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    Essential Oils for Lice Treatment - A COMPLETE Guide

    • 8 min read

    In This Article:


    Do Essential Oils Kill Head Lice?

    olive oil for lice and tea tree oil for lice

    There has been a lot of buzz lately about using essential oils to kill lice. From olive oil to tea tree oil, there are numerous oils out there that have been touted as ways to get rid of head lice. We are here to discuss the clinical research and scientific evidence on the effectiveness of using oils to kill lice. We are seeking to answer the big question— do essential oils kill head lice? 

    Given the enormous prevalence of super lice in the United States, resistance is increasing to over-the-counter and prescription lice treatments that use insecticidal and pesticidal chemicals to treat lice. Since these chemicals have lost their efficacy and are hazardous to our health, it is only natural that you would want to seek out alternatives like essential oils to get rid of lice. Are there lice essential oils out there that work as lice treatments or as lice prevention? 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?

    First things first, let's get clear about what essential oils are. 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 potent, as well as very aromatic. Essential oils are often described as capturing a plant’s scent or essence.

    lice essential oils

    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 that whenever you read about the essential oils, you will most likely encounter, repetitively, that their efficacy has yet to be confirmed in studies or that research is inconclusive, or simply lacking. 

    Are Essential Oils Safe?

    Essential oils are overall safe to use when diluted with a carrier oil and used in accordance with directions. The majority of essential oils can irritate the skin when applied directly onto the skin without the use of a carrier oil such as olive oil or coconut oil. Lotion can also be used to mitigate skin irritation from essential oils when mixed before application. Essential oils are very potent, so diluting them is crucial to preventing rashes and 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 is best to avoid essential oils as they are more likely to cause allergic reactions. We recommend consulting 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?

    One of the most common arguments about using essential oils for treating lice claims that lice are repelled by essential oils because they are disgusted by the odor. Due to their distaste of the smell of tea tree oil or rosemary oil, lice will seek other hosts or move elsewhere. 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. Some sources even liken lice to sharks, saying that both lice and sharks share a keen sense of smell, especially for blood.

    We are here to shine a spotlight on these arguments about lice being deterred by smelling essential oils; this is all completely untrue. There is a significant amount of scientific evidence and biological proof that lice 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.

    essential oils for lice

    Identifying lice’s genes has proven, without the shadow of a doubt, that lice do not have a strong sense of smell. Given their limited biological capacity for smell, this would lead us to believe that lice cannot smell essential oils, or at least they cannot smell essential oils strongly or powerfully enough to be deterred by them. 

    So while others claim that lice are like sharks and have a great sense of smell, the proof is in the pudding— in lice’s own genes and DNA. 

    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 oils that have been allegedly used to eradicate lice. While there are certainly other essential oils that have been touted as 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.

    coconut oil for lice

    Are you ready for a dose of reality? The sad truth is that while using rosemary oil for lice sounds like a pleasant way to get rid of them, 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 points to the fact that essential oils don’t kill lice.

    rosemary lice spray

    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.” 

    will tea tree oil kill lice

    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, the effectiveness of using essential oils like tea tree oil for lice is uncertain. 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 are as simple as avoiding head-to-head contact and not sharing hats and hair-brushes with others. Thus, taking a few precautionary measures is reliably more effective than using essential oils for lice.

    Neem oil for lice

    So, while using tea tree oil for head lice may seem like a healthy alternative to pesticides, there is a better way— the Lice Choice way. Lice Choice has been clinically proven to eradicate both lice and super lice and is non-toxic, chemical-free, and all-natural. If you're seeking a natural way to get rid of lice, look no further than our products. They're also backed by a 100% satisfaction guarantee: if you are unhappy in any way, shape, or form with our products, we’ll give you a hassle-free refund. Click HERE to learn more about our products.

    So while the question of how to kill lice with tea tree oil may be tempting to contemplate, remember that essential oils don’t 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. 

    Wait, Can Oils Suffocate Lice?

    Essential oils such as tea tree oil and rosemary oil are non-viscous. That means they are not thick or sticky. So using tea tree oil for head lice suffocation doesn’t make sense. However, using a thicker oil with a higher viscosity, such as coconut oil, for lice suffocation poses a more interesting and potentially viable question.

    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.

    Oils for lice treatment

    That being said, the aforementioned study did attest that 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 not an all-natural product for those seeking natural remedies and lice treatment options.

    Therefore, using olive oil and coconut oil lice treatments isn't effective at suffocating lice or killing them. Asphyxiation isn't possible with natural oils as their respiratory system prevents it. 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 definitely understand that you want to steer clear of applying harmful pesticides and harsh chemicals to your body, and your family's bodies. 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. And if you’re reading this, there’s a good chance that you wouldn’t have it any other way either.

    If you have any questions, comments, or concerns, please feel free to get in touch with us. We'd love to hear from you.