Have you heard of or used castor oil before? I have successfully prescribed castor oil for many years now for myself, my family and friends as well as for my clients, and have seen it work very well for a number of complaints. As a relatively unknown and thus greatly underutilised remedy, castor oil deserves a permanent place in our home medicine kits.
Castor oil has long been valued as an inexpensive, easy to use and highly effective home remedy for detoxing the liver and gastrointestinal tract, healing the skin, decreasing inflammation and pain, and calming the emotions.
The oil is made from the castor bean plant (Ricinus communis). The main active (therapeutic) ingredient of the oil is called ricinoleic acid. The exact mechanisms of action for this amazing plant have not been fully understood as yet, with a few animal studies confirming its anti-inflammatory and pan relieving properties (1). Most of the therapeutic applications come from traditional/ folk medicine uses in many parts of the world.
The main uses for topical castor oil include:
- Digestion – castor oil applied over the liver and abdomen helps to treat liver congestion, hepatitis, liver cirrhosis, gall bladder disease and stones. For anyone looking to cleanse the liver or eliminate gallbladder sludge, the pack is a vital part of any treatment. It’s also highly effective for constipation (2), IBS, inflammatory bowel disease, abdominal pain and inflammation, bloating, bowel adhesions, and any infections in pelvic organs such as bladder infections.
- Pain, inflammation and swelling– topical castor oil is successfully used to relieve pain and inflammation of any sort including joint pain and inflammation from rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis, bursitis or tendinitis, muscle and ligament sprains, as well as uterine cramping and abdominal pain related to menstruation.
- Skin– castor oil can help with bacterial or fungal skin infections, eczema, acne, rashes, boils, abscesses, age spots, sebaceous cysts, warts, prevents and lessens stretch marks and ringworm. It quickly calms skin rashes through its strong anti-inflammatory action, and softens the skin making it a great natural beauty aid.
- Lymphatic and immune systems – lymphatic congestion is a major factor leading to inflammation and disease. Lymphatic system is a major part of the body’s detoxification processes. The oil relieves painful and swollen lymph nodes and helps to move the lymph throughout the body enhancing its detox capacities. It also helps to support and rejuvenate the immune system via its actions on T-cells and prostaglandins (3).
- Sleep – castor oil is also helpful for better sleep which makes the pack a good night time self-care technique to help with insomnia and feel calmer and more relaxed. This action is possibly linked to the oil’s anti-inflammatory properties.
How to make a castor oil pack
- A bottle of organic castor oil, non-organic oils may contain residues of pesticides and chemicals used to cultivate it. The toxins will be absorbed from the oil to the body.
- A soft, clean, thick material like flannel, wool, or cotton (organic is best)
- A glass bowl or glass jar that you can pour the castor oil in over the flannel
- A hot water bottle or heating pad
- Old clothes that you don’t mind getting stained since castor oil permanently stains fabric
- A plastic bag (e.g. kitchen or regular garbage bags)
- A large, old towel
- Get your hot water bottle or heating pad/ water bottle ready.
- Take a piece of flannel and place it in the bowl or glass container and pour enough castor oil over it to soak it (make sure it’s saturated, but it doesn’t need to be dripping in oil).
- Place an old towel on a flat surface (either a couch, bed or the floor). For added protection, you can put down a garbage bag underneath the towel so that your bed or couch won’t get stained from any oil that may escape from the plastic cover.
- Place the saturated flannel over the affected area of your body and cover the pack with plastic.
- Place the heating pad or hot water bottle over the pack, cover with a towel and let it sit on the treated area such as the liver for at least 30-60 minutes. During this time you can rest, read a book, listen to music, meditate, or do your healing affirmations. If treating the liver, you can lie on the right side over the pack.
- When the time is up, remove the pack and clean the area with water and a bit of baking soda to get the stickiness off.
You can keep the pack for reuse for a few months), stored in a plastic bag in a cool place. Just add another 2-3 tablespoons of castor oil for the next session.
I recommend having 2-3 castor oil packs per week for liver detox over 2-3 weeks but if you have time for more (to do them daily), that would greatly enhance healing and repair. To boost the liver detox have 1 tablespoon of olive oil just before you apply the pack.
If you’d like to watch how to make and apply castor pack, here is a great YouTube video that shows how to do it.
Contraindications and cautions
Castor oil packs should not be used over open wounds or ulcers, during pregnancy or heavy menstrual bleeding, or over areas of malignancy, numbness or weakness.
The above material is for informational and educational purposes only, and is not intended as a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Please consult with your doctor to learn if castor oil packs are appropriate for you.
Naturopath Herbalist Nutritionist
- Vieira C, Evangelista S, Cirillo R, et al. Effect of ricinoleic acid in acute and subchronic experimental models of inflammation. Mediators Inflamm. 2000;9(5):223-228. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=11200362
- Arslan GG, Eser I. An examination of the effect of castor oil packs on constipation in the elderly. Complement Ther Clin Pract. 2011;17(1):58 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21168117
- Kennedy DA, Keaton D. Evidence for the Topical Application of Castor Oil. Int J Nat Med. 2012;5(1).
- Mein EA, Richards DG, McMillin DL, Nelson CD. Transdermal absorption of castor oil. Evid Based Integrative Med.2005;2(4):239-244.
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