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Castor Oil Packs

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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.

Step-By-Step Pack

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.

  1. Put a plastic covering on your bed with an old sheet over it. Castor oil is very sticky and will stain your bedding if it leaks from the pack.

  2. Put castor oil in a pan and soak two to four layers of flannel or cotton cloth in it, then wring it out until it is wet but not dripping. Or, pour castor oil directly onto the cloth. The folded cloth should be large enough to cover the area of your body you want to treat.

  3. Put the oil-soaked cloth on a piece of plastic, then with the plastic side in between, warm it on a hot water bottle or heating pad. A non-electrical heat source is preferable.

  4. After the cloth has warmed up, lie down on your bed and place the cloth on the area of your body to be treated. The oil-soaked cloth is next to your skin, the piece of plastic is over the cloth and the hot water bottle or heating pad is over the plastic. Hold everything in place with a towel or blanket overtop. Keep the heat on to help the oil sink into your body.

  5. Keep the pack in place for an hour. This is an ideal time to get in touch with your feelings and the messages your body sends you. As you lie still, pay attention to any images, feelings or thoughts that come up. They can give you valuable insights into the emotional aspects of your health condition and how you can bring greater balance and healing into your life.

  6. When finished, wipe excess oil off your body, then clean the area with two cups (500 millilitres) of water mixed with one teaspoon (five ml) of baking soda.

  7. The castor oil-soaked cloth can be reused several times. Wrap it in a plastic bag and store it in the refrigerator. If it dries out, just add more oil. After several uses, discard the cloth or wash thoroughly and hang in the sun to dry to remove any toxins that have been pulled from your body.

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.

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