Treating head lice naturally

Little boy itchy his hair on white background

This month I am continuing my theme of natural solutions for your children’s health problems with a close-up look at one of the least pleasant experiences: head lice. I experienced this once with my daughter when she was about two, and it did really throw me! So much so that for the past 10 years I have always had some form of head lice treatment in the bathroom cabinet, which I think has worked as a charm to keep them away!

Having head lice is never a pleasant experience, and can be especially traumatic for the child who arrives home with it. So the treatment of lice shouldn’t add to the stress. And luckily there is no need to stress at all – with these easy natural solutions, you can eliminate lice gently and effectively without needing to resort to strong chemical-laden treatments. 

The first thing to know is that head lice infestations are not a reflection of hygiene. Lice are not picky and will make a home in clean heads without a second thought. You can however do something to prevent them if you have advance warning from your kids’ school – read on for my tips on that front!

If you do end up with an infestation, the first step is to decide your plan of attack. Would you like to take the one-treatment, comb-free approach? Or do you want to manually remove the living lice, eggs, and nits (empty egg casings) the old-fashioned way with a special lice comb? Both work, though we are happy to say that you don’t need to comb – and if your child has thick hair this might be a huge relief.

Single application lice treatments (no combing) 

In Organico our most popular single application treatment is called Licener; it’s a shampoo and it works in 10 minutes. I couldn’t believe it at first but consistent feedback has shown it really does work, and even better, it contains NO harmful chemicals and smells fine, so it’s not painful to use. This non-toxic treatment uses natural ingredients that suffocate living lice and destroy eggs by poking holes in their shells to cut off their oxygen supply (which essentially suffocates them) – not something to dwell on, but sometimes needs must. 

Natural neem extract is the major player in Licener. Once it’s massaged into the scalp and covers all the hair from root to tip, you only have to leave it to soak for 10 minutes before rinsing out. To date, we’ve never had a customer come back and say it didn’t work. Most health food shops carry Licener and at the moment we have an offer where you get two bottles for €14.95. If you can’t find it locally we have it online and can ship it out to you. 

Another option is Delacet – Larkspur and acetic acid are the lice-killing ingredients in this herbal tincture. Once applied, it takes about two-three hours of soaking to eliminate the lice and nits. It has the consistency of water, so it easily penetrates even the thickest of hair. Again, it’s non-toxic and very effective, and the company says there is no need to comb the lice out. I left this on overnight in the end, and it was very effective in just one treatment (this is what I used as it was the only option we had 10 years ago). 

Manual removal of lice, eggs, and nits with a comb

However, if you really want to comb your child’s hair or course you can – just make sure you use a conditioner first to save the tears! To use a lice comb, you simply saturate the scalp and hair with conditioner (any kind will do, but you might as well use Tea Tree), smooth out the hair with a normal fine-toothed comb, then use the lice comb on small sections of the scalp and hair at a time. (It’s worth having a look for ‘lice combing techniques’ on YouTube to get the hang of effectively using a comb.) A lice comb is also a handy tool for conducting periodic ‘lice checks’ at bathtime to catch and eliminate an outbreak in its earliest stages. We have an excellent metal comb called Nitty Gritty, if you need one. 

Killing lice that have spread around the room 

Once you’ve treated your child’s head lice, it’s time to take stock of every surface their head has come into contact with over the last two days. All sheets, pillows, cuddly toys, hoods on clothing, and towels are prime real estate for lice infestations. 

To kill the lice that have spread, run the items through a hot wash cycle then dry them on the highest setting possible. If washing isn’t an option, you can also seal items in a plastic bag for two weeks to suffocate the lice. Finally, all the floors and furniture your child sits or plays on will need a good hoovering. Once finished, bin that hoover bag (outside the house) immediately.    

So your efforts paid off and you got rid of the lice infestation! Now, how do you prevent lice from moving in again? As we said above, periodic scalp checks with a lice comb can catch an outbreak early, or help you spot any lingering eggs following an infestation. But for daily lice defense and prevention, look no further than the world of essential oils. Thankfully for us, some of the loveliest, freshest smelling essential oils are detested by lice.

Nitty Gritty Daily Spray contains a blend of oils, including lavender, tea tree, grapefruit, and neem, that repels lice. Before your child leaves for school or any group activity, spritz it onto their hair, the hoods and collars of their clothing, and their backpack to put up a shield against lice infestation.  

Faith in Nature Tea Tree Shampoo is a normal shampoo and conditioner, not a lice treatment, so it’s perfect for regular use by the entire family. It’s the strong presence of tea tree oil that wards off lice by making your family’s scalps smell unappealing to them. 

If your child keeps getting repeated lice attacks  

If you’ve tried all the above and you’re finding it hard to shift the lice, or your child still gets repeated attacks, it might be time to take a look at your little one’s immune health. 

In many of our conversations with customers over the years, we’ve noticed a pattern: the kids who tend to get repeated lice attacks are also the kids who tend to come down with frequent colds, so taking a winter tonic can be a good idea, along with vitamin D. Kindervital from Salus Haus is an excellent option here, it’s a liquid Tonic with a good range of nutrients and herbal extracts to keep your kids well. I also give a daily dose of VItamin D (choose an age appropriate dose) and vitamin C, and touch wood, it’s worked for the last 10 years! 

For more advice drop into see us in Bantry or email us on 

Organico Shop Deli & Bakery is open Monday-Saturday, 9-6pm and our website is

Hannah Dare

Hannah Dare co-runs Organico, the café, bakery and health shop in Bantry, West Cork.

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