveness of this herb to get rid of head lice.
Neem (Azadirachta indica)
Neem is a widely spread Ayurvedic herb used to get rid of head lice and other insect infestations.
The natural insecticidal properties are due to the component azadirachtin which affects the capacity of lice to feed, grow and reproduce.
Furthermore, the antibacterial and anti-inflammatory action of neem makes it an ideal natural remedy for head lice. This herb has also been used as an insect repellent.
Other natural herbs that have been used for head lice treatment.
- Sassafras – Sassafras albidum
- Pawpaw – Asimina triloba
- Great Morinda – Morinda citrifolia
- Labrador tea – Rhododendron groenlandicum
- Clustered Broomrape – Orobanche fasciculata
- Winterfat – Krascheninnikovia lanata
- Pasqueflower – Pulsatilla patens
- Rosemary – Rosmarinus officinalis
- Twolobe Larkspur – Delphinium nuttallianum
- Soap Plant – Chlorogalum pomeridianum
- Parsley – Petroselinum crispum
- Columbine – Aquilegia vulgaris