Castor oil comes from the seed of the castor plant (Ricinus communis), native to the tropics of Africa and Asia. While the seed is highly poisonous to people and animals upon ingestion due to the toxin called “ricin”, the oil does not contain this water soluble protein. Castor oil is rich in fatty acids such as ricinoleic acid, which is responsible for the laxative effect upon internal use. Up to 1 tablespoon of the oil consumed internally is considered a therapeutic dose and safe for ingestion.
However, castor oil truly shines in external application. It can be diluted with other oils as it’s quite thick and viscous (1:1 ratio is usually recommended with carrier oils such as olive). It can be used as part of a face cleansing routine, to improve skin complexion, reduce scar tissue, and improve hair growth (on the scalp, eyebrows, and eyelashes). The ricinoleic acid seems to contribute to anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, moisturizing, and hydrating effects of topical castor oil use.
Moreover, castor oil can be applied to various body parts as an external “pack” for improving circulation and lymphatic clearance, while decreasing inflammation. Common areas of applications are the right side of the abdomen for liver detox, lower abdomen for menstrual cramps, or directly onto aching joints and muscles.
Here is a recipe to apply castor oil packs.
**Note that it can get messy so do it at your own risk of cleanup! And always consult with a medical practitioner before starting any new treatment.**
- organic castor oil
- cotton flannel (bonus, can be reused over and over again!)
- wrap-around cotton pack or plastic wrap (RadiantLife has a whole kit)
- hot water bottle or heating pad (microwaveable rice heating pack can work too)
- old sheets, towels and clothes you don’t care for and can risk staining
- glass jar to soak flannel with oil, and store the pack in between uses
- Cut large piece of cotton/wool flannel so that it will fit size of intended area of application. (If you start with 18×24 inches, you may want to cut in half, and then fold into thirds.
- Soak the piece you will use by placing into glass (mason) jar and slowly adding the castor oil to saturate the cloth. About 1 Tbsp every 20 minutes is a good rule of thumb. You may want to do this in advance, maybe the evening before your castor pack.
- Take out and unfold the soaked flannel piece, lay down on your old sheets/towel and apply to chosen body part or area of the abdomen.
- Cover the soaked flannel with the second piece of flannel, or the wrap around pack. Alternatively, you can use plastic wrap or plain plastic bags to create a barrier between the castor oil pack and the hot water bottle or heated pad. Place your choice of heated pack on top of the barrier.
- Try to find a relaxing pose and keep the heated castor oil pack on the site of application for 30-60 minutes. Kick up your feet (if possible) and read a book or take a nap, or even meditate during this time.
- Remove the pack, clean all the messy grease with a gentle soap and store the cotton flannel in the same glass jar until next use (in a cool dark place, or in the fridge).
- Drink plenty of water and take it easy the rest of the day.
- “Ricin Toxin from Castor Bean Plant, Ricinus communis.” Department of Animal Science – Plants Poisonous to Livestock. Cornell College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.https://poisonousplants.ansci.cornell.edu/toxicagents/ricin.html
- “Benefits of castor oil for the face and skin.” Medical News Today.https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/319844
- Wells, Katie. “How to Make & Use Castor Oil Packs.” Wellness Mama Blog. Jan 5, 2020.https://wellnessmama.com/35671/castor-oil-packs/