What is Castor Oil?
Castor oil is a clear, viscous (“sticky”) oil that is cold extracted from the seed of Ricinus communis. This plant, native to India and Africa, has been used medicinally by people for thousands of years.
Topical Use of Castor Oil
Most of us have heard about the internal ingestion of castor oil and it’s purgative (bowel emptying & labour stimulating) properties, but that’s not what I’m talking about here. I want to touch on the topical benefits of ca
stor oil as they are both important and plentiful!
Castor Oil, due to its unique molecular structure, is absorbed through the top (epidermal) layer of skin. Once absorbed it increases lymphocyte count and helps to clear lymphatic congestion. Lymphatic congestion is a major factor contributing to pain and inflammation in the body so you can begin to see why castor oil has so many far-reaching benefits.
Four Surprising Benefits of Topical Castor Oil:
- 1. Reduced inflammation: inflammation is a key risk factor for most health problems, so reducing inflammation is beneficial on so many levels; more specifically I tend to recommend castor oil packs for pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) and inflammatory bowel conditions such as IBS, crohns and colitis
- 2. Reduced pain: this includes digestive discomfort, nerve pain, menstrual cramps, and pain associated with cysts, fibroids, endometriosis and fertility treatments
- 3. Stimulation of your parasympathetic nervous system (PNS): the PNS is a division of the body’s autonomic nervous system. It’s known as the “rest & digest” nervous system as it slows the heart rate, increases intestinal (digestive) activity and relaxes muscles. By activating the PNS, castor oil packs help promote optimal digestion, bowel regularity, and an overall sense of calm
- 4. Enhanced immunity: 70-80% of your immune system is in your digestive tract, so by creating a local increase of lymphocytes (white blood cells) you are essentially supercharging your immune system! I often recommend this therapy to children & adults who struggle with lowered immunity and frequent infections
Castor oil is best used as part of a ‘castor oil pack’ or ‘castor oil abdominal massage’ as heat & massage will enhance the medicinal effects of the oil. It’s also important to note that although there will be some immediate benefits (such as a sense of calm), castor oil packs are most effective when used longer term (talk to your Naturopathic Doctor about what will work best for you).
Instructions on how to do a castor oil pack (a.k.a castor oil abdominal massage):
- Place a small amount (approx. quarter size, but varies depending on the age & size of the person) of castor oil on your abdomen and rub it all around from the top of your pubic bone to the bottom of your rib cage. Add more oil is needed to be sure your abdomen is covered (with a thin film of oil)
- Continue to massage your abdomen by moving the pads of your fingers in a circular motion, and by going in a clockwise direction. More specifically, start the massage in the lower right corner of your abdomen, move upwards towards your rib cage, then across (underneath your rib cage) to the left hand side, continue down the left side of your abdomen and end in the lower left corner (by doing this you are following the direction of your large intestine)
- Repeat this motion 5-10 times and then place an old t-shirt or tea towel over your abdomen and top that with a heating pad or hot water bottle
- Leave the heat on for 10-15 minutes (or longer if you wish) while engaging in a relaxing activity such as deep breathing, listening to a meditation, journaling, listening to relaxing music, coloring, etc.
- Aim to do a castor oil pack as above 3-5 times weekly for a minimum of 3 weeks. Pay attention to how you feel during & after; keep track of your symptoms and report back to your Naturopathic Doctor
I love using castor oil packs alongside other natural therapies. If you have more specific questions about castor oil or would like to book in for a consult please feel free to contact me through the contact page of my website 🙂