Natural Lice Treatments

head lice

Many people are reluctant to use insecticidal head lice treatments on themselves and their family. Natural remedies can work just as well, or sometimes even better. Most over-the-counter treatments contain malathion or pyrethroid, products which seem to be becoming less effective, possibly because head lice have become resistant to these insecticides. When treating head lice naturally, there are some generally recommended practices that will reduce the risk of reinfestation. This head lice protocol is an excerpt from my book Naked: Botanical Recipes for Vibrant Skin and Healthy Hair.

In General:

  1. Vacuum thoroughly, and daily.
  2. Wash clothes, sheets, hats, coats, etc. in hot water and dry them completely on high heat.
  3. If you can’t wash an article of clothing, or item, seal it in a plastic bag for 10 days. This will kill the lice, as they have no access to food.
  4. Comb your hair with a lice comb to get out dying lice and eggs, also called nits.
  5. Adding heat also helps to kill the lice. You can accomplish this by using a blow dryer after applying your herbal formula to increase the effectiveness of the natural lice treatments.

Below is a list of natural treatments and essential oils that have been researched for their effectiveness in killing both adult lice as well as their nits. I created this recipe when my boys brought head lice home from school and it worked very well! I have since shared it with many people who have had similar results.


  • Cinnamon leaf essential oil
  • Tea tree essential oil
  • Peppermint essential oil
  • Nutmeg essential oil
  • Oregano essential oil
  • Anise essential oil
  • Red thyme essential oil
  • Optional ingredients:
    • Vodka
    • Apple cider vinegar
    • Water
    • Olive oil (or another fixed oil)

You Will Need:

  • Measuring cup
  • Glass dropper
  • Glass bottles, include a spray bottle if you make the Lice Spray recipe
  • Label


You can combine any of the below recipes for your natural lice treatment. I prefer using all of them together.

Lice Spray

  1. Take 1 ounce (30mL) vodka and mix it with 7 drops (one of each oil) of the above essential oils.
  2. Spray liberally onto the scalp. Be careful to avoid the eyes and other sensitive areas. Rub in and leave on overnight.
  3. Wash the spray off in the morning with shampoo.
  4. Finish with the Lice Rinse.
  5. Repeat the treatment after 1 week.
  6. This spray can also be used on bedding, pillows, furniture, clothing, backpacks, etc. to deter lice

Lice Rinse

  1. Make a mixture of 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar and 1 tablespoon water.
  2. Mix with 7 drops (one of each) of essential oil.
  3. Use this as a rinse liberally after washing hair.
  4. Do not rinse out.
  5. Repeat the treatment after 1 week.

Lice Oil

  1. Take 1 ounce (30ml) olive oil and mix it with 7 drops (one of each) of the above essential oils.
  2. Rub liberally into the scalp and leave on overnight.
  3. Make sure to cover your pillow with an old towel.
  4. Wash the oil off in the morning with shampoo.
  5. Finish with the Lice Rinse.
  6. Repeat the treatment after 1 week.

© Elaine Sheff, Clinical Herbalist 2016

ElaineAbout the Author:
The author of several books on herbal medicine and healing, clinical herbalist Elaine Sheff has been passionate about sharing herbal knowledge for over 25 years. Her latest book is Naked: Botanical Recipes for Vibrant Skin and Healthy Hair. Elaine is the Co-Director of Green Path Herb School, located in Missoula, MT, where she strives to inspire and empower students and clients to remember their connection to the earth, the plants and their own healing process. As a certified Instructor of the Natural Family Planning and Fertility Awareness Methods, Elaine has helped many couples to avoid or achieve pregnancy naturally. An artist and writer, Elaine has written numerous articles about her family’s journey with epilepsy and a special needs child. You can often find her bent over an herb in her garden or marveling at small flowers in mountain meadows with her husband and sons.

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4 Comments on “Natural Lice Treatments

  1. Thanks for posting. As a family physician, some parents don’t know what to do when there kids come home from school with lice. Then I have to educate them, this seems like a nice and natural alternative. Also, after my day is done, I go home and hope no critters hitched a ride..

    • Hi Sharon, Thanks for the feedback. Yes, this oil can be added to water and used as a spray to deter lice from catching a ride!

  2. Except that you don’t need to vacuum, wash every article of clothing, towel, pillow or bedding. Lice can’t survive off a human head. Comb with a terminator (ie, small toothed metal comb) ($10 on line). Use a ton of conditioner to get the comb through easily. Learn about the natural life cycle of the lice!

    • Jen, my concern is with the eggs, also called nits. They can live off a host and hatch in 7-10 days. So, I’m a firm believer that vacuuming, etc. does help prevent re-infestation.

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