Castor Oil: 5 Benefits to Using this Ancient Remedy
Castor oil has been around for centuries. The Egyptians first used it about 3500 years ago to combat dry eyes. The oil is still used by some ophthalmologists today to relieve symptoms associated with dry eye disease. However, I wouldn’t recommend you pour pure castor oil on your eyes after a night of binge-watching Netflix.
Nevertheless, castor oil does have a list of other benefits that make it a must to include in your routine. Here’s a list of 5 of the best uses and benefits of castor oil to wrap into your routine.
What is Castor Oil?
Castor oil is made by pressing castor seeds from the ricinus communis plant. Castor is rich in ricinoleic acid. Ricinoleic acid makes up 90% of the oil and this has been linked to the oils numerous benefits.
Castor Oil Packs
Many experience the side effects associated with using castor when it’s ingested. That said, the oil also has a horrible taste and can cause nausea and even vomiting, which is reason enough to avoid using it internally. However, there’s no need to ingest it. Castor oil provides most of its benefits when you apply the oil topically through castor oil packs.
How To Make a Castor Oil Pack
To begin, you’ll need organic wool flannel, hexane free castor oil and a hot water bottle.
It is preferred to use a hot water bottle as opposed to an electric heating pad. Castor works best with damp heat. You can either apply the castor to the wool flannel or you can apply the oil directly on the affected area. To produce the best results, leave the pack on the treated area for 30 minutes to 2 hours maximum. On a busy day, I’ll just do about 20 minutes, and I can feel better in just that short amount of time – make it work for you!
Castor oil is messy and can stain. I wouldn’t use these packs while lying on your fanciest Egyptian cotton sheets and neither would the Egyptians! So, be sure to place something between you and your precious furniture or sheets – an old towel, sheet or curtain should do, and don’t forget to wear old clothes!
The Amazing Benefits of Castor Oil
Strengthens Your Immune System and Detoxification
The ricinoleic acid in castor targets the lymphatic system, helping your body produce or increase production of lymphocytes. Lymphocytes are the body’s natural disease fighter. They help drain your body of any toxins and proteins that have built up over time. Ridding the body of this accumulated waste in the blood can help improve your immune system.
Using castor oil packs over the liver is a time honored tradition. Many schools of traditional medicine have used castor to help support optimized liver function, to improve detoxification and to reduce inflammation in the liver. I often recommend that patients do a castor pack 1-2 times/week (or more!) to help support their liver if they’re dealing with mental health concerns, hormonal imbalance, detoxification issues or actual liver organ issues, like fatty liver. Note that this is in addition to other supports for liver health, not as a stand-alone treatment. Castor is great, but it’s not that powerful!
When your body increases production of lymphocytes and rids itself of toxins, the result is a boost in circulation. Thus, when your blood starts flowing as it should, you’ll get more oxygen to vital organs, more oxygen in cells and a reduced toxin load in your blood.
Reduces Inflammation and Pain
Castor oil packs have also been used to reduce inflammation caused by autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis or as an accompaniment to other treatment. Since the oil has detoxing properties, it works at reducing the load of white blood cells that are attacking tissue, which reduces the inflammation.
I often recommend using castor packs for help with menstrual cramps. Put the castor pack and hot water bottle right over your uterus and relax for 20-30 minutes. It’s pretty darn amazing at reducing inflammation, pain and cramping!
Used as an all-natural hair elixir, castor oil is also said to be a wonder oil if you’re in the market for thicker, longer hair. According to many of its biggest supporters, the oil can help thicken hair and even spurs on hair growth. The only scientific evidence, however, is that castor can change the appearance of hair, making it noticeably glossy. Apply it sparingly and rinse out thoroughly to avoid getting greasy, stringy or matted hair.
An Alternative to Face Wash
Use castor oil as a replacement for products laden with chemicals – endocrine system disruptors and parabens disguised as face wash anyone?
You can use castor to remove makeup by applying a small amount to a cotton swab and gently wiping your face with it. It’s also an effective natural cleanser to cleanse your face of dirt and impurities. To use it as a cleanser, you’ll need to use the oil cleansing method – a method recommended if you want baby soft skin without the oily residue.
Although, castor oil is relatively safe to use, you should not use the oil if you’re pregnant, breastfeeding, or menstruating. I would also caution against using the oil internally as it can cause vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal cramps, amongst other side effects. In addition, some people are allergic to castor oil. Therefore it’s best to do a patch test before using the packs.
Victoria Albina, NP, MPH is a licensed and board certified Family Nurse Practitioner, herbalist and life coach, with 20 years experience in health and wellness. She trained at the University of California, San Francisco, and holds a Masters in Public Health from Boston University and a bachelors from Oberlin College. She comes to this work having been a patient herself, and having healed from a lifetime of IBS, GERD, SIBO, fatigue, depression and anxiety.
She is passionate about her work, and loves supporting patients in a truly holistic way - body, mind, heart and spirit. A native of Mar del Plata, Argentina, she grew up in the great state of Rhode Island, and lives in NYC with her partner. A brown dog named Frankie Bacon has her heart, and she lives for steak and a good dark chocolate.
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