The use of castor oil has been around for a long, long time. It was used by the early Egyptians and adopted in India, China, Africa, Greece, Rome, and later Europe and the Americas. Most commonly known for its use as a powerful laxative, castor oil’s most remarkable healing properties really come from its external application.
Castor oil comes from the castor seed, native to India. It is extremely high in ricinoleic acid, which is thought to be responsible for its health promoting abilities. It should be noted that while castor oil has health benefits, ingestion of the castor seed is highly dangerous, however, the FDA has deemed taking castor oil internally to be safe.
I have heard that castor oil has been recommended for women to take internally to help induce labor, but it isn’t my first choice for this or even as a laxative. There are other, more gentle methods, without the side effects that castor oil can produce, such as extreme digestive upset. But external application has been prescribed to treat several different health conditions that I can get on board with. Some of these include:
• improve elimination (constipation)
• stimulate the liver and gallbladder
• dissolve adhesions
• dissolve stones
• relieve pain
• relax the nerves
• remove toxins
• increase circulation of blood and lymph
• improve digestion
• reduce inflammation and swelling
• stimulate the endocrine system
Castor oil is used externally in three ways. First, castor oil may be applied directly to the skin for dryness, rashes, hives, fungus, infections, boils, liver spots (age spots), warts, etc. Also for infection or fungus in the finger or toe nails. Apply castor oil directly and gently rub into the area for a minute or two. Repeat this application 2 or 3 times a day for a few weeks or up to two months in the case of stubborn warts.
Second, the application of castor oil packs can bring relief for any kind of trauma, sprain or degenerative joint disorder. It may also be used for back pain. (See instructions below on how to make a castor oil pack.)
Third, castor oil packs are used for cleansing and regulating the internal organs. For disorders relating to the digestion, intestines, liver, lungs or reproductive organs a series of castor oil packs on the abdomen for up to 90 minutes a day can have remarkable effects. In my practice of Chinese Medicine, the most common use of a castor oil pack is for shrinking uterine fibroids or noncancerous ovarian cysts. It can also help with menstrual cramps. It contains anti-inflammatory and blood circulating properties which can aid in many gynecological issues.
How to make and use a castor oil pack:
Be aware that castor oil packs can be messy and stain, so I advise using a towel or an old sheet under you while you marinate!
• First, get a large piece of dye free, unbleached cotton or wool flannel and fold it into thirds. The size will depend on what part of the body you want to use it on. You can probably buy some at your local fabric store.
• Next, soak without over saturating, with high quality, organic cold pressed castor oil.
• After placing on your body part, cover with plastic wrap, a plastic trash bag will even do, or a wrap around pack (see below for a full castor oil pack kit.)
• Apply heat over your pack using a hot water bottle (my preference) or a heating pad.
• Relax with your pack for anywhere between 30 to 90 minutes. I take this time to read, meditate, or practice mindful breathing.
• Store your flannel in a glass or plastic container or even a zip lock bag in the fridge because you can reuse it multiple times. Make sure your pack stays saturated and discard when it starts to change color or if it starts to smell a little funny.
• For optimal benefit, use your castor oil pack once daily until you see desired results.
As an acupuncturist and practitioner of Chinese Medicine, I typically take the natural health route first, but if your medical condition requires further intervention or if you are pregnant, please consult your primary care physician.
If you would like to purchase a full castor oil kit, you can get it online here: Radiant Life
For you, in good health, naturally.