Lately, in my clinic, I have been recommending castor oil packs to many of my patients. I recently had someone ask me "What does castor oil do? Why is it so great?" I thought that was a great question! Here are some fun facts about castor oil and hopefully a few good points on why it is so great. If you want to skip right to the end and just find out how to make a castor oil pack and how to use it, feel free!
Castor oil is made by pressing the seeds of the castor plant (Ricinus communis), which is native to India. It is now cultivated in Mediterranean countries such as Algeria, Egypt and Greece.
In France, castor is grown as an ornamental plant because of its large and lovely foliage.
Many ancient civilizations, including early Egyptians, Chinese and Persians, valued the castor plant for its many uses, such as fuel for lamps and as an ingredient in balms and ointments.
During the Middle Ages, the castor plant became well known in Europe, as people moved around and trade became more far reaching, for treating skin ailments.
The Greek physician, Dioscorides, even described how to extract the oil from the plant, but warned that the seeds should be used externally only as they are “extremely purgative.” The seeds are what the oil is made of, so, yes, topical use is best. You will hear stories of using a tablespoon of castor oil to promote labor or to help with constipation, but usually, consulting your doctor or health care provider about those topics is best.
So, what is so great about it?
Castor oil is a triglyceride that is composed of fatty acids, 90 percent of which is ricinoleic acid.
Ricinoleic acid is said to be the primary healing ingredient in castor oil and
shown to be effective in preventing the growth of numerous species of viruses, bacteria, yeasts and molds. It's successful as a topical treatment for ringworm, keratoses, skin inflammation, abrasions, fungal-infected finger and toenails, acne and chronic pruritus (itching).
It is an anti-inflammatory and high anti-oxidant oil. The majority of castor oils benefits come from the fact that it has a high concentration of unsaturated fatty acids.
In India, castor seed plants are traditionally used for various health conditions such as dysentery, asthma, constipation, inflammatory bowel disease and bladder and vaginal infections. In this posting, I am focusing on topical use as I feel like that is the best and most broad reaching use of castor oil.
Castor oil packs or poultices are effective ways to reap the benefits of castor oil without ingesting it. When used properly, castor oil packs improve the function of the thymus gland and other immune system functions.
Using a castor oil pack can help with muscle pain, joint pain, topical fungal infections, clearing congestion sluggish blood flow) from the liver (to help it function optimally and detoxify the body), and multiple skin beautifying benefits. When used topically, it’s not necessary to blend castor oil with a carrier oil; just make sure to test the oil on a small part of your skin to check for any allergy or skin reaction. Aside from rubbing or massaging it directly on your skin, you can make a castor oil pack. The video below shows how to make a castor oil pack.
I have found that utilizing castor oil packs is an invaluable health maintenance technique. If you watch the video, my directions vary a bit from theirs. I do not warm it in the oven or microwave. I apply the pack directly to the skin, put a thin cloth as a barrier (instead of the plastic) and then the heating pad or water bottle on the pad and barrier. Utilizing this as often as you can (3 days on, 3 days off) is very beneficial. I do not do castor oil packs when bleeding, take those days off.
My confession about castor oil packs is that I have simplified it to fit my life. I found that the castor oil packs were too messy for me. I didn't like the plastic (since I am trying to eliminate as much plastic from my home as possible) and I didn't like storing the pack. So, borrowing from the wisdom of our family chiropractor, whose theory is "just use it!", I developed my own "pack". My method is simple. It has to be. I use it almost every night and am usually too tired for a long and involved process.
I take a small amount of castor oil on my palm, add a few drops of an essential oil that is focused for what I am working on (or not) and massage on area of body in need (abdomen, chest, knee, hip, shoulder, etc). After I have massaged that in for a few minutes, I cover with the appropriate size flannel cloth. On top of the cloth, I place my hot water bottle (or heating pad). Relax. I often fall asleep with it on, and remove it at some point in the middle of the night. This way, I am eliminating most of the mess potential (the flannel cloth takes care of the rest) still applying heat, and letting the castor oil do its job.
Castor oil relieves congestion in the tissues (inflammation, swelling, pain, masses) very effectively. It is gentle and it feels wonderful! Incorporate this easy technique in your family's medicine cabinet and see the results.