Castor oil is pressed from the castor bean, which is actually a seed. Native to Africa, India, and the Mediterranean region, the Castor plant, Ricinus communis in Latin, has spread throughout the world since ancient times. The plant is one of the world’s oldest cultivated crops.
What is Castor Oil Used For?
Castor oil was first documented in an Egyptian medical papyrus in 1550 BCE, but is believed to have been used for centuries prior, specifically for constipation. But this oil has served multiple purposes, and has been used in soap manufacturing. It has also been incorporated into skin and hair products, and in modern times, is used in manufacturing polyurethane. There are also claims that the oil encourages hair growth, and has been found to have anti-inflammatory properties. Research shows that the oil speeds wound healing, and is a useful treatment for bedsores.
New York Times best-selling author of the groundbreaking 1994 “Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom,” Christiane Northrup M.D. has practiced medicine, and been an advocate for women’s health, for decades.
Dr. Northrup recommends castor oil packs for a number of issues, including endometriosis (a painful condition where uterine tissue forms within the pelvis), PMS and severe monthly cramps, urinary tract infections, and ovarian cysts, and advises using castor oil packs three times a week (except during menses) for immune system health.
Another author, Carolyn DeMarco, (“Take Charge of Your Body”) recommends castor oil packs for painful varicose veins, liver, gallbladder, and kidney concerns, constipation, sciatica and arthritis. The packs are also used by cancer patients, and in detox regimens.
Castor Oil Facts:
- Castor oil has been used as a natural laxative for centuries, but is best used for short-term symptoms — long term use may lead to cramps and diarrhea.
- Castor oil’s anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties make it useful for acne and its accompanying pain and inflammation.
- Candida albicans is a yeast fungus that contributes to oral plaque and infections, and can lead to root canals. A 2013 study concluded that castor oil is effective in “eliminating C. albicans and E. faecalis in human tooth roots.
- Common joint pain can be caused from congested lymph nodes — rubbing castor oil on joints can promote blood and lymphatic circulation — the ricinoleic acid in castor oil has a decongestant effect on the lymphatics.
How to Make and Use a Castor Oil Pack
Castor oil packs are simple and easy to make and use. A castor oil pack is made by soaking two to four layers of unbleached, organic clean wool or cotton flannel with hexane-free, unrefined, non-deodorized organic cold pressed castor oil. The cloth should be large enough to cover the area of concern, such as pelvis or back. Placing the flannel in a large bowl to soak in oil helps contain the mess — once saturated, the flannel can be partially wrung out to minimize leaks.
The saturated flannel is placed on or wrapped around the treatment area, covered with plastic and a towel, and heated with a hot water bottle or heating pad. The pack can also be wrapped with an ace bandage if being on a limb. It’s a good idea to lie on an old towel to keep bedding or upholstery oil-free. Place the heat source over the towel and allow the pack to warm up, then set a timer and relax for 45 to 60 minutes.
After, add a little baking soda to warm water and clean the skin. As for the flannel, it can be stored in a glass container in the refrigerator and re-used until it changes color or begins to smell — eventually it will become saturated with toxins. Some recommend disposing of the flannel at that point — others suggest washing the flannel in cold water. Because the organic, unbleached cotton or wool flannels are reasonably inexpensive, castor oil packs are an economical as well as effective home treatment.