Expert Advice

Are there natural remedies for head lice?

Are there natural remedies for head lice?
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YES. You can use essential oils to treat lice, but they should be used with caution.
Prolific pests. Lice (Pediculus humanus capitis) are parasitic insects that infest the human scalp. They thrive on children ages 3 to 11 who tend to share personal space.
Try essential oils. My research shows that a combination of cinnamon leaf oil and peppermint oil is effective against lice. To use, mix ⅛ teaspoon of cinnamon leaf oil and ⅛ teaspoon of peppermint oil with four ounces of a basic shampoo. Apply to your child’s head, leave on for 20 minutes, and rinse. Don’t leave on overnight: Essential oils are too concentrated to be used for that long.
Follow up. The next day, rub your child’s head with olive oil until the hair is saturated. Leave the oil on for two to four hours, which should smother or paralyze the lice. Shampoo the hair and apply conditioner. Then take a fine-toothed lice comb (sold at drugstores), part your child’s hair into one-inch sections, and comb straight up from the scalp to the tip, wiping the comb in between sections. Leave the conditioner in to make combing easier.
Stay on guard. You may need to repeat this entire process every day until all of the lice and their eggs are removed. For a list of other precautions to take at home, see
Don’t overdo it. Essential oils are natural, not benign, so use them judiciously. Don’t use oils at all on kids who have allergies, asthma, or are under 4 years old.
—Elin Cohen, M.D., pediatrician, The Lice Treatment Center, Fairfield County, Conn.