It is that time of year: the kiddos are in the full swing of school and bringing home all sorts of things for you to take care of. While you expect your kids to bring home homework and permission slips, the last thing anyone expects is a head full of lice! Let the panic begin! No, not really! Don’t panic! You can eliminate lice naturally with herbs, rather than having to use the common over-the-counter pesticides that can contain toxic ingredients.
Lice can be kicked to the curb without toxic pesticides
The most common over-the-counter lice treatment shampoos contain ingredients such as lindane. These ingredients are considered to be toxic insecticides and are banned in many countries around the world as agricultural pesticides. There is hope, though! People have been treating lice for thousands of years and have found great success with many different natural options, some of which can be found in your own pantry.
Lice Home Remedies
There are quite a few natural options that you can choose from when treating your household for lice. Many of these options work well in the form of a hair mask and shampoo, and all options work best if followed with an apple cider vinegar rinse and a daily combing with a good nit comb to remove any eggs that might be left on your scalp. Lice eggs take 7 days to hatch, so it’s important to be consistent with these treatments and comb for at least 7 days to be sure that you haven’t missed any eggs.
Olive Oil/Coconut Oil
Gentle, conditioning to your hair, and antibacterial, coconut and olive oil make great natural options to rid the scalp of lice and the itching they cause.. Carrier oils are most commonly used to get rid of lice by combining them with essential oils, which are then applied to your hair and left on for hours to smother and kill all of the adult lice. After shampooing the oil out of your hair, it is best to follow with a raw apple cider vinegar rinse and comb with a nit comb.
Raw Unfiltered Apple Cider Vinegar
While it won’t kill the adult lice, raw apple cider vinegar is the perfect conditioning rinse to use after any of the other natural lice treatments you choose to use. Raw apple cider vinegar is acidic enough to break the glue that binds lice eggs, kills baby lice (called nits), and repel any lice from wanting to live on your head. After shampooing, spray apple cider vinegar rinse onto your head, completely saturating hair and scalp. Do not rinse out. Follow with a nit comb on wet hair.
Aloe Vera Gel
This stuff rocks in so many ways for your hair, but yet another use of it is to help kill lice on your head (read more ways to use aloe vera here). Just like the carrier oils, aloe vera gel can be used to smother and kill lice. Not only will it condition your hair, but its acidity level also helps to remove the nit eggs. Apply to your hair just as you would the carrier oils, covering your head with a shower cap and letting dry completely before rinsing. Follow with raw apple cider vinegar rinse and comb with a nit comb.
I LOVE using soapnuts to shampoo my hair (here’s where you can get some). My current favorite way to cleanse my hair (and totally no-poo safe!), soapnuts are also a natural insecticide. Soapnut liquid can be used to shampoo and soak the hair, helping to rid your scalp of lice. When used frequently during an outbreak of lice, soapnuts can also be an effective lice repellent. Follow with a raw apple cider vinegar rinse and a nit comb after application. Check out my DIY Herbal Goddess Soapnuts Shampoo recipe!
Lemon Juice/Lemon Peel Tea
Just like apple cider vinegar, lemon juice is very acidic and can help loosen and remove eggs and nits from your scalp. The peel of lemons and oranges contains their essential oils. These two citrus essential oils are rich in the chemical constituent d-limonene, a fabulous insecticide that will dissolve the husk of all bugs, good or bad. I use sweet orange essential oil when cleaning my home during the summer to keep fleas away!
There are many essential oils that can be used to help prevent and kill lice, many of which have been specifically tested for use against lice and lice eggs. Essential oils that have shown a high percentage of effectiveness are anise seed, cinnamon leaf, tea tree, oregano, red thyme, sweet orange, clove, eucalyptus, geranium, lemongrass, peppermint, and nutmeg. Essential oils are extremely potent combinations of chemical constituents and great care should be taken when using them. Not all essential oils are safe for all ages, so if treating for lice on children, it is important to make sure you are taking extra precautions for safe use (for more on essential oil safety for kids, please see our recent post here). Do not use essential oils on anyone without diluting them in oil first and always buy from a quality source.
Herbal Hair Pack
Some herbs are insecticides and will not only kill certain bugs but will also repel them. Grind up any combination of herbs into a powder and make into a “mud” mask for your head by combining with a small amount of water or raw apple cider vinegar. Apply thickly to the scalp and hair, cover with a shower cap, and leave on for 1-2 hours before rinsing out. Follow with an apple cider vinegar rinse and comb through hair with a nit comb. Some herbs that are great for use in an herbal hair pack are neem leaf, rosemary, peppermint, sage, thyme, cinnamon, lemongrass, lemon peel powder, orange peel powder, and lavender.
Herbal Lice Killer Shampoo Spray
This recipe is easiest to use in a spray bottle so that you can effectively saturate the hair with it. This treatment is recommended for 8 days because the time it takes lice eggs to hatch is 7 days. This will allow us to be sure to get both adults and babies so that re-infestation does not occur.
2 cups water (I love to replace the water in this recipe with lavender, lemongrass, or peppermint hydrosol when I have it on hand)
10 de-seeded whole soap nuts (or 20 halves)
2 Tbsp. dried orange or lemon peel (or ¼ cup fresh)
1 cinnamon stick
1 Tbsp. dried thyme, sage, peppermint, rosemary, lavender, lemongrass, neem, or basil (or 2 Tbsp. fresh)
2 Tbsp. aloe vera gel
2 Tbsp. raw unfiltered apple cider vinegar
4 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
10 drops sweet orange essential oil (for children 2 – 6, use one drop; 6 and up use 5 drops)
5 drops tea tree essential oil (for children 2 – 6, use one drop; 6 and up use 3 drops)
9 drops cinnamon leaf essential oil (for children 2 -6, use one drop; 6 and up use 4 drops)
- Combine water, soap nuts, orange peel, and cinnamon stick in a small pan. Bring to a boil and turn heat down to simmer for 20 minutes.
- Remove from heat and add the thyme. Leave to steep until the liquid is cool. Strain herbs from the liquid with a mesh strainer or cheese cloth.
- Combine tea liquid with apple cider vinegar, aloe vera juice, olive oil, and essential oils in a spray bottle.
To Use: Shake well before use. For the first treatment, spray onto hair, completely saturating hair and scalp. Cover with a shower cap or saran wrap and let sit for 1-4 hours. The longer you can keep it in your hair, the more likely you will effectively kill all of the adult lice. Rinse out your hair in the shower and follow with a vinegar rinse and lice comb to remove the nits.
Shampoo with this shampoo daily for 7 subsequent days, letting it sit for 10-15 minutes before rinsing clean. Follow with a vinegar rinse and lice comb to remove the nits.
Safety: Avoid getting shampoo mixture in the eyes as it will sting.
Herbal Lice Vinegar Rinse
You can do this the simple way with just water and apple cider vinegar, but the other added ingredients to this recipe will help to further its effectiveness. This recipe is made to fit in a 32-ounce spray bottle. Half this recipe for a 16-ounce spray bottle. Optional use of EOs and oil carrier for dry-haired folks.
2 1/4 cups water (You can substitute water with herbal tea.)
¼ cup raw unfiltered apple cider vinegar
¼ cup aloe vera gel
4 Tbsp. carrier oil (if using EOs)
10 drops cinnamon leaf essential oil (for children 2 and up, use 1 drop; 6 and up use 5 drops)
9 drops sweet orange essential oil (for children 2 and up, use 1 drop; 6 and up use 5 drops)
5 drops lavender essential oil (for children 2 and up, use 1 drop; 6 and up use 2 drops)
Combine ingredients in a 32 ounce spray bottle.
To Use: Shake well before use. Spray onto hair, completely saturating hair and scalp. Do not rinse from hair. Comb through wet hair thoroughly with a lice comb, to remove any lice eggs residing on the scalp. Use daily to prevent lice from returning.
This post was written by The Hippy Homemaker, Christina, who loves to share what she’s learning about green and eco-friendly living, natural health, aromatherapy, herbalism and more!