Essential oils to kill lice? You heard that right! A lot of buzz has been going on about this — from olive oil to tea tree oil, there are so many choices in oil when it comes to getting rid of head lice. We are here today to give you the clinical and scientific research in the evidence of the effectiveness of using oils to kill lice. We are seeking to answer the big question— do essential oils kill head lice?
With the prevalence of Super Lice in the United States, it is important to know that their resistance to over-the-counter and prescription lice treatments are increasing. These chemical treatments are harmful to our health and it is no surprise that more and more people are looking into better solutions. Can there possibly be an essential oil that is essential in getting rid of head lice and preventing recurrence? We dug deep into the research and are geared up and ready to answer all your questions about utilizing essential oils for lice.
What Are Essential Oils?
So let’s get into the basics, what exactly are essential oils? John Hopkins Medicine asserts that essential oils are plant extracts “made by steaming or pressing various parts of a plant (flowers, bark, leaves or fruit) to capture the compounds.”
Therefore, essential oils are concentrated, plant-based oils that are not only powerful but very aromatic as well. Essential oils are known for capturing a plant’s scent or essence.
Essential oils are most commonly used for aromatherapy to help alleviate anxiety, depression, and even insomnia. They are never meant to be swallowed or ingested, but usually inhaled through diffusers or other various methods.
Keep in mind, though, that whenever you read about the essential oils, you will most likely see that, repetitively, their efficacy has yet to be confirmed in studies or that research is inconclusive, or simply lacking.
Are Essential Oils Safe?
Overall, essential oils are safe to use when diluted with a carrier oil and used precisely according to their directions. Most essential oil would irritate the skin if applied directly as a concentrate without carrier oil like olive oil or coconut oil. Lotion may also be used as a diluent to prevent irritation during application. With essential oils being so potent, it is crucial to dilute them in order to prevent rashes and other adverse reactions.
That being said, essential oils can stimulate allergic reactions in certain individuals or those with sensitive skin, even when diluting the oil. If you or your child has a history of allergic reactions to topical products, it would be best to avoid essential oils as they are more likely to cause allergic reactions. It is always best to consult a physician or an allergist to discuss the risks of essential oils for those more prone to allergic reactions. For the sake of full disclosure, the symptoms of allergic reactions to essential oils mainly include – but are not limited to – rashes, bumps, hives, redness, and itchiness.
Can Lice Smell Essential Oils?
There have been arguments whether essential oils work on lice due to the lice being disgusted by the smell of the oils. Like in the case of tea tree oil or rosemary oil, lice have a distaste for their smell and would look into other places to stay. The other point that people claim is that lice can no longer smell blood through the scalp if essential oils are applied to the head, and therefore will pack up and take to the hills because they don’t smell their “food” any longer. According to some sources, lice have shark-like keenness in smelling blood.
We are here to focus in on these arguments and about the ability of the aroma in essential oils to deter lice — all untrue. A lot of scientific evidence and biological proof shows that lice actually have a terrible sense of smell. We’re not making it up! The proof is in lice’s DNA!
Within the last few years, scientists have finally parsed out lice’s genome. They have decoded the genetic material of lice and found that lice have “just ten genes to code for odor receptors. The researchers speculated that by relying only on one type of host (humans) and one type of meal (blood), the lice could make do with very limited environmental cues.”
By looking into the lic’s genes, it has been proven without a shred of doubt that lice do indeed have a weak sense of smell. Given this limited biological capacity for smell, we are led to believe that they cannot even smell essential oils, much less be deterred by their aroma.
So while others claim that lice are like sharks in smelling blood, the lice’s own genes and DNA would say otherwise.
Can Essential Oils Kill Lice?
Does tea tree oil kill lice? Does rosemary oil kill lice? How about using olive oil for lice? These are some of the most popular oil choices in getting rid of lice. While there are certainly other essential oils that have been said to be effective at eliminating lice, such as lemongrass oil and neem oil, the four most popular oils talked about in regards to lice are tea tree, rosemary, olive, and coconut oil lice treatments.
The sad reality is that while using rosemary oil would be a nice way to get rid of lice, unfortunately, oils and essential oils are rather useless against lice. We wish we were wrong! Unfortunately, all the clinical evidence and scientific research from reliable sources all boil down to one point — essential oils don’t kill lice.
A study conducted in 2015, published by the National Center of Biotechnology Information, admitted:
“In general, we don’t know whether herbal and essential oils (we evaluated evidence on eucalyptus oil, tea tree oil, and tocopheryl acetate only) are effective at eradicating head lice compared with other treatments.”
The Mayo Clinic, one of the best hospitals in the United States, also has affirmed that:
Small clinical studies have suggested that ingredients in some of these products — mostly plant oils such as tea tree, anise, ylang-ylang, eucalyptus, and lemongrass — may work to repel lice, but their effectiveness is uncertain. Additionally, these products are classified as natural, so they aren’t regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and they haven’t been tested to FDA standards.
As the Mayo Clinic has explained, it is difficult to ascertain the efficacy of essential oils in treating lice. The evidence just isn’t there to support it. The Mayo Clinic goes on to say that “until more research proves the effectiveness of head lice prevention products, you can take simple measures to minimize your child’s risk of getting lice.” These preventative measures can be as simple as avoiding head-to-head contact and not sharing hats and hair-brushes with others among other things. Thus, taking these precautionary measures is reliably more effective than using essential oils for lice.
While using essential oils to kill lice would have been a nice thought, remember that studies have shown that they cannot kill lice. Essential oils are non-toxic and cannot cause death in any living creature. Will tea tree oil kill lice? No. Will rosemary oil kill lice? No. Scientific evidence and the most trusted medical sources, like the CDC and the Mayo Clinic, all agree — there is not enough evidence to support that essential oils kill lice, or even deter them.
Can Oils Suffocate Lice?
Now that we’ve established that lice are not deterred by the smell of essential oil, the next concern is whether or not they can be suffocated in it. Essential oils such as tea tree oil and rosemary oil are non-viscous. That means they are not thick or sticky. Knowing this, it cannot then be possible that they would work in suffocating head lice. A thicker oil with higher viscosity, like coconut oil, might be a more interesting and viable study in the suffocation of head lice.
Does coconut oil kill lice? What about olive oil lice treatments? Can lice be killed by preventing access to air and impeding respiration? The painful truth, again, lies in biology. Lice can open and close their breathing holes at will. They are able to shut down their entire respiratory system the moment they sense a threat. Lice can survive without oxygen for hours. Ian Burgess, the head of the Medical Entomology Centre, was the brilliant scientist and researcher who discovered that lice have the biological capacity for controlled respiration and can survive without oxygen for multiple hours.
The aforementioned study did attest that more viscous materials, such as silicone, prevent lice from excreting water, which can disrupt their organs, and potentially lead to death. This study utilized Dimethicone as the agent, not olive oil or coconut oil to kill lice. Dimethicone is a licensed medical product and a chemical. It is by all means not an all-natural product for those seeking natural remedies and lice treatment options.
Olive oil and coconut oil are therefore not effective in suffocating lice. While it may cause some distress to their organs, they cannot asphyxiate and even more so kill the lice. While it may cause some distress to their organs, it is still deemed unlikely to kill lice effectively.
Lastly, we’d like to point out that the “CDC does not have clear scientific evidence to determine if suffocation of head lice with mayonnaise, olive oil, margarine, butter, or similar substances is an effective form of treatment.”
In fact, the American Academy of Pediatricians strongly urges parents not to use home remedies such as essential oils to treat and prevent lice.
Final Thoughts On Using Essential Oils To Kill Lice
We completely understand wanting to find a natural solution in the midst of all the insecticides and pesticides in chemicals. We only want the best and healthiest solutions for us and our families. We couldn’t agree with you more! The chemicals in lice treatment products are neurotoxic and potentially carcinogenic. They come with a laundry list of potential side effects that definitely raises concerns and a lot of eyebrows…
We are grateful that you are seeking alternative methods for getting rid of lice and turning to all-natural remedies and products. While coconut oil and rosemary oil lice treatments aren’t effective, we are proud to offer you another all-natural, chemical-free way to treat your family for lice. Lice Choice products utilize lices’ own DNA against them, stimulating their exoskeleton to shed at a rapid rate, which takes their lifespan down to seconds. Lice Choice products are safe and effective — we wouldn’t have it any other way.
If you have any questions, comments, or concerns, please feel free to get in touch with us. We’d love to hear from you.