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The only major symptom indicating an infestation of Pediculus capitis is intense itchiness. Fortunately, there are safe, non-toxic remedies for evicting these unwelcome parasites we simply call head lice.

The only major symptom indicating an infestation of Pediculus capitis is intense itchiness. Fortunately, there are safe, non-toxic remedies for evicting these unwelcome parasites we simply call head lice.

Children aged four to 16 are especially prone to head lice. Lice don't fly or jump but are easily transmitted by close head-to-head contact. The good news is they don't transmit infectious diseases. They are easily spotted on the scalp at the nape of the neck and over the ears. They leave small eggs, that are visible on hair shafts, resembling tiny pussy willows.

The most commonly used products for eliminating lice contain toxic ingredients including the insecticides pyrethrin, permethrin, malathion, and lindane. Lindane is suspected of causing nerve damage and blood toxicity, while malathion is highly flammable. Articles published in Archives of Pediatrics and Medicine state "Well-intentioned parents treating their children with toxic or flammable substances have caused several deaths and poisonings."

Naturally, parents are looking for safer, treatment alternatives. Brigitte Mars, renowned herbalist, nutritional consultant, radio show host, and the author of Rawsome! (Basic Health Media, 2004) suggests the use of essential oils to deter skin and scalp parasites. Her list of effective oils to use includes: anise seed, cinnamon leaf, eucalyptus, geranium, lavender, nutmeg, oregano, rosemary, sassafras, tea tree, and thyme.

There are many lice-busting kits available at your local health food store. Mars suggests that no matter what method you use to eliminate head lice, wash everything that may have come in contact with the lice. Add 20 drops of tea tree oil to the laundry water and use the hot dryer cycle. Seal other affected items in a garbage bag, and leave it undisturbed for two weeks. As a final precaution against head lice, don't forget to vacuum everything.

Brigitte's Homemade Head Lice Formula

4 Tbsp (40 ml) vegetable oil
10 drops eucalyptus essential oil
10 drops lavender essential oil
15 drops rosemary essential oil
15 drops tea tree essential oil

Combine in a jar. Shake well. Before going to bed, apply thoroughly to head and scalp. Put on a plastic shower cap and leave overnight.

In the morning, wash hair well with a shampoo to which tea tree oil has been added (30 drops tea tree oil per 1 cup (250 mL) shampoo). Lather well and leave on the head for five minutes. Rinse.

With a fine-toothed plastic or metal "nitpicking comb," carefully comb out any remaining lice eggs on the hair shaft near the scalp. Wipe the eggs off the comb with a tissue. Flush away any contaminated tissues and either safely discard or boil the comb for at least 5 minutes after use. Repeat this process in 10 days.

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