You are probably aware that castor oil is appreciated by some as a remedy for constipation. However, you may not be aware of its use as an antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal, or that it has been used topically to treat a variety of skin issues, stimulate your immune system, and reduce pain.
This article will reveal the benefits of this unusual oil, and of course, investigate what modern science has to say about it.
Castor oil comes from the castor seed, Ricinus communis, which has a very unusual chemical composition. It is a triglyceride, composed of fatty acids, 90 percent of which is ricinoleic acid. It is thought ricinoleic acid to be responsible for castor oil’s unique healing properties.
Part of the Castor seed heals, but another part kills!
The potent toxin ricin is made from a protein in the castor seeds that, if ingested gets into your cells where it prevents protein synthesis, which kills the cells. Even though such a toxic component is also derived from this seed, castor oil isn’t considered dangerous.
According to the International Journal of Toxicology’s Final Report on Castor Oi, you don’t have to worry about castor oil being contaminated by ricin because ricin does not “partition” into the castor oil. Castor oil has been added to cosmetic products for many years, without incident.
The Joint Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)/World Health Organization (WHO) Expert Committee on Food Additives has established an acceptable daily castor oil intake of up to 0.7 mg/kg body weight. This amounts to, roughly, one tablespoon for adults and one teaspoon for children. Taking castor oil orally usually results in a “purging” of the digestive tract in about four to six hours.
Castor oil is not with side effects
Castor oil’s main side effects fall into the categories of skin reactions and gastrointestinal upset. Castor oil is broken down by your small intestine into ricinoleic acid, which acts as an irritant to your intestinal lining.
This effect is what gives castor oil the ability to reverse constipation, but it’s also the reason that some people report digestive discomfort, diarrhea, and other gastrointestinal side effects.
If you suffer from cramps, irritable bowel syndrome, gastric ulcers, diverticulitis, hemorrhoids, colitis, prolapses, or have recently undergone surgery, you should probably avoid castor oil due to these possible adverse reactions.
Modern medicinal uses for Castor oil
In general, the reported medicinal uses of castor oil fall into the following five general categories:
1. Gastrointestinal remedy
2. Antimicrobial (antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal)
3. Labor stimulant
4. Anti-inflammatory and analgesic
5. Immune system and lymphatic stimulant
The oil’s benefits can be derived by topical application, and it appears to be useful for a variety of skin conditions like dermatosis, keratosis, acne, wound healing, ringworm, warts and other skin infections, itching, sebaceous cysts, and even hair loss. Castor oil and ricinoleic acid also improve the absorption of other agents across your skin.
In fact, castor oil has been reportedly used to treat all of the following conditions listed below:
- Multiple sclerosis
- Parkinson’s disease
- Cerebral palsy
- Migraine and other headaches
- Cholecystitis (inflamed gallbladder)
- Liver ailments, including cirrhosis
- Appendicitis, colitis, and other intestinal problems
- Eye irritation
- Gynecological problems
Castor oil may promote healing by boosting your lymphatic system
One of the more compelling health benefits is castor oil’s support of your immune system. And this healing property does not require you ingest the oil, but only apply it externally. When used properly, castor oil packs improve the function of your thymus gland and other components of your immune system.
Lymphocytes are your immune system’s disease-fighting cells and are produced and stored mainly in your lymphatic tissue. Hundreds of miles of lymphatic tubules allow waste to be collected from your tissues and transported to your blood for elimination, a process referred to as lymphatic drainage. When your lymphatic system is not working properly, waste and toxins can build up and make you sick.
Lymphatic congestion is a major factor leading to inflammation and disease. This is where castor oil comes in. When castor oil is absorbed through your skin, your lymphocyte count increases. Increased lymphocytes speed up the removal of toxins from your tissues, which promotes healing.
Castor oil packs a punch, topically
Castor oil packs are one of the most efficient and economical methods of infusing ricinoleic acid (and other components of castor oil) directly into your tissues and bloodstream.
To use castor oil, you can either apply it directly on the area of the skin that’s affected (and cover it with a band-aid if it’s a small area), use it as a massage oil, or you can do a castor oil pack.
To make a castor oil pack, you will need the following supplies:
- High quality cold-pressed castor oil
- A hot water bottle or heating pad
- Plastic wrap, sheet of plastic, or plastic garbage bag
- Two or three one-foot square pieces of wool or cotton flannel, or one piece large enough to cover the entire treatment area when folded in thirds
- One large old bath towel
Below are instructions for making and using a castor oil pack:
- Fold your flannel into three layers thick, or stack three squares large enough to cover the abdomen/stomach area.
- Soak flannel with the oil so that it is completely saturated.
- Lie on your back comfortably on your bed or on a couch. Place the flannel pack directly onto your abdomen, and cover with a sheet of plastic, next placed on top with a hot water bottle or heating pad.
- Cover everything with a towel to insulate the heat, and leave on for 20-30 minutes.
- Once finished, wash the oil off with water and soap or baking soda and water if it won’t come off.
- Don’t throw out the flannel. Keep it in a large ziplock bag and store it away. You can re-use about several times, re-saturating it with oil for each use.
- Apply at least four consecutive days per week for one month.
What type of Castor oil should you buy?
As with most products you apply to the skin, you should opt for oils that have been grown without the use of pesticides, and that have been extracted without the use of solvents or other chemicals. Make sure you buy an organic cold-pressed castor oil, as this will provide you with the best benefits.