For many years, castor oil has been the go-to herb for pretty much all that ails the body, and it’s been used as a natural medicinal since ancient times. As far back as 4000 B.C., ancient Egyptians were observed using castor oil as eye salve. Before today’s arsenal of synthetic drugs, there was castor oil—that folksy cure-all we were force-fed as children, that mystery goo in our medicine cabinets we are not so sure of as adults. These demystifying facts will shed some serious light on several castor oil health benefits.
Safe and Natural Uses for Castor Oil
Castor oil has a distinguishable taste and odor and is usually sold as a colorless or pale yellow liquid. The oil is a triglyceride fatty acid that contains the powerful compound ricinoleic acid, which is not found in other seed oils. Castor beans from the Ricinus communis plant, prevalent in India, Brazil, and China, are cold-pressed to produce the oil.
The United States Food and Drug Administration maintains that castor oil is safe and effective for over-the-counter purchase as a laxative. Bottled liquid castor oil is relatively inexpensive. Generally, local drugstores stock assorted constituent or medicinal strengths of various product forms (gel capsules, castor oil packs, liquids, and creams) in regular supply.
A Tried and True Laxative
When taken orally, castor oil eases constipation by acting as a stimulant laxative. The ricinoleic acid, in particular, increases the movement of the small intestine that aids in the passage of stool. Doctors have used castor oil to cleanse patients’ digestive tracts in preparation for surgery or invasive examination. Moreover, castor oil potentially soothes stomach pains triggered by poor digestion.
Since castor oil is a fast-acting stimulant laxative, do not take it before sleep. Allow between 6 and 12 hours for it to take effect. A typical dose for treating constipation in adults is 15 milliliters. Use a measuring cup rather than a spoon for more accurate dosing and to prevent overdosing.
Supreme Skin Moisturizer
Because of its low oxidative chemical qualities, castor oil is a widely used stabilizing ingredient in cosmetic and body-care products. By itself, this vegetable oil is a highly effective moisturizing agent, as it has a high skin absorption rate. Regularly applying castor oil to dry, cracked areas of the body—such as feet, lips, and elbows—especially after bathing, will yield favorable results over time. As an overall moisturizer, castor oil works best mixed with carrier oils such as coconut oil, olive oil, and jojoba oil, which help to thin out castor oil and make it less sticky. You can also add essential oils like ylang ylang and geranium for extra skincare and an aromatherapy treat.
Castor oil also doubles as a makeup remover. Conventional makeup removers are not as beneficial as castor oil, which has both moisturizing and antibacterial perks. Mix castor oil with a less sebaceous oil and test a few dilutions on a patch area of skin before fully committing. Once you’ve nailed your perfect ratio, rub the oil over your face and gently remove makeup (foundation, mascara, concealer, etc.) and other residue with a soft cloth or tissue. Leave on overnight. In the morning, thoroughly rinse your face and notice the glow effect.
Use a more concentrated overnight mask to heal particularly weather-damaged, thirsty skin. With frequent application, castor oil for skin care helps to diminish the appearance of wrinkles, fine lines, and stretch marks, since it stimulates the production of collagen to smooth out these areas.
Although more definitive evidence is needed, studies have shown castor oil to be as effective an antimicrobial agent as its synthetic equivalents. It has been known to dissolve warts, cysts, moles, fungal infections, skin tags, and acne.
Natural Hair Care System
Castor oil’s conditioning, humectant quality is ideal for hair care. Use castor oil for hair growth, as it nourishes the hair follicle and glazes the hair cuticle. Coat your locks from root to tip to lock in the moisture that promotes shinier, thicker, and longer strands. As with skin care, overnight hair conditioners applied regularly yield the best results.
Many brow creams contain castor oil as a main ingredient for good reason. Achieve thicker eyebrows by massaging a small amount to the brow area. Additionally, castor oil’s antibacterial and antifungal abilities ward off a dry, infected, and dandruff-prone scalp. As not to strip the hair of moisture, use a mild shampoo for your morning rinse.
Powerful Pain Reliever
Castor oil is deeply penetrating. Observational studies published in the National Institutes of Health’s PubMed Central have verified castor oil’s anti-inflammatory power. Massage the oil directly on sore joints, muscles, aches, and sprains. You can also use a castor oil pack to ease sore muscles, cramping, or constipation. Your localized pain and arthritic symptoms should subside once the potent ricinoleic acid in castor oil eradicates the offending inflammation.
While it reduces inflammation, ricinoleic acid detoxes the body. It bolsters the lymphatic system by promoting fluid circulation, cellular waste removal, and drainage, especially near infected areas. A healthy lymphatic system facilitates a robust immune system—the body’s front line of defense against disease and illness. So it is not difficult to see how castor oil has maintained its reputation as a cure-all for all these years. However, the American Cancer Society cautions this resolve, insisting that not enough evidence is available to substantiate existing claims that topical use of castor oil cures cancer or other medical conditions outright.
Precautions and Side Effects
Castor oil’s beauty-enhancing, laxative, antibacterial, and anti-inflammatory qualities are well recognized, but widespread facts regarding its ability to induce labor during pregnancy and ease childbirth are not substantiated to the same extent. On the other hand, the benefits of castor oil do include alleviating cramps during menstruation, which could be due to castor oil’s anti-inflammatory merits. While we await more proof on these claims, many doctors nevertheless warn against pregnant women consuming castor oil unsupervised.
Take castor oil on an empty stomach, absent other medications. Consult your doctor for dosage instructions so that this herbal medicine does not adversely interfere with pre-existing conditions or treatments. Overusing castor oil can cause severe dehydration, electrolyte imbalance, and the disruption of nutrient absorption.