Scabies & Lice


Scabies are tiny mites which tunnel under the skin to lay their eggs, frequently leaving a visible mark on the skin as they do so.  Scabies are most commonly found on the hands, wrists, abdomen and genitals, but in very young children they can occur anywhere on the body.

Lice are insects that feed on blood and lay their eggs, which are called nits, on the skin’s surface or on clothing.  They are found most often on the scalp or in the pubic hair, but they can also be found anywhere on the body. 

Both of these vermin are highly contagious and should be treated at once when detected.


Scabies and lice can be transferred via contact with someone who is currently infected with them.  Head lice can be picked up by contact with someone who is infected through touching their hats, combs and brushes.  Pubic lice are transmitted during sexual relations with someone who is infested with them, or through contact with infested bedding.  Living in small quarters, poor hygiene and contact with infested bedding can also increase the risk of contracting body lice.


In the case of scabies, the first symptom will probably be an itching sensation that is more intense in the evening, followed by a red rash that can form a crust. 

Lice also cause itching and sometimes can be the cause of a rash.


Both of these conditions can be properly diagnosed through a physical examination.


If treating head lice and pubic lice, a fine-tooth comb will be necessary to remove the lice eggs and nits, because they are not affected by insecticides.  Wash all the affected bedding and clothing in hot water or dry clean these items to ensure the lice and scabies will not spread.

A concoction of anise oil, ylang ylang oil and coconut oil can be made and applied to the scalp in order to control head lice.  A preparation made from citronella and applied topically can be used to prevent a re-infestation of had lice.  A preparation made of essential oils from the leaves of moldenke (bush tea) is known to be effective in fighting scabies.

Scabies are often treated with a cream which contains permethrin, which is an insecticide.  If this one-time cream does not accomplish the job, an oral drug called ivermectin is used.  This drug kills parasites. 

Pubic lice and head lice are generally treated with a shampoo containing permethrin or pyrethrin and piperonyt butoxie.  Body lice are treated with a wash or cream containing the same ingredients, which are known to be effective against parasites.

A topical cream made from turmeric and an herb called neem is often used for eliminating scabies.  Making use of an oatmeal bath can relieve itchiness and be cooling to the skin.  Use one cup of oatmeal tied into a cheese cloth with a string.  Float it in the bathtub and soak in the tub for 20 to 30 minutes.

As in other skin conditions, tea tree oil is a powerful herbal disinfectant.  Apply undiluted tea tree oil twice a day to the affected area.  Comfrey can be used as a topical salve and can be applied to the skin twice a day. 

The proper diet to combat scabies and lice should have foods which are high in zinc to boost the immune system.  These foods include turkey, fish, eggs, milk, black strap molasses and wheat germ.  Avoid foods that tend to dry the blood and cause infections, such as fish, prawns, chilies and pepper.

Natural remedies to try include:

  • Evening primrose – The oil of evening primrose is also used for treating eczema because it soothes the skin. 

  • St. John’s wort – Steep some flowering shoots of St. John’s wort for a few days in enough evening primrose oil to cover them.  Dab the oil directly onto the affected areas using a clean cloth or cotton ball.  If you cannot find fresh St. John’s wort, you can use a tincture.

  • Neem and Turmeric – Neem is a tree native to India that is very successful  when used against insects.  Neem is used in organic pesticides around the world.  A recent study which utilized a paste made from four parts of fresh neem leaves mixed with one part turmeric root showed 98 percent of the affected people in the study had substantial improvement in just three to five days.

  • Onion – Boil the skins of 5 or 6 onions for 15 to 30 minutes in one pint of water.  Let the liquid cool and apply liberally all over the body.  Onion skins contain quercetin, which has incredible soothing powers for itchy skin conditions.

  • American pennyroyal – Pennyroyal has long been known to repel fleas.  The plant was formerly known as “fleabane.” Pennyroyal is frequently used as the active ingredient in herbal flea collars.

  • Walnut – These nuts contain a chemical known as juglone which can be used for treating mite infestations.  Make a wash by boiling a few cracked walnut shell pieces in a cup of water until half of the water has evaporated.  Apply the water very liberally to the skin.


When scabies or lice are suspected, wash all clothes, towels and bed linens which have been used by the person thought to be infected.  Launder these items in hot water with good detergent.  Practicing good hygiene (particularly in institutional settings, which are often crowded) is essential in prevention of these two conditions.

Who is at Risk

Persons who are at risk for scabies and lice include those who come in contact with an infected person, contact with infested bedding or clothing, those who practice poor hygiene, and people who share personal items such as brushes and combs.



  1. Bratman, S. The Alternative Medicine Ratings Guide: an expert panel rates the best treatments for over 80 conditions, Prima Health A Division of Prima Publishing (1998)
  2. Brown, L. Alternative Medicine, NTC/Contemporary Publishing (1999)
  3. Deepak Chopra, M.D. Alternative Medicine: The Definitive Guide, Celestial Arts (2002)
  4. Duke, J. The Green Pharmacy: Herbal remedies for common diseases and conditions from the world's foremost authority on healing herbs,Rodale Limited (2003)
  5. Nancy Allison. The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Body-Mind Disciplines, The Rosen Publishing Group (1999)
  6. Servan-Schreiber, D. The Encyclopedia of New Medicine: Conventional & Alternative Medicine For All Ages, Rodale International Limited (2006)

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