Clove oil is the best home remedy for lice, says my mom

A woman combing hair after using clove oil for head lice removal

The summer season calls for innovative hacks to beat the heat. While I was drinking chilled juices and staying in an air-conditioned room, rain gods surprised everyone with heavy showers. Since it was a holiday, I stepped out and enjoyed the heavy rainfall. It offered respite from the sweltering heat, but I also ended up with head lice. I made the mistake of not washing my hair after getting wet in the rain. My mom told me to use clove oil for lice removal, and it worked for me!

What is head lice?

Little parasitic insects called head lice make the scalp their home and feed on human blood. Though they can affect anyone, it is mostly children who are susceptible to them, says cosmetologist and skin expert Dr Jatin Mittal. The nits that head lice lay, cling tightly to the hair shafts near the scalp. As a result of an allergic reaction to the lice bites, itching is the most typical sign of a head lice infestation. Usually, the itching is more noticeable near the nape of the neck and behind the ears.

Head lice can be transmitted by combs. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

Head lice can be transmitted by intimate physical contact or by exchanging hats, combs, or brushes with someone who is infected. Bad hygiene is not always the cause of head lice infestations. Just like with dirty hair, lice can infest clean hair as well. On the other hand, frequent hair washing could facilitate lice’s ability to adhere to hair shafts, says the expert.

How does clove essential oil help in getting rid of head lice?

Medicated shampoos or lotions created especially to kill lice and their eggs are typically used in head lice treatment, says the expert. Clove oil can also help. In comparison to eucalyptus oil, clove oil was found to be more effective in getting rid of head lice, according to a study published in the International Journal Of Pharmaceutical Sciences And Research in 2015. It can be diluted with other oils too. Clove oil, diluted in sunflower oil, killed more than 90 percent of head lice within two hours after a 30-minute contact, as per a 2017 study published in Parasitology Research.

Clove essential oil may possess insecticidal qualities, which means it may be able to repel or kill insects, including head lice, says Dr Mittal. The chemicals found in clove essential oil, such as eugenol, may have insecticidal effects. When lice come into contact with clove oil, these substances may be harmful to them and cause their death.

How to use clove oil to remove head lice?

Use clove essential oil as a head lice remover by following these tips:

1. Dilute the clove oil

Undiluted essential oils can cause skin irritation due to their high concentration. Blend a small amount of clove essential oil with a carrier oil, like almond, coconut, or olive oil. Two to five drops of clove oil per tablespoon of carrier oil is a typical dilution ratio, says the expert.

2. Apply to the scalp

Using your fingers or a cotton ball, apply the diluted mixture of clove oil directly to the scalp, paying particular attention to the nape of the neck and the areas behind the ears where lice are most likely to be found. For full coverage, gently massage the oil into the scalp.

3. Cover with a shower cap

To retain heat and improve the treatment’s efficacy, cover the head with a towel or shower cap after applying the oil. To allow the oil to enter the eggs (nits) and suffocate the lice, leave it on for a few hours or ideally overnight.

4. Comb out the lice

After some time, take off the shower cap and comb through the hair, beginning at the scalp and moving down to the ends using a fine-toothed comb. This helps in getting rid of any dead lice and leftover nits from the hair.

5. Shampoo and rinse

Use a mild shampoo to give your hair a thorough wash and get rid of any oil and leftover lice or nits. Thoroughly rinse the hair with water.

To completely get rid of the lice and nits, you might need to perform the clove oil treatment several times over the course of a few days or weeks, depending on how bad the infestation is, says Dr Mittal.

What are the side effects of using clove oil for head lice?

The following are some possible adverse reactions to clove essential oil –

  • Due to its high concentration, clove oil can be irritating, reddening, or burning to the skin when used topically or in large amounts. Before using clove oil topically, always dilute it with an appropriate carrier oil and test a small area of the skin for sensitivity using a patch test.
  • Some people may be allergic to the ingredients in clove oil. From minor skin irritation to more serious symptoms like rash, hives, or trouble breathing, allergic reactions can pop up in a variety of ways.

Who should avoid using clove essential oil for head lice?

Clove essential oil works well for treating head lice, but it can’t be used by all.

Cloves on a wooden spoon to make clove oil for head lice removal
Children should not use clove oil for head lice treatment. Image courtesy: Freepik

1. Children

Due to their more sensitive skin, children, especially young ones and newborns, may find clove essential oil to be too strong for them. Children may also be more prone to inadvertently swallow essential oils or get them in their eyes, which can irritate their eyes.

2. Pregnant or breastfeeding women

Due to the possibility of adverse effects on the developing fetus or baby, essential oils should be used with caution by pregnant or breastfeeding women, says the expert. Since there isn’t much information about clove oil’s safety when pregnant or nursing, it is better to be cautious and speak with a doctor before using it.

3. Anyone with sensitive skin or allergies

Clove essential oil can irritate skin or induce allergic contact dermatitis, so anyone with sensitive skin or a history of allergic responses should use it with caution. Before applying clove oil more widely, always do a patch test on a small area of skin. If any negative responses arise, stop using the oil immediately.

Use clove essential oil for head lice removal carefully and adhere to safety instructions and suggested dilution ratios. Also, wash all your clothes, personal belongings, and bedding in hot water and dry them on high heat to avoid reinfestation.

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