Although scientific studies are few, castor oil has been used for thousands of years for a wide variety of health issues and as an ingredient for beauty products.
History of Castor Oil
Castor oil comes from the castor seed, a triglyceride comprised of fatty acids, 90% of which is ricinoleic acid. It is thought to be responsible for the unique properties of castor oil. The castor seed plant is native to India. Centuries ago it used to be referred to as Palma Christie because the leaves were said to resemble Jesus's hands. This association was likely made due to its healing properties.
Side Effects of Castor Oil
Castor oil is not without side effects. The main side effects are skin reactions and gastrointestinal upset. It is broken down by the small intestines into ricinoleic acid which is irritating to the intestinal lining. Therefor it can relive constipation. Anyone who suffers from ulcer, colitis, hemorrhoids and diverticulitis should avoid using castor oil. Even though castor oil was traditionally used to induce labor, some women experience nausea.
Medicinal Uses of Castor Oil
Notwithstanding the adverse side effects, castor oil was widely used by the Indians for arthritis, sciatica and lower back pain.
Some Other Uses of Castor Oil
- Vaginal and bladder infections
- Gastrointestinal remedy
- Labor stimulant
- Immune system and lymphatic
- Anti-inflammatory, analgesic
- Topically for skin conditions, like keratosis, dermatitis, acne, ring worm, warts, other skin conditions, hair loss
- Enhances absorption of other agents across the skin
According to the American Cancer Society some oncologists use castor oil to deliver certain chemotherapy medications to tumors.
Industrial Uses of Castor Oil
- Mold inhibitor
- Food coloring and Additive Agent
- Ingredient in cosmetic and skin care products
- Lubricant, as it doesn't freeze
- Manufacturing of plastic, synthetic resins, paints, leather treatments, fibers, etc.
Castor Oil Packs
Castor oil packs are an efficient and economical way of infusing your body with ricinoleic acid and other healing ingredients. There are a couple of ways to apply castor oil. You can rub it onto the affected area. For larger or systemic applications you can massage with it. Reportedly it is effective if massaged along the spinal column, along the lymphatic drainage pathways. The best therapeutic way is to use it in a form of castor oil pack. It enhances circulation and promotes healing of the organs underneath the skin.
Castor oil packs are placed on the following areas:
- The right side of the abdomen as part of liver detox
- Inflamed and sore joints, bursitis, muscle pain
- The abdomen to relive constipation and other digestive issues
- The lower abdomen for urinary, menstrual and other female health concerns
You will need the following for the castor oil pack:
- High quality cold pressed castor oil (Palma Christie)
- A heating pad or a hot water bottle
- Plastic wrap or sheet
- Two or three one-foot square pieces of wool or cotton flannel, or one piece large enough to cover the entire treatment area when
- Large towel
- 6. Old clothes and sheets, castor oil will stain clothes and bedding
Soak the folded flannel sheet in castor oil, place it onto the affected area, cover it with plastic and towel, and place the heating pad over it. Leave it on for 45-60 minutes. After removal you can remove the oil residue from the skin with warm baking soda solution. Store the flannel in a plastic bag and re-use it until it starts changing color. It is recommended to use it 3-5 days a week.
Sourcing Your Castor Oil
Just like with everything else you have to be careful where you buy castor oil. Most of the castor oil sold in stores has been heavily sprayed with pesticides, has been solvent-extracted, deodorized, which damages the phytonutrients and contaminates it. Aim for a cold-pressed organic oil when it is possible.
As not all of the health benefits of castor oil are scientifically proven, proceed with caution.