Castor oil is an ancient natural remedy known for its incredible benefits and unpleasant taste. It is extracted from the seeds of the Ricinus communis plant. In ancient Egypt, castor oil was given to pregnant women to stimulate labor. It is also believed to have been used as a treatment for eye irritation.
Castor oil is commonly used as an active ingredient in many medications, skincare products, and shampoos. This multi-purpose vegetable oil possesses antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, and laxative properties and provides several health benefits. Thus, it is claimed to help in relieving constipation, inducing labor, and treating arthritis.
In this article, we talk about the potential health benefits of castor oil, its nutrition profile, and its possible side effects.
Table Of Contents
How Does Castor Oil Work?
Castor oil is a popular source of ricinoleic acid, a monounsaturated fatty acid (1). Some of the goodness of the oil can be attributed to this fatty acid.
The oil is mostly odorless. Some users describe it as having a light and clean smell (or even a pungent smell). It is nearly tasteless, though some users dislike its taste.
However, there are some concerns associated with the ingestion of castor oil. We will discuss that in detail in the latter part of this post.
Some sources state that castor oil has a comedogenic rating of 1 (on a scale of 0 to 5) (2). The comedogenic rating tells you if a particular ingredient blocks skin pores. The lower the rating, the better. As of now, more research is being done on this aspect of the oil. But a comedogenic rating of 1 means it suits most skin types and doesn’t clog skin pores.
Castor seed oil is one of the most potent seed oils. We have some research backing its health effects. Keep reading, and you will know about the different uses of castor oil to improve your life.
What Are The Health Benefits Of Castor Oil?
The most important use of castor oil is as a laxative to relieve constipation. Its anti-inflammatory properties help treat medical conditions like arthritis pains and other cosmetic issues like acne, scars, and dandruff.
1. May Help Treat Constipation
One important benefit of castor oil is that it helps relieve constipation. The oil is a stimulant laxative. When you ingest castor oil, it causes your bowels to move a lot more (3).
But keep in mind to use the oil sparingly. Excess use of stimulant laxatives can impair the functioning of your bowel muscles (3). Hence, make sure to consult your doctor.
Studies show that castor oil packs (covered in a later section in this article) can relieve symptoms of constipation. They can reduce straining during defecation and induce a feeling of complete evacuation post bowel movement (4).
Be wary of the dosage, though. A typical dose is 15 ml, which equals about 3 teaspoons. You should experience bowel movements within 2 to 3 hours after taking the oil.
Using castor oil for treating constipation may also lead to nausea or vomiting. This is a normal side effect. But if you experience too much of it, stop use and visit your doctor.
2. May Induce Labor
Sometimes, when you are overdue, you may want something to jump-start your labor. Here’s where castor oil might help.
The labor-inducing properties of castor oil stem from the fact that it is a laxative. It causes spasms in the intestines. This stimulates the bowels and the vagal nerve. This irritates the uterus and can make it contract (5).
A small study shows that women receiving castor oil are more likely to go into labor within 24 hours (6). Another study describes castor oil as a safe non-pharmacological method for labor induction (7).
Castor oil can also induce labor in post-date multiparous (having borne more than one child) women (8).
But in another larger study, there was no induction of labor post the use of castor oil. The study reported no harm to the mother or the baby (9).
Hence, the studies are mixed. Castor oil may not have negative effects, at least in most cases. But should you use castor oil for inducing labor?
Inducing labor is a healthy medical decision made for the safety of you and your baby. It is recommended during late-term (between 41 weeks and 41 weeks and 6 days) pregnancy. But each pregnancy can be different, so speak to your doctor first. You may also use castor oil as they direct.
3. May Help Treat Arthritis
Castor oil reduces inflammation. The ricinoleic acid it contains has excellent analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties (10). The topical application of this acid showed a marked anti-inflammatory effect.
Another study showed that castor oil could be used for treating primary knee osteoarthritis effectively (11). Subjects with osteoarthritis, when given a castor oil capsule thrice daily for four weeks, showed improvement in their symptoms.
Using castor oil for treating arthritis is quite simple. You can apply it topically or use a castor oil pack.
4. May Treat Plantar Fasciitis
Plantar fasciitis involves the inflammation of the thick tissue running across the bottom of your foot, connecting your heel bone to your toes.
In a study, castor oil offered great relief to patients dealing with plantar heel spurs (12). Plantar heel spur is a condition associated with plantar fasciitis.
5. May Ease Symptoms Of Fibroids
Fibroids are tumors that develop in the uterus. They are benign and non-cancerous.
There is no research stating the beneficial effects of castor oil in treating fibroids. But some anecdotal evidence suggests that the oil may ease constipation (which is a major symptom of fibroids).
Placing a castor oil pack over the pelvis for about 30 minutes may help ease the associated pain. Some believe it may increase the flow of energy to the area. But there is a lack of scientific evidence to validate these effects.
6. May Treat Hemorrhoids
Hemorrhoids are swollen veins in the lowest part of your rectum and anus. These often cause discomfort and bleeding.
Research shows that castor seeds can be used for treating hemorrhoids (13). This can be attributed to the anti-inflammatory properties of the seeds and the oil.
However, there is no information on the effectiveness of castor oil is in this regard. Do check with your doctor.
7. May Help Delay Signs Of Aging
Though the oil has properties that delay signs of aging (like wrinkles), there is no direct evidence. We know that the oil fights inflammation. This can help combat free radicals that accelerate aging.
You may use the oil under your eyes, around your mouth, on your forehead, and on the chin and neckline. Wash these areas in the morning and apply a drop of castor oil. Gently massage and leave it on for about 20 minutes. Wash off with normal water. You can then follow up with your regular skincare routine.
But be wary of skin reactions. These may include itching, redness, swelling, and rashes. Do a patch test before you apply castor oil on your skin.
8. May Help Treat Acne And Scars
The anti-inflammatory properties of castor oil can help in this regard (14). Using the oil for treating acne is quite simple. Cleanse your face. Moisten a clean washcloth with lukewarm water and add a couple of drops of the oil to it. Gently rub the cloth over your face in circular motions.
You can follow this method before going to bed. Allow the castor oil to stay on your face overnight. You can wash it off the following morning. But if you have oily skin, use castor oil very sparingly.
This method can also be used for treating scars. It may help treat skin inflammation and soothe irritated skin.
Applying liberal amounts of the oil can also help fade stretch marks (15). Apply castor oil to the affected areas, once in the morning and once at night.
Castor oil can also heal sunburns. It has an SPF value of around 6 and is often used in sunscreens (16).
The oil also plays a role in wound healing. Research shows that formulations containing castor oil promote wound healing. They help shed damaged skin cells, stimulate localized blood flow, and have local antimicrobial and analgesic actions (17).
Castor oil may also help treat boils and burns. But make sure to do a patch test first.
9. May Help Treat Psoriasis And Eczema
Animal studies show that the ricinoleic acid in castor oil can relieve pain and inflammation (10). These properties may potentially help relieve psoriasis and eczema. We don’t have direct research supporting these claims, though.
You can apply the oil to the affected areas before going to bed. Let it get absorbed overnight. The oil supposedly moisturizes the skin.
Castor oil can also fight Candida, a fungal infection. In a study, castor oil had eliminated Candida albicans from contaminated human tooth roots (18).
Castor oil may also aid the treatment of melasma, a condition that leaves brown patches on one’s face. A study showed that a phenol-castor oil peel reduced pigments in a severe case of melasma (19).
Some research also shows that the oil can treat ringworm, thanks to undecylenic acid, one of its active compounds (20).
10. May Help Treat Genital Warts
Anecdotal evidence suggests that applying castor oil to the wart every day can help make it fall off. In addition, you can also apply a thin slice of garlic and tape it in place (21). This may further help remove warts.
11. May Boost Hair Growth
There is no clinical evidence to suggest that castor oil may boost hair growth. But you may try it out. Apply the oil to your scalp and leave it on for at least two hours. Wash your hair with shampoo.
The anti-inflammatory properties of castor oil may help treat dandruff. It may also help in treating seborrheic dermatitis, which is another inflammatory condition causing scaly patches on the scalp (22).
Some proponents of castor oil also state that it may treat split ends. They also state that a mixture of jojoba oil, mustard seed oil, and castor oil may reverse gray hair. But there is no research to support these statements.
Castor oil might seem like an all-powerful ingredient. Though most of its benefits are backed by research, some of them need concrete substantiation.
It is important we know what this oil contains. As we uncover more research studies, we can understand how its other constituents contribute to its goodness.
What Is The Nutritional Composition Of Castor Oil?
The most abundant constituent of castor oil is ricinoleic acid. It constitutes about 90% of the oil (1). Other acids include:
- Linoleic acid (4% of the oil)
- Oleic acid (3% of the oil)
- Stearic acid (1%)
- Other linolenic fatty acids (>1%)
Earlier, we discussed the importance of castor oil packs in treating certain ailments. Let’s now understand how to make one.
How To Make A Castor Oil Pack
Castor oil is an effective home remedy for several issues. Keeping a castor oil pack handy can help in times of need. Here’s how you can make one:
What You Need
- Pure hexane-free castor oil
- 1 large glass jar with lid
- Dye-free wool, unbleached
- Fold the dye-free wool over three times. You must have three layers.
- Put this wool into the glass jar. Pour in some castor oil. Shake the jar to distribute the oil into the cloth.
- You can remove the cloth when required and use it. This is your castor oil pack.
Before using the pack, spread some old towels on the floor. Lie down on them. Remove the castor oil pack from the jar and place it on the affected areas of your body. You can then cover this with a plastic wrap.
Lying down with your feet slightly elevated works best. You can stay in that position for 20 to 30 minutes. Allow the oil to soak into the affected areas. Once you are done, you can wipe the excess castor oil off the area using a clean, dry cloth.
The pack is easy to make, isn’t it? But before you go ahead making it, you must be aware of its possible side effects.
Does Castor Oil Have Any Side Effects?
- May Induce Labor
Though this could be a benefit in a way, it can also be an effect you wouldn’t desire. Women in all stages of pregnancy must avoid consuming castor oil (8). Also, if they need to consume it, they must do so only after consulting their doctor.
- May Cause Diarrhea
This has to do with ricin, a potentially dangerous constituent of castor oil. Though ricin is removed in the process of refining castor oil (the one you get in the market), you need to be careful. The related side effects of castor oil include diarrhea, colicky abdominal pain, vomiting, and even heartburn (23).
- Can Cause Allergies
Castor oil can cause allergic reactions in some people when applied to the skin. Hence, we suggest you do a patch test before using it on your skin. This can prevent false-negative results (24).
Castor oil has been used to treat several health ailments for thousands of years. From relieving constipation to treating hair and skin issues it has many advantages. However, more research is required to understand the above claims in detail.
Castor oil intake is possibly safe when it is consumed in limited amounts. But, excess amounts may lead to some adverse effects. So, limit the usage of this oil and consult a doctor in case of any side effects after consumption.
Expert’s Answers For Readers’ Questions
What is the substitute for castor oil?
You can substitute castor oil with coconut oil. The oil works especially well in treating similar skin ailments.
Can you ingest castor oil?
We don’t recommend ingesting castor oil. You may do it only under medical supervision.
Can you remove skin tags with castor oil?
Though there is no clinical evidence, anecdotal evidence states that you can remove skin tags with castor oil.
Mix enough baking soda with three drops of castor oil until you arrive at a paste-like consistency. Apply this paste to skin tags three times daily. You can cover the tags with a bandage to prevent the mixture from getting wiped away.
The skin tag would eventually dry up and fall off.
Can castor oil keep your nails healthy?
There is no research to prove this. But you may try and see how effective the oil is.
How long does castor oil take to work?
If you are using it for treating constipation, you must see results within two to six hours. For labor, it can work in about 24 hours.
When should you take castor oil? What is the dosage?
As discussed earlier, the dosage for constipation would be about 3 teaspoons of the oil. For its use in treating other issues, please speak to your doctor.
Please remember not to consume castor beans. As little as three beans can lead to serious poisoning (24).
Where to buy castor oil?
Can you use castor oil for cooking?
No. We don’t recommend using castor oil for cooking.
What is castor oil called in other major languages?
Castor oil is called rendee ka tel in Hindi, aceite de castor in Spanish, and huile de castor in French.
Does castor oil help with gallstones?
Anecdotal evidence suggests the use of castor oil packs to treat gallstones. These packs can help relieve the pain and inflammation associated with gallstones.
Placing the warm pack on your abdomen may help. Check with your doctor before you use castor oil for this purpose.
What is the use of castor oil in endometriosis treatment?
Though mainstream research is less, anecdotal evidence supports the use of castor oil for treating endometriosis. Massaging it directly onto the abdomen can help relieve pain. You may also use a warm castor oil pack for this purpose.
Mixing the oil with a few drops of a relaxing essential oil (like lavender oil) can further relax the pelvic muscles.
Remember to use this method before your period starts and not during it.
How does castor oil repel moles?
Research has not confirmed the claims, but some anecdotal evidence states the efficacy of castor oil in treating moles.
Rubbing castor oil directly on the mole might have some result. Repeat this twice a day until you see noticeable results.
You can also mix three drops of castor oil with enough baking soda to achieve a gum-like consistency. Apply this mixture directly on the mole. Then, put an adhesive bandage over the mole. Do this before going to bed. Remove the bandage the next morning and wash off.
Can castor oil help unblock fallopian tubes?
We need more research in this regard. Castor oil is believed to unblock the fallopian tubes. Blocked fallopian tubes can also cause infertility in women (also called tubal factor infertility).
Can castor oil heal chapped lips?
Research is limited in this area. Castor oil could be one of the strongest ingredients to heal chapped lips. It contains vitamin E and other antioxidants and minerals, all of which boost skin health.
Be careful not to ingest the oil as it might cause unpleasant reactions. Also, please do a patch test before using the oil.
- Castor Oil: Properties, Uses, and Optimization of Processing Parameters in Commercial Production, Lipid Insights, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- Comedogenicity and irritancy of commonly used ingredients in skin care products, Journal of Society of Cosmetic Chemists.
- Medical Management of Constipation, Clinics in Colon and Rectal Surgery, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- An examination of the effect of castor oil packs on constipation in the elderly, Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- Castor oil induces laxation and uterus contraction via ricinoleic acid activating prostaglandin EP3 receptors, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America.
- Use of castor oil in pregnancies at term, Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- Castor oil for induction of labour: a retrospective study, The Official Journal of the European Association of Perinatal Medicine, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- Castor oil for induction of labor in post-date pregnancies: A randomized controlled trial, Women and Birth : Journal of the Australian College of Midwives, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- Castor oil for induction of labour: not harmful, not helpful, The Australian & New Zealand Journal of Obstetrics & Gynaecology, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- Effect of ricinoleic acid in acute and subchronic experimental models of inflammation, Mediators of Inflammation, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- Comparative clinical trial of castor oil and diclofenac sodium in patients with osteoarthritis, Phytotherapy Research, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- Castor oil decreases pain during extracorporeal shock wave application, National Center for Biotechnology Information.
- Antioxidant, Antimicrobial, and Free Radical Scavenging Potential of Aerial Parts of Periploca aphylla and Ricinus communis, ISRN Pharmacology, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- The Role of Moisturizers in Addressing Various Kinds of Dermatitis: A Review, Clinical Medicine and Research, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- Striae distensae (stretch marks) and different modalities of therapy: an update, Dermatologic surgery, ResearchGate.
- In vitro sun protection factor determination of herbal oils used in cosmetics, Pharmacognosy Research, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- Treating a chronic wound in a nonadherent patient: a case study, Journal of wound, ostomy, and continence nursing, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- In vitro antimicrobial activity of auxiliary chemical substances and natural extracts on Candida albicans and Enterococcus faecalis in root canals, Journal of Applied Oral Science, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- Phenol-castor oil: modified peel for dermal melasma, Dermatologic Surgery, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- Undecylenic acid, US National Library of Medicine, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- Topical 0.3% and 0.5% podophyllotoxin cream for self-treatment of condylomata acuminata in women. A placebo-controlled, double-blind study, Dermatology, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- DANDRUFF: THE MOST COMMERCIALLY EXPLOITED SKIN DISEASE, Indian Journal of Dermatology, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- A Case of Castor Bean Poisoning, Sultan Qaboos University of Medical Journal, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- Allergic axillary dermatitis due to hydrogenated castor oil in a deodorant, Contact Dermatitis, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
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