Dhattura (Datura metel Linn.) - Dhattura is a popular medicinal plant of India documented for its anti-lice efficacy in the classical Ayurvedic literature. Bhavamishra1 describes the use of Dhattura seeds for the treatment of Yuka (lice) and Liksha (nits). The plant is enlisted in the Ayurvedic Pharmacopoeia of India2 providing pharmacopoeial standards and uses of the whole plant and seeds.
Dhattura plant grows as a weed throughout India. The plant is an erect and succulent annual herb or shrub about one metre in height with often purplish branches and triangular ovate leaves, bell-shaped flowers having purplish colour outside and white inside and round, thorny fruits. Dhattura seeds are light brown to yellowish brown in colour.
Composition - The paste for application over lice-infested parts consists of Dhattura seeds.
English name - Thorn apple
Latin name - Datura metel Linn.
Family - Solanaceae
Part used - Leaf and seeds.
Main chemical constituents - Tropane alkaloids such as hyoscyamine, atropine, scopolamine, etc. and fixed oil.
Dosage form - Greenish juice of leaves and yellowish-brown oily powder of seeds.
Therapeutic properties - Dhattura is known to have strong nematicidal, analgesic, anti-viral, anthelmintic and anti-spasmodic properties by virtue of which it is useful in treating lice infestation and associated symptoms.
Indications and uses - Lice infestation with or without nits in the head, pubic and other regions of the body and associated symptoms of itching and skin rash is the main indication for the use of Dhattura paste or juice on affected parts.
Precautions and safety aspects -It is important to observe the following precautions:
(1) Dhattura is a poisonous medicinal plant and hence it should be used with care.
(2) While applying or removing leaf juice or seed paste of Dhattura, due care must be taken that the medicine does not get into the eyes, mouth, ear, nose and other natural openings of the human body.
(3) Remove the dead or partially inactivated lice with a narrowtooth comb or manually.
(4) Mixing Dhattura medication with other drugs with similar action is not desirable as drug to drug interaction is unknown.
(5) The most important step in treating head lice infestation is to treat the person and other family members simultaneously with medication to kill the lice and prevent re-infestation and cross-infection.