Anyone with young kids will likely have had to contend with head lice at some point, but many parents balk at using lotions and potions that contain potentially harmful chemicals such as permethrin. Fortunately, scientists have found that some natural alternatives work just as well for getting rid of head lice, including coconut oil and anise.
Permethrin is the usual weapon of choice for conquering an infestation of lice, but not only does this chemical carry some degree of risk, it is also becoming less effective. Some people still respond well to permethrin, but for those that don’t, and for those wanting an effective natural alternative for getting rid of head lice, it might just be worth getting hold of some coconut oil and anise.
Natural Remedy for Head Lice Almost Twice as Effective as Permethrin
In a 2010 study by Burgess, Brunton and Burgess, a natural spray containing coconut and anise was applied twice, 9 days apart, to 50 people with active head louse infestation and compared to a permethrin lotion applied to 50 other volunteers with active head louse infestation. The randomized, controlled, parallel group trial found that the natural spray for head lice was significantly more successful at clearing the infestation.
In fact, the coconut oil and anise spray had an 82% success rate (41/50), while the permethrin only had a 42% success rate (21/50).
How Head Lice Treatments Work
Permethrin, and other popular remedies for head lice, have a neurological mechanism, whereas the coconut oil and anise mixture works by disrupting the wax layer that coats the cuticle of the louse exoskeleton. This exoskeleton protects that lice against the loss of water, meaning that the natural solution used in this study works by causing the lice to become severely dehydrated, leaing to their death.
The problem with permethrin and similar agents pyrethrin and malathion is that lice can become resistant to their effects. The physical, rather than neurological effects of the coconut and anise spray are unlikely to lead to lice developing a resistance. In one study, 97% of the head lice collected from several Canadian cities had resistance factors associated with insensitivity to DDT, pyrethrins and pyrethroids.
Natural Head Lice Treatment
A home remedy for head lice can be made quite simply by melting a cup of coconut oil and adding in about 12 drops of tea tree oil, or anise oil. After a hot shower and careful combing of the hair using a lice comb and hot water, apply the coconut oil lotion and cover the head with a shower cap. Leaving this type of coconut oil and anise solution on the scalp and hair for ten minutes and repeating the procedure within 7-9 days has proven an effective natural treatment for head lice in several studies.
Marcoux D, Palma KG, Kaul N, Hodgdon H, Van Geest A, Previte DJ, Abou-Elghar GE, Yoon KS, Clark JM: Pyrethroid Pediculicide Resistance of Head Lice in Canada Evaluated by Serial Invasive Signal Amplification Reaction. J Cutan Med Surg 2010, 14(3):115-118
Burgess IF1, Brunton ER, Burgess NA. Clinical trial showing superiority of a coconut and anise spray over permethrin 0.43% lotion for head louse infestation, ISRCTN96469780. Eur J Pediatr. 2010 Jan;169(1):55-62.