Surprisingly, I had sailed through 10 years of parenting before I encountered head lice. I was mortified. The pests arrived one month after we had moved into a new home, at the time my kids were 1, 4, 6, 8 & 10. Two of them were girls with long blond hair. I was exhausted from the move and a bit stressed about having toddlers roaming in a new house that was hardly unpacked. Thankfully, I had my essential oils and several books and resources on the subject. Ironically, I had just coached someone on this weeks before with the resources I had. I had no doubt this was going to be handled naturally since I wanted to protect my kiddos from traditional options. The chemicals in traditional lice eradication kits are considered neurotoxins. That means they are harmful to your brain. The developing brains of children are especially susceptible to toxin exposure. Not only that, but do we really need to use toxic chemicals (that are really classified as pesticides) to get rid of pesky lice? Yes, I was grossed out that these little bugs had infested my new home, but I was not going to let that skew my perspective and compromise my values of using as many natural methods as I can for home and health. When you eliminate lice without chemicals, you just have to understand the enemy. First, understanding it’s life cycle is important:
Life Cycle of a Louse:
Adult Lice lay about 10 nits per day
Nits (lice eggs) hatch in 7-12 days
Baby Lice become adults in 9-12 days and begin laying their own eggs
Traditional pediatrics will typically recommend insecticides like malathion, Lindane, and Crotamiton, to kill lice. Traditional pediatrics will caution against home remedies like mayonnaise that are “hard to remove from hair”. Traditional medical doctors may also recommend stronger chemicals since the lice are now becoming resistant to traditional pesticides.
If you want to go the natural way , it may require a bit more hair washing (to remove all those unsightly oils) and diligence on your part to repeatedly check for returning nits (the eggs) but you will have peace of mind that your kid’s developing brains are protected once again from harsh pesticides.
There are many gentle, yet powerful ways to deal with lice that have been around for centuries using natural essential oils.
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- Extra Virgin Coconut Oil – 16oz should be enough for 32 applications, using about 2 T per person with medium length hair. More for longer hair
- Essential Oils that are effective against Pests & Insects:In order from gentlest to strongest: Lavender, Melaleuca alternifolia, Rosemary (diluted), Eucalyptus (for kids over 4), Peppermint (kids over 6) Lemongrass, Citronella (good for laundry)
- Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV)
- Lice Comb
- Curling or Flat iron
These steps may lessen the likeliness that you’ll have a recurrence of lice from your home and save you a lot of chemical exposure. Here’s how we got rid of lice in our home:
1. Quarantine Begin quarantining all toys, stuffed animals and home decor in exposed areas that cannot be put into a washing machine. Bag up all soft, fabric or stuffed items that have been in contact with infested person and seal in air tight garbage bags. Store in the basement, garage or other area out of the way for at least 21 days.
2. Wash Bedding Remove all bedding. Wash in hot water to which you add 3-4 drops of essential oils of choice (lemongrass, melaleuca, citronella & eucalyptus are all good for wash) to kill and disinfect parasites and eggs (see shopping list above), dry bedding on hottest temperature that fibers will allow according to washing directions.
3. Vacuum carpets & stairs in bedrooms and main living areas daily until infestation is clear. Make sure to vacuum pillows and cushions on chairs and sofas that infected person has used.
4. Remove and wash pillowcases each morning until infestation is clear.
1. Perform a Coconut Oil Hair Treatment – think of it as a Spa treatment that lice cannot survive. Mix in 3-4 drops of essential oils of choice to coconut oil prior to massaging into scalp. Slather the hair in coconut oil mixture and comb through completely saturating each strand of hair and massaging into scalp. The coconut oil will begin to suffocate the lice and break down the shell, the essential oils will magnify the effects and begin to weaken nit shell and adult body. If you want to protect bedding, cover head with a soft cotton hat. Some people use a plastic bag, which I would not recommend for little children or during sleep for obvious reasons. Wear the coconut oil treatment overnight, or at least 10 hours. Older children and adults can wear a plastic shower cap on hair during waking hours to keep oxygen out of hair strands.
2. Wash Hair Next day, wash hair thoroughly, this may require a couple of shampoos. Pure a final rinse over hair with a mixture of 2 C warm water to which you add 3 T apple cider vinegar.
3. Nit Pick Dry hair thoroughly and prepare to pull out nits (lice eggs) by hand. There is no way around this, and needed even for chemical lice treatments (which many lice are becoming resistant to). Patience and attention to details matter. Do this in a well lighted area, outside or in natural sunlight if the weather permits. Now the work begins as you comb through every strand of hair with a lice comb. This pulls off loose nits and dead lice. Make sure to dispose of matter carefully. It may be helpful to keep a dry paper towel nearby and wipe off the comb as it collects lice and nits. Vacuum area thoroughly after nit-picking session.
4. Treat with Heat Heat up flat or curling iron and crimp small strands of hair to heat strands and kill any remaining nits, making sure to run iron along full length of hair, moving slowly. Keep hot irons out of reach of children. Please do not use a hair dryer which will just blow some lice out of the hair into neighboring bedding, carpets or clothing which will happily attach to a human being or pet.
5. Change clothing after nit-picking and wash immediately in hot water.
6. Massage essential oils into hair and scalp, checking for nits daily at least 7 days.
7. Enjoy your Green home and chemical-free kids!
Repeat these steps as needed, and you’ll have a beautiful, clean home filled with natural essential oils and no toxic insecticides. The hatching & growth cycle of nits/lice can extend up to 3 weeks if any nits are missed, so make sure to check occasionally even after no nits are found.
Many traditional lice treatments are pesticides and insecticides that many lice are resistant to. It’s not unusual that chemical treatments need to be repeated because the chemicals didn’t complete the job. Use natural ingredients and pure essential oils and you’ll take care of the job the first time around.
This information is for entertainment purposes only and is not intended to diagnose, treat or cure any disease. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA.