When you realize that your child has head lice you may have to choose between a traditional OTC lice treatment and several home remedies for head lice. Among them, olive oil is one of the most effective and simple ways to get rid of these parasites.
The olive tree has exceptional therapeutic properties. In fact, all parts of the tree possess interesting properties for medical use. Our ancestors in ancient Greece used olive oil as an ointment to treat aches, ulcers and even cholera.
They used the leaves of the olive tree as a base, astringent and purifying, as well as preparations made from leaves and olive oil to cure all kinds of inflammations. Moreover, the flowers, bark and ash of the olive tree were included in many medicinal preparations.
Several informal studies showed the effectiveness of vegetable oils in the treatment of lice. A test (not a study) conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health found that lice submerged in olive oil for two hours die asphyxiated. Other studies have shown that it takes more than 8 hours to suffocate the lice with a substance such as olive oil.
The effectiveness of olive oil is explained by the fact that by coating the skin of adult lice, it deprives them of oxygen. After some time, as they can no longer breathe, they die.
How to apply the olive oil treatment for head lice
You can definitely use olive oil to help you get rid of head lice.
First, you may need to buy olive oil and be asking yourself these questions : does it matter what type of olive oil is used to get rid of lice? Should you get Extra Virgin Olive oil or will regular pure olive oil work?
In theory, you can buy any type of olive oil, but here’s the catch: you’re going to put it on your hair or your child’s hair, which means it will be in contact with the scalp, that absorbs about 50% of what we put on it. This means that you want to use a good quality oil, because you probably wouldn’t want any chemicals or pesticide residues to be in contact with the scalp.
Then, here is how you should proceed. It is enough to coat your child’s hair with olive oil. Place something on the head so that air can’t come in. It could be plastic wrap, but it’s not really recommended for children. Always be around and do not leave the child on its own.
After about eight hours (as said before, time can vary, there is no scientific proof that 8 hours are either enough or too much), wash the hair with mild shampoo and rinse well.
Now it’s time for the crucial step: combing. Olive oil alone will not eliminate head lice from the hair; combing is required. Now you want to comb the hair with a head lice comb to remove dead lice. Sometimes it is necessary to repeat the shampoo two or three times to completely remove the oil.
You should know that this remedy, just like any other head lice home remedy, does not work 100%, so you might still have some live lice after applying the oil and combing. In this case, you’ll need to remove them manually or repeat the treatment.
Will this olive oil treatment work on nits?
The head lice olive oil treatment has not been tested on nits, which are the eggs laid by adult female lice. The test conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health did only prove the efficiency of olive oil on lice, not their eggs. So, it is likely that olive oil will not work on nits as it does on adult lice.
However, there is a very good natural head lice treatment that you can use to unglue the nits from the hair shaft, it is vinegar. It is then much easier to comb them out, which remains an essential step in the process. You’ll find more details about how to use vinegar for nits in this article: vinegar for head lice.
What about essential oils?
Essential oils are volatile oils, very fragrant, obtained by steam distillation of flavoring plants. Some oils contain up to 300 different molecules, depending on the plant used, on the time of harvest, on the climate and quality of the distillation. To give you an idea, about 100 kg of fresh lavender are needed to extract 1 kg of essential oil.
The essential oils contained in many plants have insecticidal, antibacterial and antifungal properties. When used for therapeutic purposes, be sure to use quality products, and ideally from organic farming.
For the perfect herbal head lice treatment, consider adding a few drops of an essential oil such as lavender oil or tea tree oil to the olive oil, as this can also help prevent another infestation, promote healing and add a pleasant smell that children will like.
Olive oil can help you get rid of adult lice by suffocating them. You’ll need to apply the oil by coating the hair well, and you’ll need to leave it on the hair enough time. Time varies and no scientific studies could determine a time that would work for everyone; a minimum of eight hours is often suggested.
Then, rinsing the hair well and combing out will rid the hair of dead lice. The next step is to check for lice again and repeat the treatment if needed.
Now you can start eliminating head lice eggs.