Castor oil as a laxative
Castor oil is extracted from the seeds of the Ricinus communis plant. It's a thick oil that's been used for thousands of years and is still widely used around the world in folk medicine. People have used it as an antibiotic, as an anti-inflammatory, as a laxative, and to heal wounds and ulcers. Although the seeds contain a toxic ingredient called ricin, the toxin is neutralized during the production process.
Today, castor oil is used in a variety of skincare and industrial products and is available over the counter.
Castor oil is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for use as a laxative. It's a stimulant laxative that works by stimulating the muscle movement of your digestive tract. This pushes material through your intestines to clear your bowels. Castor oil is a very effective stimulant laxative. But more effective laxatives with fewer side effects have been produced, so castor oil is not used as often as it used to be.
Some people may prefer to use castor oil over other laxatives because it's derived from a plant and may be thought of as more natural. It's completely safe to use as a laxative, but it can have some unpleasant side effects. Castor oil can cause abdominal cramps, vomiting, bloating, and dizziness.
You shouldn't use castor oil for long-term constipation. It also shouldn't be used by pregnant women since it can cause premature contractions. People who have gastrointestinal blockage, appendicitis, a perforated colon, or inflammatory bowel disease should not use castor oil. Because castor oil is a powerful laxative, using it can interfere with the absorption of other medicines taken by mouth.
Castor oil for healing wounds
Castor oil's main component is ricinoleic acid (RA), which has anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties. Castor oil is also a humectant, which seals in moisture. Because castor oil is fat-soluble, it's absorbed through your skin, although researchers don't understand exactly how that happens. Castor oil may help reduce skin inflammation, support healing, and reduce pain in wounds. In one study, wounds treated with castor oil healed faster than wounds in the control group, although the healing rate was still considered normal.
Castor oil is used in Venelex, an ointment used to treat wounds. It's one of several ingredients in Venelex and is used for diabetic and pressure ulcers, burns, and surgical wounds.
Moisturizing your skin with castor oil
Castor oil is an occlusive moisturizer that works by reducing water loss through your skin. This allows your skin to replenish its moisture at deeper levels. You can mix castor oil with other moisturizers or use it on its own as a moisturizer. Because castor oil is free of other fragrances or chemicals, it may be less likely to cause a reaction in your skin.
Castor oil contains antioxidants, so it may help reduce wrinkles. Its antibacterial properties may help fight acne, and its anti-inflammatory properties may help reduce irritation and redness. The fatty acids in castor oil may help promote overall skin health.
Castor oil for arthritis symptoms
The anti-inflammatory properties of castor oil may help relieve arthritis pain. One study found castor oil to be effective in treating knee arthritis. It was as effective as sodium diclofenac, with fewer side effects and drug reactions.
Castor oil pack
If you're interested in trying castor oil for topical applications, you can use a castor oil pack. A castor oil pack is a method for applying castor oil externally. You'll need to following items:
- Castor oil
- Cotton flannel
- A trash bag
- A heating pad
- A large plastic sheet
To make the castor oil pack, place the trash bag over the heating pad. Put the flannel on top of the trash bag and turn the heating pad on. Pour castor oil on the piece of flannel until it's saturated. Let it warm for about 15 minutes. You can use the castor oil pack anywhere you're experiencing pain or irritation. Make sure you protect your clothes and the surfaces you're sitting or lying on since the castor oil pack will drip.
You can reuse your castor oil pack, but you'll need to add more castor oil to it each time, though not as much as you did the first time. Always use a heating pad to heat up the castor oil pack. Never heat it up in the microwave since you could burn yourself.
You can apply a heating pad on top of the castor oil pack for added relief. Use the heating pad on low and only use it for 45 minutes to an hour.
Risks of castor oil
Overall, castor oil is very safe, with few side effects. Some people can get gastrointestinal side effects like stomach cramps from castor oil. Castor oil should not be used by pregnant women, since it may cause premature contractions. Some people may have an allergic reaction to castor oil, so you should apply a small amount to test it before you apply it to large areas of your skin.
Alookaran, J., Tripp, J. StatPearls, "Castor Oil," StatPearls Publishing, 2022.
Edgar Cayce's A.R.E.: "Therapies: Castor Oil Packs."
Phytotherapy Research: "Comparative clinical trial of castor oil and diclofenac sodium in patients with osteoarthritis."
Polymers for Advanced Technologies: "Bioactive polymeric formulations for wound healing."
Toxins: "Ricin: An Ancient Story for a Timeless Plant Toxin."
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