Does Tea Tree Oil Kill Head Lice?
Tea tree oil is a concentrated extract from the leaves of the tea tree plant. It has been used medicinally by the Aboriginal people of Australia for centuries for its natural healing and antiseptic power. People around the world continue to use tea tree oil as an anti-microbial agent, to combat against yeast and fungal infections, to treat sore muscles, and much more. Among other uses, tea tree oil is also used to treat head lice.
What does the research say?
One study published in Parasitology Research showed that tea tree oil kills lice in the nymph and adult stages of life. Tea tree oil treatments also reduced the number of lice eggs that hatched. In the study, the investigators compared the effectiveness of tea tree oil vs. nerolidol in treating lice infestations. Tea tree oil was more effective than nerolidol against head lice with 100 % mortality at 30 min and 1 % concentration.
Another study, published in BMC Dermatology, also found that tea tree oil (along with lavender oil) was effective in completely removing a lice infestation in 97% of the 42 subjects in the study. These results were significantly higher compared to subjects treated with the product containing pyrethrins and piperonyl butoxide (only 25% of the 40 subjects treated). Pyrethrins and piperonyl butoxide are common ingredients in anti-lice shampoo.
The International Journal of Dermatology compared botanical and synthetic substances for preventing lice in primary school-age kids. The background of the study states, “Control efforts using chemical treatments are becoming increasingly ineffective, with insecticide resistance recorded in several countries…Many commercially available substances reputedly have effective repellent qualities, but remain untested.” The researchers compared tea tree oil, lavender oil, peppermint, and DEET. Tea tree oil was the most effective treatment tested. Tea tree oil and peppermint proved to be most useful for repelling lice. The results of the study state “Comparatively, tea tree oil was most efficacious, with DEET ranking equal second overall with coconut, peppermint, and a botanical mixture.”
Is Tea Tree Oil Safe To Treat Head Lice?
The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), reports:
▪ Most people can use topical products containing tea tree oil without problems, but some people may develop contact dermatitis (an allergic skin rash) or skin irritation on the parts of the body where the product was used.
▪ Tea tree oil should not be swallowed. Taking it orally can cause serious symptoms such as confusion and ataxia (loss of muscle coordination).
Application Of Tea Tree Oil To Treat And Prevent Head Lice
Using shampoos and conditioners which contain tea tree oil is a very effective treatment for head lice. Used with a nit comb, the dual acting tea tree oil antiseptic kills off unwanted head lice and eggs and ensures lice prone scalps are clean and protected.