Using Melaleuca or Tea Tree Oil to Treat Head Lice And Nits

Head lice is frustrating and difficult to treat. Most commonly affecting children, head lice are small, tiny insects that feed on the blood of the scalp. Treatment usually involves weeks of shampooing with specialized shampoos and careful removal of dead lice. Melaleuca can be used to treat head lice, though medical evidence has not yet been provided to prove effectiveness or safety of using melaleuca for treating head lice.

What Head Lice are and Who They Affect

The second most common communicable disease affecting school – age children is head lice. Children often get head lice by sitting close to someone who is infected or by sharing headwear. Re-infection is common, resulting in longer treatment times.

Head lice can cause allergic reactions that can cause tiny red bumps to be visible on the scalp, neck and chest. About three millimeters in size, adult lice are visible to the naked eye. The lice eggs, called nits, are much smaller and located around the hair shaft. Resembling dandruff, nits do not brush out of the hair easily.

What Melaleuca Oil Tea Tree is and What It can be Used For

Otherwise known as tea tree oil, melaleuca oil is often used for its antiseptic properties. Alternative health practitioners used melaleuca for ailments such as: fungal infections, acne, cold sores and as a mouth rinse for bad breath and strep infections. Melaleuca oil has not been approved as a safe ingredient and side effects when used orally are serious. Oral use of melaleuca is not recommended.

The Mayo Clinic indicates the following conditions have used melaleuca as a treatment option:

  • Acne: used to reduce inflammation
  • Allergic skin reactions: reduce histamine-induced inflammation
  • Athlete’s foot: anti-fungal properties
  • Bad breath: as mouthwash, dental and oral health. It is not recommended, as it is toxic if ingested.
  • Dandruff: solution of five percent tea tree oil to cure dandruff
  • Dental plaque/ gingivitis: reduce gum inflammation
  • Eye infections: rids the eye area of mite infestations
  • Fungal nail growth: anti-fungal properties
  • Lice: melaleuca oil has been used alone and in combination with other products to combat lice infestations
  • Thrush: ability to kill fungal and yeast infections
  • Vaginal infections: ability to kill fungal and yeast infections

Although used on humans and animals, protected studies have not been done and no medical evidence supports the safe use of melaleuca oil for these conditions.

Treating Head Lice With Tea Tree Melaleuca Oil

Treating head lice involves using specially – formulated shampoos to kill the head lice and nits. Using a nit comb to remove dead or dying nits can be useful as well. The process of shampooing and combing out nits usually lasts for two weeks or until nits are gone. If nits are not all removed, re – infection will occur.

The shampoos used to treat head lice contain insecticides and/or harmful chemicals. These ingredients can be harmful or even fatal to fetuses and infants. Pregnant or nursing mothers should consult with a doctor before using or working with any lice removal shampoos.

Karen MacKenzie is a researcher and author on melaleuca. She has used melaleuca to treat her child’s head lice and her testimonial states that it did work. Karen washed her daughter’s hair with a shampoo that contained melaleuca oil. On the first and 15th day of treatment, Karen added an additional three drops of melaleuca oil.

Side Effects of Melaleuca Tea Tree Oil

The New England Journal of Medicine published a study in 2007 indicating consistent use of lavender oil, or melaleuca oil, may be responsible for causing enlarged breast tissue in pre-pubescent boys.

Dr. Clifford Bloch is a pediatric endocrinologist at the University of Colorado. He diagnosed three boys with perpubertal gynecomastia, a condition that causes the breast tissue to become enlarged. All three patients were found to have used products with either lavender or tea tree oil. Once use of the products stopped, the gynecomastia either subsided or resolved completely.

Since lavender oil and melaleuca oil had an effect on the breast tissue, they are now being considered possible endocrine disruptions. Endocrine disruptors have the ability to alter hormonal levels. Further research and testing is underway.

Warnings When Using Melaleuca Tea Tree Oil

Using melaleuca oil carries the following warnings:

  • Allergies: May cause mild skin allergies or severe blistering rashes
  • Abdominal pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Drowsiness
  • Confusion
  • Balance problems
  • Reduced hearing when put in ears
  • Decrease contractions for pregnant moms

Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for educational purposes only and should not be used for diagnosis or to guide treatment without the opinion of a health professional. Any reader who is concerned about his or her health should contact a doctor for advice.

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