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Su B Headlice

Sunday was National Bug Busting Day, apparently. The aim is to make a concerted effort to eradicate headlice, which have been endemic among schoolchildren since schools were invented, and in the general population for a lot longer than that.

We don’t have a hope of completely eradicating them, but there is a lot we can do to keep them at a low level.

Various medications are prescribed to kill them, and – like bacteria exposed to antibiotics – new strains develop which are resistant

In the long term, it just complicates the problem. The traditional herbal treatments include adding Tea Tree oil to shampoo (about 2-3 drops is enough), and making an infusion of Quassia bark chips to rinse the hair. These are still effective, but you also have to use a nit-comb regularly on damp hair, to get rid of the eggs (known as nits) which are attached to the hairs, and take about two weeks to hatch.

Headlice thrive on the heads of children and women, but they don’t get on so well with testosterone, so men are less prone to infestation. And you can’t prevent re-infection, so regular checking is necessary. You may not see the lice themselves, but nits are plainly visible, especially behind the ears and at the nape of the neck.

In pre-modern times, people used to ‘groom’ each other regularly, as monkeys do today

It doesn’t get rid of the lice completely, but it does deter them, and perhaps it had some social value too. Nowadays, mothers do this for their children, but the old rules apply. Headlice are a nuisance, but they are not dangerous to our health. Of course we deal with them when we see them, but wiping them out is not an option.

Nature abhors a vacuum. We already have ‘superbugs’ in our hospitals; let’s not create a niche for ‘superlice’ as well.

Meet The Author...
Su Bristow
Who Am I?
I studied at the School of Herbal Medicine for four years, and qualified in 1989, becoming a member of the National Institute of Medical Herbalists ( The road to herbal medicine led from my early interest in organic gardening and healthy eating, through the study of social and physical anthropology at Cambridge, where I specialised in medical anthropology. What fascinated me was how people deal with their health problems when they have only the natural resources around them, and their own ingenuity. I went on to learn massage and reflexology, and worked at a residential naturopathic clinic, where I learned about the use of diet and other natural ways of healing. After qualifying as a herbalist, I set up practice in mid-Devon. Since then I have continued to expand my expertise, with counselling skills, first aid, and knowledge of the Chinese and Ayurvedic systems of herbal medicine. Besides one-to-one consultation, I have also taught evening classes, students of the Westcountry Massage Association, and various private courses.
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