Oil from the Mediterranean flower lavender has more to offer than a pleasant, relaxing aroma; this oil may also work as an insecticide. As such, lavender oil provides a natural option for treating head lice that doesn't require harsh chemical pesticides. Although generally safe, lavender oil can cause an allergic reaction in some. Pregnant and breastfeeding women should avoid this oil.
Lavender Oil's Insecticidal Properties
Lavender oil has a reputation for being able to kill a variety of insects, bacteria and fungi. The oil effectively kills both human head lice and household dust mites, according to findings in a study published in Fitoterapia in 2007. It also has use as an insect repellent and may help prevent head lice infestations.
Although lavender oil can kill lice, tea tree oil is more effective, found the study published in Fitoterapia. A commercially available product combining lavender oil and tea tree oil killed lice as effectively as a lice suffocation product and a product containing the chemicals pyrethrins and piperonyl butoxide, according to research published in the August 2010 issue of BMC Dermatology. Over 97 percent of those treated with essential oils were free of live lice after a single treatment, although treatment continued due to remaining nits, or lice eggs.
Adding essential oils to a carrier oil dilutes them to reduce risk of skin irritation. Carrier oils include olive, coconut and jojoba oils. In addition to lavender and tea tree oil, other essential oils that may help kill lice include neem seed, rose geranium and eucalyptus, suggests biologist Lowana Veal in an article for the Aromatherapy Global Online Research Archives. To make a lice treatment, blend 10 drops of lavender in 1 cup carrier oil. Optionally, include 10 drops of two other oils.
Thoroughly massage the oil into your hair and scalp and leave on for 2 hours. Shampoo hair, rinse and apply conditioner. Using a nit comb, remove as many nits as possible, then rinse and dry hair. Although one application may kill live lice, nits can survive and hatch. To kill later generations of lice, repeat the treatment on days 3, 5, 7, 9 and 10, recommend natural health care experts from the Haelen Centre in London, UK. If such frequent application isn't an option, repeat the treatment at least once 7 to 10 days after the first application. Even after a full course of treatment, continue checking your or your child's hair to ensure no lice or unhatched nits remain.
Lavender oil may cause nausea, headache and other adverse reactions. Before using this or any other essential oils for the first time, apply a drop to the inside of your arm and leave it for 24 hours to check for adverse reactions. While lavender oil is safe for older children, consult a health-care provider before using it on children younger than 2 years old. Daily treatment with lavender oil may help prevent future lice infestations. Before combing your or your child's hair each morning, place a drop of lavender oil on the comb.
- Fitoterapia: An Investigation and Comparison of the Bioactivity of Selected Essential Oils on Human Lice and House Dust Mites
- BMC Dermatology: A Randomised, Assessor Blind, Parallel Group Comparative Efficacy Trial
- Care2: Safely Eliminating Head Lice
- Aromatherapy Global Online Research Archives: Headlice