Head lice (Pediculus humanus corporis) infestation has once again emerged as a significant worldwide interest, garnering widespread scientific attention. Scientists are gaining new insights about lice, and exploring creative methods to examine how lice respond to changes in their environment.
Recently, scientists from Thailand examined the efficacy of essential oils isolated from several species of ginger and eucalyptus in inhibiting lice egg hatching.1 The researchers found that a combination of essential oils from the eucalyptus and ginger families inhibited lice eggs from hatching at the highest rate, compared to the controls used in the study. Though the methods in this study do not mirror the conditions in an actual head lice infestation, these findings are encouraging and suggest the need for further research to better establish the efficacy of essential oils in addressing this worldwide issue.
Interestingly, the odor of clove oil also possesses lice-repellent properties, as demonstrated in a 2016 nonclinical, experimental study.2 When placed in a petri dish with 50 microliters of clove oil concentrated in one spot, the lice displayed avoidance behavior to the spot with the clove oil. The researchers found that the main chemical constituent of clove oil, eugenol, was likely the compound most responsible for the repellency. They further found that eugenol and beta-caryophyllene, another constituent of clove oil, acted synergistically to repel the lice. The repellency of eugenol and beta-caryophyllene was much greater when the chemicals were used together instead of separately.
While more research is needed to be able to understand essential oils’ effect on head lice, current preliminary research suggests that some oils may have the potential to discourage head lice infestations, whether by inhibition of lice egg hatching or repellency. Essential oils’ impact on lice continues to grow as a fascinating area of essential oil research, with promising insights ahead.
doTERRA Science blog articles are based on a variety of scientific sources. Many of the referenced studies are preliminary, experimental studies and further research is needed to gain a greater understanding of the findings. Essential oils may have drug interactions, patient contraindications, or adverse effects that cannot be evaluated using experimental research results alone. If you are interested in using essential oils for any health concern, consult with your healthcare provider first.