Before I started making soap, I basically used olive oil for cooking and coconut oil for my beauty needs. It wasn’t until I started exploring all of the unique properties of different oils that I began to widen my horizons. One of the ingredients I use often is castor oil — and for good reason.
Of course, castor oil is great for your skin, but this healthy oil can be ingested as well. Perhaps some of you were force-fed a spoonful of this oil in your childhood and since then, you’ve never touched the stuff. If you can relate, you’ll be happy to know that your guardian meant well. Better yet, they were encouraging positive health.
Is castor all it’s cracked up to be?
If you were fed spoonfuls of castor oil as a child, consider yourself lucky. For thousands of years, people have been experiencing the positive effects of castor oil. Until recently, however, the true power of castor oil wasn’t confirmed within the scientific community.
Although this oil was categorized as safe and effective, researchers did not quite understand how it worked — until now. While studying various fatty acids in terms of their ability to bind to certain receptors, researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Heart and Lung Research got a hit with ricinoleic acid.
This fatty acid makes up approximately 90 percent of castor oil. Based on its use in traditional and alternative medicine, the researchers wanted to further investigate. They found that, when ingested, the ricinoleic acid in castor oil bound to specific receptors in the intestine and uterus — which highlights how this oil encourages labor-inducing and laxative effects.
Some of the ways you’ll benefit from castor oil
Whether you were given castor oil as a child or not, there’s no better time to incorporate it into your diet. Here are just some of the ways that you and your loved ones can benefit from regular spoonfuls of this health-boosting oil.
Promotes pain relief
Whether you are suffering from muscle and joint pain, or can’t seem to improve monthly menstrual cramps, castor oil can assist you. Let’s face it, no one wants to be in pain. Unfortunately, far too many desperate individuals seek powerful pharmaceutical pain relievers.
Based on this oil’s anti-inflammatory properties, it is able to target sore joints associated with arthritis or injury. Within one 2011 clinical trial, researchers found that castor oil significantly improved symptoms among rheumatoid arthritis patients. When given 30 to 40 milliliters for 15 days, joint pain improved by more than 50 percent and stiffness decreased by more than 48 percent.
This effect has been documented in a number of studies, including another clinical study published in Phytotherapy Research. Researchers gave patients with knee osteoarthritis a castor oil capsule three times daily for four weeks. They gave another group of patients the drug known as diclofenac sodium, also taken three times daily for four weeks.
After the completion of this study, both treatments significantly improved symptoms of knee osteoarthritis. However, adverse drug reactions were high among diclofenac sodium users. In comparison, castor oil did not produce any harmful side effects. It was concluded that this beneficial oil can be used as an effective therapy option for those suffering from this disease.
For those who suffer from bad menstrual cramps, castor oil can also help during this uncomfortable, painful time of the month. As the uterus contracts, it triggers the release of prostaglandins, which are related to both inflammation and pain. Generally, higher levels of this chemical will result in greater menstrual pain.
Many homeopathic doctors will recommend natural solutions for this type of pain, including the use of chamomile, acupuncture and exercise. One highly beneficial treatment option is a castor oil pack. Apply oil directly to your skin, cover with a piece of flannel, apply a heating pad and allow to sit for 30 to 60 minutes.
Acts as a natural sleep aid
According to recent reports and surveys, an estimated 27 percent of Americans have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep most nights. At least 68 percent struggle to sleep at least once a week. What’s even more shocking is that 41 percent of people use over-the-counter sleep aids, taking them for a year or longer.
The misuse of these sleep aids is highly concerning, especially when natural remedies are available. Many individuals have stated that castor oil improved symptoms of insomnia. Believe it or not, many individuals will rub small amounts on their eyelids to encourage a better night’s sleep.
Promotes regular bowel movements
As mentioned above, researchers in Germany uncovered the mechanisms of castor oil. Unlike past theories, they found that ricinoleic acid binds to the EP3 receptor gene. When consuming this fatty acid, found in castor oil, you essentially activate intestinal and uterine smooth-muscle cells.
As you can imagine, this is why castor oil has been used for centuries as a natural laxative and continues to be used in order to clean out the intestines before a bowel examination or surgery. According to one 2010 study, castor oil may also be an effective solution for constipation symptoms among the elderly — testing those who had been constipated for 10 years or longer.
It’s important to note that excessive use of castor oil may lead to diarrhea. If you drink one teaspoon of pure oil daily for three consecutive days, this should be enough to relieve associated issues. If you cannot stand the taste, simply mix each dose into cranberry or prune juice to counteract the bitterness.
Prevents infection and enhances immune function
When taking castor oil daily, researchers have found that you can effectively increase the production of T-lymphocytes, which are known to play a key role in immune function. Researchers saw this within one double-blind study which examined lymphocyte values among 36 healthy subjects.
When the researchers applied a castor oil pack, as described above, they found that T-11 cells increased within a 24-hour period following treatment. This increase showcases the body’s ability to boost defense mechanisms — leading to an increase in antibodies. More specifically, T-cells are able to identify and destroy fungi, viruses, bacteria and even cancer cells.
Potentially prevents cancer
Based on castor oil’s effect on the lymph system, many researchers are interested in how this natural remedy influences certain cancers. Although more research needs to be conducted, it appears that castor oil can inhibit tumor growth. Within one study, published in the International Journal of Toxicology, castor oil extracts were shown to actually suppress tumors in mice.
Researchers found a similar effect when studying castor extract in relation to melanoma, as apoptosis (or death) was observed in cancer cells. Researchers have documented these effects while studying colon, prostate, ovarian and breast cancer cases as well.
It will enhance your natural beauty regimen
As mentioned, I use castor oil in my soap recipes, replacing a small amount of olive oil with this beneficial ingredient. Although the health benefits of castor oil are impressive, its positive effects do not end there. Whether you’re suffering from tired-looking eyes or an itchy scalp, castor oil is a safe and cost-effective option. Try some of the following uses for yourself:
- It can effectively target both dry scalp and dandruff. Simply massage a small amount into your scalp, targeting itchiness and flaking. Experts recommend that you mix this oil with an egg white and two to three drops of tea tree oil. Massage into wet hair and rinse with warm water after a few minutes. This remedy can also promote hair growth.
- Reduce the appearance of dark, tired eyes by applying castor oil around the affected area before bed. It’s said that castor oil will soothe puffiness. With regular use, it can even target fine lines.
- If you’re pregnant, castor oil can be rubbed onto your skin to improve elasticity, reducing the development of stretch marks.
- It can repair both dry lips and hair, preventing cracking and split ends.
- Castor oil can promote positive skin health by moisturizing the skin, healing inflamed skin and reducing pigmentation.
Whether you’d like to condition your hair or soothe itchy skin, why not make your own castor oil mask? Some of the best ingredients to mix with castor oil for this purpose include honey, eggs, coconut oil and olive oil. There are hundreds of possible combinations, so get creative!
It can help remove warts and cystic acne
Little known fact, but castor oil can actually help remove warts. Each morning and evening, rub castor oil onto your wart until it disappears.
Castor oil can also help cystic acne, which can be highly painful. By targeting inflammation and bacteria, you will naturally reduce the frequency and severity of breakouts. Simply put a small amount of castor oil onto affected areas before bed.
How should I take castor oil?
Whether you are using castor oil for topical application or are planning to consume it, it’s important to select the highest quality in order to ensure optimal effectiveness and safety. You will want to look for a cold-pressed option from a reliable brand — check your health food store.
The recommended dosage will depend on how you plan to use this oil, along with your age and any other medical conditions you suffer from. Like all products, follow the guidelines as directed on the label. Do not take for more than seven days, unless stated by your doctor.
For healthy individuals, a common dose will be one teaspoon, once daily. This amount will help you achieve regular bowel movements, improve blood flow and promote positive health. When applying to your skin, the risks are very low. This oil is free from common allergens, drying agents and synthetic chemicals. To be safe, perform a skin patch test before applying.
Castor oil packs
Many people use castor oil packs since they’re so easy to administer. When applied to a specific area, the castor oil will draw blood circulation and increased biological energy to the affected area. It is so easy and painless that anyone can utilize this healing pack.
To optimize benefits, you will want to select a quality source of castor oil — but also be mindful of the cloth you use. When purchasing cotton flannel, be sure to source sheeting that is pesticide-free. You want to promote the release of toxins from your body, not contribute to increasing levels.
Where to find it
You can find this healing oil at your local health store or online. Some varieties will specifically say “For external use only.” Please be sure to read all labels and instructions. Since castor oil has labor-inducing effects, please speak with your physician or midwife if you’re pregnant.
If you’re like me, once you explore the benefits, you’ll quickly begin to notice all of the other incredible oils available, including avocado and walnut oil. When you have a selection of oils on hand, including beneficial essential oils, you’d be amazed at what you can whip up for health, cooking and beauty.
— Krista Hillis