Castor oil is an incredible substance obtained by pressing the seeds of the castor plant, Ricinus communis (Euphorbiaceae). It’s a clear, flavorless oil that has been used medicinally in ancient Egypt, China, Persia, Africa, Greece, Rome, and made its way to Europe and the Americas in the 1600s. Centuries ago, the plant was referred to as “Palma Christe” because the leaves were said to resemble the hand of Christ. This association likely arose out of people’s reverence for the plant’s healing abilities
External Uses: Castor Oil Packs
One of the more compelling health benefits is castor oil’s ability to support the immune system. This healing property does not require you to ingest the oil, rather apply it externally. Castor oil “packs” can be an economical and efficient method of infusing the ricinoleic acid and other healing components of castor oil directly into your tissues.
Popularized by psychic and intuitive healer Edgar Cayce in the 1930s and 1940s castor oil packs caught on in the mainstream and were used in American households as a common remedy. Some say Edgar Cayce was the father of the New Age movement. His work with castor oil was later researched and proven by primary care physician William McGarey among others.
Castor oil packs applied topically can:
- Stimulate and support the immune system
- Drain lymphatic system
- Increase lymphocyte production
- Increase circulation
- Have an anti-inflammatory effect
- Have an anti-viral effect
- Have an anti-fungal effect
- Improve painful conditions and swelling
Some conditions treated are GI complaints, ovarian cysts, menstrual issues, irregular menses, painful menses, fibroids, acne, arthritis, lymphedema, and chronic infections.
For application, you can rub castor oil into the skin but if you truly want the most therapeutic effect try a castor oil pack. Packs are the most common and effective way to apply topical castor oil.
In order to make a castor oil pack you will need the following supplies:
- High-quality cold-pressed castor oil
- A hot water bottle or heating pad
- Plastic wrap
- Two or three one-foot square pieces of wool or cotton flannel
- One large old bath towel
Fold flannel* three layers thick so it is still large enough to fit over your entire upper abdomen and liver. You can also treat over a local area, like swollen lymph nodes on the neck, ankles, knees.
Soak flannel with the oil so that it is completely saturated. The oil should be at room temperature. Lie on your back with your feet elevated. Place the flannel pack directly onto your abdomen; cover oiled flannel with the sheet of plastic, and place the hot water bottle on top of the plastic. I recommend wearing old pajamas as the oil stains and can be difficult to remove.
Leave the pack on for 45 to 60 minutes. This is a great time to do meditational breathing, reading, or just relax. You can reuse the pack several times, each time adding more oil as needed to keep the pack saturated.
*If you have a pet and happen to have wee-wee pads laying around, you can use this instead of the plastic wrap and flannel!
Internal uses for castor oil
Castor oil has been an internal remedy for thousands of years. Remember Spanky from The Little Rascals being spoon-fed castor oil? Castor oil can even be seen on Tom and Jerry as a way to harass Tom. Centuries of ingesting castor oil by myriads of cultures have shown us that castor oil is a formidable laxative.
Castor oil has been proven to stimulate the intestines and the uterus and is often recommended to be taken as a laxative and to stimulate labor. I however do not recommend castor oil for labor induction unless in very specific conditions as castor oil as it can cause violent vomiting and diarrhea which can really be tough on someone in labor.