An ancient favourite to heal, rejuvenate and detoxify. From constipation and inflammation to menstrual cramps and back pain, castor oil has sparked renewed interest as an excellent external treatment.
From constipation and inflammation to menstrual cramps and back pain, castor oil has sparked renewed interest as an excellent external treatment. This versatile oil is similar to the natural oils in the body and easily penetrates the cells to heal, rejuvenate and detoxify.
The healing properties of castor oil were enjoyed by the people of ancient Egypt, Greece, Rome, India, China, Persia, Africa, southern Europe and the Americas. Extracted from the seeds of the castor plant (Ricinus communis), this oil is sometimes called "palma Christi" (the hand of Christ), a name given to it by the ancient Romans. While the plant itself is poisonous, the extracted oil has many medicinal uses.
Dr. Christiane Northrup (Women's Bodies, Women's Wisdom, Bantam, 1998) finds castor oil packs help treat urinary tract infections, painful menstrual periods, endometriosis, fibroids and ovarian cysts. She advises against using the packs if bleeding heavily. She also finds they successfully alleviate breast problems such as inflammation, pain, lumps, cysts and calcifications. Based on preliminary studies conducted at the George Washington University School of Medicine, Dr. Northrup recommends applying castor oil packs to the lower abdomen at least three times a week for several months to improve immune system function.
In Take Charge of Your Body (Well Women Press, 1994), Dr. Carolyn DeMarco recommends castor oil packs to relieve the pain and swelling of varicose veins. Castor oil packs also help treat constipation, hemorrhoids, liver, gallbladder and kidney problems, headaches, abcesses, growths, warts, skin eruptions and lesions, sore or inflamed nipples in nursing mothers and hyperactivity in children. The packs are widely used in the treatment of back pain, sciatica and arthritis, as well as muscle, tendon, ligament, disc or bone damage.
To use the healing properties of the oil, soak a cloth in the oil and apply the resulting compress or castor oil pack to the affected body part. Use high quality cold-pressed castor oil, which is available from health food stores.
Using a castor oil pack only a few times can provide temporary relief for a condition. However, to make a deep and lasting change or to address long-standing or chronic conditions, it is necessary to apply castor oil packs consistently for several months. Ideally, apply them for three days, then take three days off and repeat this cycle for three months. If this isn't possible, do the packs three to four times per week.
Castor Oil Through the Ages
400 BC - Herodotus wrote that castor oil was much used by the Egyptians, who buried the plants' seeds in their ancient tombs. The castor plant was cultivated in ancient Greece.
100 BC - Dioscorides described the plant as being an external medicine whose seeds were extremely purgative.
1300 AD - Employed medicinally in Europe during the Middle Ages. It was a well-known garden plant used externally for skin diseases.
1800 AD - Cultivation in Europe ceased, and small supplies of seeds and oil came from Jamaica.
Present Day - Renewed interest in castor oil as an external medicine. It is also used in soaps, candles, furniture polish, textile dyes, artificial rubber and waterproof applications.