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A lousy business

How an ordinary homeopath and mother ended up killing millions

money, money

Head lice are big business! In 1995 the UK market for conventional head lice
pesticide medicines was worth $23.5 million (US$). Just three years later, the
figure had more than doubled to $48.5 million. This points to a fact that many
families are discovering: the conventional kill-destroy approach is expensive,
and it doesn't work.
     When I was at homeopathy college I was told head
lice could be successfully gotten rid of with a dose of the homeopathic remedy
Staphisagria. I duly tried out that theory and was underwhelmed with the results.
Thereafter I always took a full case of the person with head lice and then prescribed
the best homeopathic match I could find. This approach seemed to bring better
     A couple of times in my practice, I came across
children who had been dosed with conventional pesticide medicines so often that
they seemed to have poisoning symptoms: lethargy, pallor, dark circles under
the eyes, loss of appetite, nausea, and weakness. In one case, the homeopathic
remedy Nux vomica helped quite spectacularly.
     I felt uneasy to think that well-meaning parents
were spending large sums of money and were frequently dosing their kids with
very poisonous substances, Pyrethrum and Malathion (of DDT fame), often to a
level way beyond manufacturer's recommended limits, because of the problem of
constant lice reinfestation.

The lice hit home
Despite a worldwide louse epidemic, my own family remained blissfully untouched
by the problem for a long time. However, when my daughter reached the age of
seven she finally got the little brother she had had on order for a long time.
Her only-child world got turned upside down by a boy who found life down here
very difficult and made sure we all knew about it! Suddenly she became infested
with head lice. Susceptibility is a much-overlooked issue in the lice debate.
Why is it that some children and most adults can sit next to someone who is totally
infested and emerge unscathed? (Answers on a postcard please …)
     Once we were forced to deal with the problem directly,
my husband and I set about investigating the whole subject in depth. Thank God
for the Internet, which is a mine of wonderful information at such times. So
here is …

The low-down on lice
The head louse is a beautifully adapted six-legged wingless breeding machine.
Having found a new host, it uses its specially adapted legs and claws to grab
hold of the hair strands. It will try to stay close to the scalp, often hiding
in the thicker hair at the back of the scalp or behind the ears where it bites
and feasts on blood. To survive, it will need to feed daily on human blood and
live in human hair. Contrary to popular opinion, it will not give a hoot if the
hair is clean or filthy provided there is a heart beating somewhere beneath it!

We are family
Adult lice, from around two weeks old, can start to mate. The female begins to
lay eggs (nits). They are tear-shaped and pinhead size. Using a natural glue
on the hair strands, she sticks the eggs near to the scalp where the warmth of
the head will help them to incubate. The unhatched eggs reflect the color of
their surroundings making them very difficult to see in dry or wet hair. She
may lay 6--10 eggs a day for up to 2 weeks. Do the math and you'll see that could
mean up to 140 offspring waiting to happen. Cozy and hidden, her progeny will
emerge around 7--10 days later. Once the baby louse has hatched, its empty eggshell
will glisten white on the hair, making it easy to spot, but by that time the
little critters will already be out and about. In just 7--14 days the louse will
molt three times until it is the size of a match-head, then just like Ma and
Pa it will start doing the nasty too. 140 times 140 = 19,600. How many angels
was it that could fit on the head of a pin again?

The road less traveled
So much for know thine enemy. Next we had to decide what to do about it. Philosophically
and practically we had seen and heard enough to know that the pesticide route
was not the way forward. Such antipathic approaches often cause the original
problem to escalate. Over time, more and more medicine is needed just to get
the same effect.
     Antibiotics have given rise to multi-resistant
strains of bacteria, and the use of pesticides has had a similar effect on the
head louse. Whatever doesn't kill us makes us stronger, and the same is true
for insects and microscopic organisms. Natural treatments such as tea tree oil
claim to be safer, and perhaps they are, but they still work on the same premise,
namely they kill things by poisoning them. This left one approach, the wet combing
method. Initially we tried a very fine-toothed metal comb designed for combing
fleas from pets. This caused many a tear before bedtime (mostly mine in pure
frustration) and was discarded.

No sex please we're British
The Internet came to our rescue again when we found a charity based in Britain
called Community Hygiene Concern. They are not a very sexy charity, concentrating
exclusively as they do on head lice and dog mess, so they have to struggle to
get any donations or money from public funds. (Toxicara, a parasite, can spread
to humans via dog feces, and can cause blindness.) Nevertheless, they were determined
to introduce the concept of coitus interruptus to the world of the louse. They
had developed a set of five specially-designed, graded combs and a wet combing
regimen using ordinary conditioner.
     This so-called Bug Busting method was not only
a very effective way of determining whether or not someone had lice, but was
also an excellent way of getting rid of lice if they did. Like all great ideas,
it was beautifully simple: by Bug Busting with these special combs four times
every fourth day, you could actually break the lousy life cycle and stop the
critters from breeding. The combs were so fine, they even removed the eggs and
empty eggshells.

Contacting my inner primate
Reader, I bought the Bug Busting kit, followed the instructions (rare enough
for me), and got combing. I felt like a big mama gorilla and really got into
the grooming thing, but the moral dilemma remained. Of course, there was nothing
to say that I had to kill those bugs once I'd combed them right outta her hair,
but setting them free in the garden would just have meant a slow death from starvation.
So I confess I just squished them on some tissue and threw them on the fire.
I admire their powers of adaptation and feel they still have a good chance of
inheriting the earth, but if I have to choose between a bunch of thirsty bloodsuckers
and my beloved daughter … it is a no-brainer. So to cut a long bit of
self-justifying rambling short, to my utter relief, the Bug Busting kit actually
did what it said on the box.

Contacting my inner entrepreneur
I was so impressed I bought 1000 … that's the kind of girl I am. I think
it's genetic. When my grandfather died he left a legacy of hundreds of bristle
toothbrushes. I guess it seemed like a good idea at the time (just after World
War II). Not wanting to leave a similar legacy, with the help of my techno whiz
kid husband I wrote to every elementary school and health board in Ireland to
tell them of our discovery, and soon after, we started mailing out the comb kits
to desperate parents.
     They liked them. What's not to like? They are cheap.
One kit can treat loads of kids. Your kids don't risk getting poisoned. The lice
are history. The parents told their friends and parents' associations. I started
being invited to speak on regional and national radio shows, and we started to
get big orders from health boards and schools who wanted to encourage simultaneous
Bug Busting efforts to cut down the risk of reinfestation.

Live and let die
That was all many moons and several thousand Bug Buster kits ago. So now here
I sit at my laptop … a mass murderer and that's why I'm praying that next
life I don't come back as a Pediculus capitas.

*To find out more about Bug Busting, visit

About the author:
Mary Aspinwall studied at the London College of Homeopathy and is a Dynamis School
graduate. She is a Registered member of the Irish Society of Homeopaths. In 1992
she designed the best-selling Helios Double Helix homeopathic medicine kits for
home use, foreign travel, and childbirth and wrote A Basic Guide to Homeopathy.
She now has a large, busy holistic health center in the South West of Ireland,
teaches for the Irish School of Homeopathy, and together with her saintly husband
You can read more of her cases and articles there.