Whenever I talk to a patient about castor oil I get one of two reactions. One of which you are probably doing right now upon hearing the word CASTOR OIL…
The word Castor oil can conjure up these kinds of thoughts…
“Oh, my mom used to take that!”
Then I promptly inquire, “Are you thinking about cod liver oil?” Some apologize for the confusion, others respond, “Nope she would take castor oil to make her poop. Sometimes she would even make us take it, yuck!!”
Others stare blankly into my eyes as I recount the history of this glorious oil and all the benefits and uses that it has had through the ages. Their reaction?
“Nothing can be that good! Sounds a bit like a ‘snake oil’ to me…”
…Until they try it!
Beginning to work with castor oil
When you start to work with castor oil, it soon becomes as useful as Windex was to the father in the movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding. He used it on everything. Castor oil is much the same to me, all my patients, and anyone who has learned from me!
It’s my go-to in clinical practice. The castor oil pack is the first thing that I prescribe to all of my patients, and whenever I travel I always make sure it is the first thing in my luggage.
Here we are going to delve into why castor oil is so unique, what are the best practices when selecting a castor oil, and what it is used for. If food is our medicine, then we always want our medicine to be clean and healthy. It is no different with castor oil.
What is Castor Oil?
Castor oil is the most unique of vegetable oils. It is an inexpensive oil that offers multiple health benefits. In fact, castor oil has been around such a long time, that its first usage dates back to 4000 BC.
This oil is indigenous to the Mediterranean Basin and India, although it does grow in many other places around the world. I have seen it in London, England at St. James Park, in Vancouver, British Columbia at Stanley Park, and in Phoenix, Arizona. I’ve even seen it in the Caribbean in St. Lucia.
No matter who you talk to, people always have some type of recollection of this oil. Families of Indian heritage have been known to use a tablespoon of castor oil as a behavioural modifier for bad behaviour. Caribbean countries often use castor oil as a weekly purgative to rid themselves of parasites, and those from the Baltic region use it in their eyebrows, eyelashes and hair to help it grow.
What makes castor oil so incredible and versatile?
Castor Oil: the Palm of Christ
The castor plant, otherwise known by its latin name, Ricinus communis, is also referred to as the Palm of Christ. Apparent biblical references to this oil have given it this name, as well as the appearance of the plant’s leaves resemble a hand, or the ‘palm of Christ’. It is said that this name also refers to its powerful healing abilities.
Castor Oil Structure
Castor oil has a most unique chemical structure. It is a combination of linoleic acid (you may be familiar with this, an Omega 6 fatty acid found in sesame oil), oleic acid (an Omega 9 fatty acid, found in olive oil) and ricinoleic acid (only found in castor oil).
Ricinoleic acid is a completely unique triglyceride chain that is incredibly versatile and manipulable because of its structure. It also makes it an incredible carrier oil, because ricinoleic acid has a molecular weight under 500 Daltons, which allows it to penetrate deep into the dermis.
This is completely unique and unlike other oils.
Castor Oil as a Carrier Oil
Castor oil’s uniqueness allows it to help bring medicine into the body faster and more efficiently. This can also be of use for essential oils as castor oil has been shown to be the best carrier oil because of its chemical structure and molecular weight.
Castor Oil Always in a Glass Bottle
Because castor oil is such an excellent carrier oil, please take note it is imperative to only work with castor oil in a glass bottle. In plastic, castor oil will bind many chemicals, even if the bottle is BPA-free, since there are other chemicals such as phthalates, slip agents and UV light filters that all have detrimental effects on your hormonal, immune and nervous system health.
Commit to only using castor oil in glass.
Is Castor Oil Poisonous?
You may hear this from time to time – to be careful of the oil because it has a poisonous effect that causes you to go to the bathroom. This is not the truth, but simply a myth that has been propagated over time.
Castor oil does cause laxation if taken internally, but it does so via stimulating nitric oxide that creates an electrolyte shift in your intestine. As with anything, it can be dangerous if you take too much. A little bit is good, but too much is bad. Excessive diarrhea can cause electrolyte depletion and this can be life threatening if taken to the extreme.
Castor Oil Uses
Castor oil is one of those oils that deserves a place in every medicine cabinet. In my clinical practice, it is my very first prescription as a castor oil pack. Over time, I train and educate my patients on all of the multiple usages of this amazing oil. Here we will do a quick review of some of its extensive uses.
Castor Oil as an Anti-Inflammatory
It was shown to reduce oedema (water retention), swelling, and pain. It has a long history of use as a topical compress for joint pain in Traditional Chinese Medicine.
As a carrier substance, it out-performed other carriers, providing more benefit in rheumatoid arthritis cases. This is probably because it not only helps with transdermal penetration of the substance it is carrying, but it is also an anti-inflammatory in its own right.
In clinical practice I have found it to be very effective as a castor oil pack to reduce common ailments such as low back pain and sciatica.
Castor Oil for Candida and Microbiome Health
Castor oil has been shown to be effective against microbes such as Candida and E. coli.
It can be used for oil pulling, superior to coconut oil or sesame oil, because of its ability to alter biofilm in the oral cavity, outperforming in vivo (in the human body) as compared in vitro (in a test tube) to the conventional alternatives. Scroll down to the bottom of this article for instructions on how to use castor oil for oil pulling.
I’ve seen benefit with castor oil simply mixed with baking soda and a few drops of tea tree oil used on fungal toenail infections, and fungal skin infections of all kinds, including ring worm. I like to call this mixture my “Super Salve”. Scroll down to the bottom of this article for the recipe.
Castor Oil for Eye Health
One of my favourite uses of castor oil is for eye health. It has been found to work as well as conventional eye lubricants for dry eyes. In addition, it has shown clinical benefit in cataract prevention.
Animal research has shown that castor oil can preserve the important anti-aging and protective antioxidant, glutathione, in the lens of the eye. Thus, preserving the state of eye health.
Castor Oil and Labour Induction
Midwives and doulas have a long history of using castor oil to induce labour. Castor oil has been scientifically proven to stimulate smooth muscle such as those found in the uterus to help with inducing labour.
Castor Oil and Constipation
Castor oil has been shown to help alleviate constipation. Because the intestine is smooth muscle, much like the uterus, castor oil taken internally can stimulate laxation.
Orally, it is FDA and Health Canada approved as an oral stimulant laxative at dosages of 1 tbsp and above for adults, and 1 tsp for children.
Even though this may be a quick fix for constipation, it isn’t my go-to. I prefer to regulate how the gut is functioning as a whole, changing the overall environment to support health. My preference is a castor oil pack. The packs also don’t create a harsh urgency to run to the bathroom in the way that oral administration can.
Castor Oil Packs
A well known use of castor oil is with the legendary health-promoting castor oil pack. Castor oil is applied to an organic cotton flannel and placed over the liver, under the right rib cage. You then lie there with the pack on for a minimum of one hour to overnight.
These castor oil packs have recently been gaining appeal again because the once messy, cumbersome treatment now has tools that simplify the process. This is a huge advancement in natural medicine, because these packs that have a long history of use with multiple benefits to support the terrain (the foundation of health), have now become easier to add to your nighttime ritual.
The benefits of doing a castor oil pack include improving:
- Function of your digestion, absorption and elimination
- Antioxidant status
- Inflammation regulation
- Tension and stress reduction
- Host microbial balance
Results with a castor oil pack can often be immediate, but not in all cases. The immediate benefits include a deeper, more restful sleep, reduced abdominal pain and bloating, better daily bowel movements and increased feeling of well being. The key to reaping the benefits with these packs is consistency. It is best to wear your pack for a minimum of one hour each day, or ideally, overnight.
Castor Oil for Cosmetic Use
Castor oil has been used for centuries in cosmetic care, dating back to the early Egyptians. Cleopatra was well known for using castor oil in her eyes to brighten the whites of her eyes.
The history extends into Roman and Greek Mediterranean Goddesses using castor oil for the health of their hair, eyebrows and eyelash growth, and youthfulness of the skin. In clinic I have often been told by my patients of Baltic origins that this was a time-honoured tradition in their family as well. Scroll down to the bottom of this article to learn how to use it for hair growth.
Castor Oil in a Glass Bottle in Every Medicine Cabinet
This incredible oil has an enormous amount of healing properties, as you can see. It is my goal that it becomes a staple in everyone’s home health cabinet. A go-to for health and beauty.
Here, we have only just scratched the surface on this queen of oils. The care that it extends to those who use it is second to none.
This is part one of a four part series. Stay tuned as we delve into the history of how castor oil got its start, then we go deeper into its usage as a castor oil pack and the cosmetic usages of this incredible oil.
How to Use Castor Oil for Hair Growth
Castor oil has been used for centuries by Egyptian and Mediterranean cultures for long, thick, shiny hair. It helps increase circulation and provides nourishment for the hair follicle. It also reduces inflammation, which can cause damage to hair follicles and moisturizes the scalp. It can be used on the scalp to help with thinning or balding hair or to increase length and thickness.
Here’s how to do it:
- Take a dollop of castor oil
- Add 2-3 drops of rosemary essential oil **never use rosemary oil near the eyes**
- Comb mixture into scalp and cover with a shower cap
- Leave treatment on for 1 hour or overnight and rinse in the morning
Doing this treatment weekly may encourage hair growth. Make sure to never use essential oils near the eyes. Cover with a good quality shower cap, and if using overnight lay an old towel down on your pillow (castor oil will stain fabrics).
Castor Oil “Super Salve” Recipe
This anti-inflammatory and antibacterial Super Salve is excellent for ring worm, warts, fungal nail infections, bug bites and skin irritations of any kind.
Here’s how to make it:
- Combine castor oil, baking soda and 2-3 drops of tea tree oil in a small, GLASS container
- Mix ingredients together until they form a paste. You can continue to slowly add baking soda until it reaches a paste consistency.
This salve will keep for months if stored at room temperature, away from direct sunlight, in a glass container. Remember you NEVER want to use a plastic container with castor oil to avoid absorption of chemicals. You can use this Super Salve as often as you like on the affected areas.
How to Use Castor Oil for Oil Pulling
Castor oil is ideal for oil pulling because contrary to other oils, where you need to swish for upwards of 20 minutes, castor oil only needs to be held in the mouth for 2 minutes for a powerful effect.
Here’s how to do it:
- Put 2 tbsp of castor oil into your mouth
- Swish around in the mouth for 2 minutes
- Spit the oil into the garbage (don’t spit down your drains as oils can clog drains!)
Voila! That’s it. Castor oil doesn’t have a strong taste but if you’re not keen on the flavour you can add 1 drop of peppermint or clove essential oil.
Read Part 4 of this series here.
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Dr. Marisol Teijeiro N.D., is the director of Sanas Health Practice in Petersburg, Ontario. Her focus is on cleansing and gut health, and she’s appropriately been dubbed the Queen of the Thrones™ by her patients as she’s helped thousands overcome digestive issues and take control of their toilet troubles. She has spearheaded the Queen of the Thrones™ line of lifestyle entertainment products that includes an easy, mess-less castor oil pack and castor oil in a glass bottle. Dr. Marisol speaks internationally at educational conferences for practitioners, teaches a course on castor oil at the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine and will be releasing her debut guide book on digestive health, Oh Sh*t, later this year. Her passion lies in teaching people how to digest, absorb, and eliminate well, so that they can live well and achieve their dreams