What You Should Know Before Using Castor Oil

Posted on June 6th, 2014 by Dr. Mercola  |  22 Comments »

castor oilCastor oil is widely known as an effective natural remedy due to its antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal properties. The oil is mostly made of fatty acids, 90 percent of which is ricinoleic acid, believed to be responsible for castor oil’s many health benefits.

But in spite of castor oil’s many positive attributes, natural health expert Dr. Joseph Mercola advises being cautious when using it, as there are reports of side effects among some users. If you wish to use this oil, Dr. Mercola shares certain considerations that need to be noted.

The Many Uses and Benefits of Castor Oil

Castor oil is obtained from the castor seed Ricinus communis, which has an unusual chemical structure. Castor seeds contain a toxin called ricin, which is fatal and often used in chemical warfare. Although the presence of ricin makes castor seeds dangerous, castor oil does not pose any threat to humans because the toxin is not present in the oil.

Castor oil was originally used for industrial purposes, including as an aircraft lubricant during World War I. Castor oil does not freeze because of its consistent viscosity, making it ideal for lubricating equipment in cold climates.

Castor oil is also used as a food additive and flavoring agent, mold inhibitor, skin product and cosmetic ingredient, and in manufacturing plastics, rubbers, synthetic resins, fibers, paints, and similar products.

In modern medicine, the reported therapeutic uses of castor oil have been categorized into:

  1. Remedies for gastrointestinal problems
  2. Antimicrobial agent
  3. Labor stimulant
  4. Analgesic and anti-inflammatory
  5. Immune system and lymphatic stimulant

When applied topically, castor oil is effective against skin conditions like keratosis, dermatosis, wounds, acne, and warts, along with sebaceous cysts, itching, and hair loss. With ricinoleic acid, castor oil enhances the absorption of other agents across your skin.

Apart from helping treat skin conditions, castor oil is said to aid in the treatment of the following:

  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Arthritis
  • Migraine and other types of headaches
  • Intestinal problems like appendicitis and colitis
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Gynecological problems
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Eye irritations
  • AIDS
  • Cancer

Direct application of castor oil on skin can also promote your immune function by increasing your lymphocyte count. Lymphocytes are disease-fighting cells stored in your lymphatic tissues (thymus gland, spleen, and lymph nodes). One benefit of this is the more efficient removal of toxins from your tissues, which promotes faster healing.

Potential Side Effects of Castor Oil

The use of castor oil is not without any adverse effects, which are usually skin reactions and gastrointestinal irritations.

Dr. Mercola explains that when castor oil reaches your small intestines, it is broken down into ricinoleic acid, which can irritate your intestinal lining. In effect, constipation is reversed. However, some people experience digestive discomfort, diarrhea, and other related side effects.

Although castor oil is used to help induce labor in pregnant women, cases of nausea among these women have been detected.

As with other essential oils and natural agents, you should also take note of its source. Most stocks of castor oil sold in stores are extracted from castor seeds that have been heavily sprayed with pesticides, solvent-extracted, deodorized, or chemically processed. This damages the quality of the oil and even raises your risk of being contaminated with agricultural toxins.

Dr. Mercola emphasizes that the benefits of castor oil are more anecdotal than scientific. It is wise to proceed carefully so that you can minimize your risk of any side effects. If you do choose to use this oil, below are some recommendations on how to do so properly.

How to Maximize the Benefits of Castor Oil

You can directly rub castor oil it on your skin. Another is to soak a Band-Aid in castor oil and apply it to the affected area. The oil can also be used as a massage oil, but reports show that this is only effective when applied along your spinal column, massaged along your lymphatic drainage pathways.

However, Dr. Mercola states that using castor oil packs is a more economical and more efficient way to infuse the benefits of ricinoleic acid and other healing components of castor oil directly to your tissues. Before use, he recommends having a patch test done to determine if you’re allergic to the oil or not.

To create your own castor oil pack as well as discover other helpful information about this natural healing agent, read Dr. Mercola’s article “Castor Oil May Help Relieve Arthritis, Sciatica, and Back Pain.”

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Responses to “What You Should Know Before Using Castor Oil”

  1. Raul Shamsiddeen says on :

    I am good so far

  2. Petra says on :

    Yes, castor oil can be irritating to the stomach as it caused me to seek medical attention when I felt a burning in my stomach and some discomfort after taking it to cleanser my system. Also, I use the non-ingested type of castor oil for my hair dyes, it helps alleviate any side effects of hair dyes and it also leaves my hair shiny.

  3. salma says on :

    Thank you for these good info about castor oil, castor oil can lighten skin and can be used to ger rid of tattoos and it is very beneficial for hair health and beauty.

  4. Lila says on :

    Is there other kind of castor oil that is used for hair?

  5. Kate Gordon says on :

    OK the article states that “most” caster oil is processed from seeds that have come from plants which were sprayed heavily with pesticides or other bad stuff..Also of mention is that if injected just 5 seeds can kill a person! Delima: not likely is it that I could grow my own plants to extract oil from?

  6. Linda says on :

    I’ve read where you can put a drop of castor oil into the eye at bedtime, in order to reduce dry eye symptoms of Sjogren’s syndrome. People are posting their testimonies about how effective this is.

    Do you have any comments about using castor oil as an eye lubricant?


  7. I'Dave Dempsey says on :

    I’ve been using this oil for a couple days on my husbands basil cell carcinoma which are cancer spots due to the sun. I’ve noticed a big difference since using this oil along with all natural baking soda. We tried a creme from the doctor but didn’t see much results after 21 days, so we did a little research and I’m pleased with what I’m seeing after only 2 days. I will keep using the oil as long as I see good results. Thanks for all the information, it helps a lot to see an improvement.

  8. Fran says on :

    Does it impact blood pressures?

  9. Amanda Silvers Mason says on :

    hi, ive been doing the 3 days on and 3 days off of the oil packs.
    first to nights i felt great the next day. the 3 day i have had tons of stomach pains,cramps, bloating and tons of pressure in my abdominal area.
    is this a side effect of detoxing?

  10. leah says on :

    I have just started using Jamaican Castor Oil as a topical for my thinning hair and I am pregnant, is this safe? Please help!

  11. Raven says on :

    I’ve been rubbing small amounts of black castor oil on my belly for stretch marks and i’m at the end of my first trimester, is this dangerous?

  12. Wahida R says on :

    Hi , I’m 40 years old and I watched a video about castor oil pack. I have used castor oil back on my stomach for concaving. I had it for 45 mints. After I take the pack away I saw some redness on my stomach as well as some pain and cramping on the abdominal area. Is it the side effect of castor oil ??
    Do I need to seek medical attention ? Please help .

  13. Lori Smulling says on :

    Hi, I tried using Castor Oil on my face; it caused it to blister, ulcerative and form thick scabs. It took forever for the scarring to diminish.

  14. Shriram Agarwal says on :

    Please let me know that castor oil eye drops could be beneficial in the case of glaucoma Shriram Agarwal

  15. Dana Waldrop says on :

    Where are the answers to the questions? Why are the questions published without the answers? What is the point?

  16. Edie says on :

    I do agree with Dana Waldrop. What’s the point? It’s actually more confusing to have questions with no answers.

  17. Darlin says on :

    Actually, this space is not for questions but for responses to the article. For those asking questions, it’s probably best to seek a medical professional in person instead of asking possibly life-altering questions on an unmonitored message board. Common sense, not so common.

  18. Kenneth McArthur says on :

    Well said, Darlin.

  19. Maria Legaux-Williams says on :

    How come no one is getting an answer?

  20. Katherine says on :

    I’ve done 5 Castor oil packs withPalma Christi Gold oil but each time I only need wait 4-5 hours and it has me going diahreah 5- 10 times. So I stopped. Have you seen this happen to others??

    I put it on my face am and pm. Perhaps it’s over burdening my body. Maybe I’m allergic to Castor oil because I still have intestinal diahreah since using it few months ago.

  21. Angela says on :

    Here’s the answer.
    I use the castor packs. I also experience the diarrhea, some pains etc. This is the same issues I’ve experienced with all detox methods I’ve tried. Since the symptoms from the castor packs are the mildest, I stay with it. Important to remember that those symptoms are from detoxing. If you expect to detox without pain, I suggest more research into detox and withdrawal. We need to detox because we live in a toxic environment. A little diarrhea is better than a poop bag.
    you can reduce the diarrhea by reducing your toxic intake.

  22. Michele says on :

    This article confirmed what I will do with my next steps for a wound that is become very dark and mishapening. I didn’t know that wounds can become necrotic because the dead cells eat the healthy cells. So I looked at how those necrotic areas need more oxygen. I looked at hyperbaric oxygen, hydogen peroxide, medical maggots, a few other things then I thought of Castor Oil and I am so thankful I ran across this article. It has confirmed for me what my next step should be and I am crossing my fingers. Once I did a Castor Oil Pack overnight and then I did have bad diarrhea of which I replenished my loss of electrolytes with a Pedialyte electrolyte solution. I think I am going to use my Castor Oil pack for 20 minutes this time and also put it on all of my insect wounds. Especially the 2 necrotic looking ones. I wish I knew the recipe of Castor Oil and baking soda that l’Dave Dempsey talked about. I’ll look it up and march onward with the hopes this will help.Thank you for this article Dr Mercola and for your many other articles you have written.

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