17 Science-Backed Health Benefits of Castor Oil
What is Castor Oil?
Castor oil is derived from the seeds of the Ricinus communis plants which grow wild in wastelands across tropical regions.
Records show that a long time ago the plant was referred to as the “Palma Christe” because the shape of the plant’s leaves was said to resemble the palm of Christ.
In milder climates, this plant is often grown as an ornamental garden herb and is now cultivated for biodiesel manufacture on a large scale.
Castor oil has been around for centuries and has been widely used for medicinal purposes in its native lands across the African continent, the Indian subcontinent, and the Mediterranean basin.
The ancient Egyptians used it as a potent, natural remedy for skin and eye irritations.
Castor oil has also been prized by the Indians for its skin-healing, antibacterial, digestive soothing potential.
Folk healers worldwide have used castor oil to treat a great number of health conditions for thousands of years.
Throughout history, at the first sign of illness, parents would give their children castor oil either topically or internally to improve naturally immune function and accelerate the healing process.
Due to its high viscosity and lubricating property, castor oil is one of the first vegetable oils to be used for industrial purposes.
Furthermore, castor oil was the inspiration for the name of the automotive lubricant company Castor.
Castor oil has been popularized for its capacity to clear constipation, treat skin infections, and improve both the health and the appearance of hair.
However, according to research, castor oil is reported to have additional and more essential applications for boosting immune function.
Castor oil may increase the number of white blood cells and T-11 cells, which are a type of special white blood cells that operate as antibodies and are produced within the body’s lymphocytes, thereby helping your body get rid of viruses, bacteria, fungi, and cancer cells.
Castor oil’s benefits greatly depend on its chemical composition.
It is classified as a triglyceride fatty acid, where almost 90% percent of its fatty acid content is a rare and specific compound called ricinoleic acid (1).
Due to its concentrated content of ricinoleic acid which is found in scarce amounts in many other substances, castor oil is considered to be unique.
It is produced by cold-pressing the seeds.
Ricinoleic acid is not the only valuable constituent of castor oil because the oil also contains some beneficial salts that act primarily as skin-conditioning agents.
Simultaneously, they are helpful in stabilizing the consistency and texture of products.
For this very reason, castor oil is used in a large number of cosmetic products and hair and skin-care treatments, according to the International Journal of Toxicology (1).
Health Benefits of Castor Oil
Ricinoleic acid, found in castor oil, is an unsaturated fatty acid that provides a great number of healing benefits (2).
What does castor oil do?
- supports the lymphatic system
- increases circulation
- eases constipation
- fights skin disorders and infections
- treats skin inflammation, ringworm, keratoses, abrasions, and fungal infections
- heals acne
- reduces itching and swelling on the skin
- reduces painful sunburns
- prevents the growth of viruses, bacteria, yeasts, and molds
- hydrates chapped lips
- helps with pregnancy and inducing labor
- helps hair grow
- fights toenail fungus
- and much more
Castor oil supports the body’s lymphatic system with its immune-enhancing effects.
The lymphatic system present throughout the entire body in small tubular structures functions to absorb and remove excess waste materials, fluids, and proteins from our cells.
Lymph nodes within these tubes operate as the body’s natural toxin filters.
Furthermore, when you are sick, these nodes pump out antibodies to keep foreign bacteria or proteins at bay.
For example, if you have ever had an enlarged lymph node near your genitals or in your neck, this is an indicator that your body is releasing a high level of antibodies to fight a nearby infection.
If the lymphatic system is malfunctioning, you are exposed to a higher risk of the failure of numerous healthy cells, which eventually may lead to degeneration and destruction of organs.
For instance, if you suffer from poor lymphatic heart drainage, this will damage the tissue, which will eventually lead to heart disease.
Not only does the lymphatic system improve the function of the circulatory system, help establish defensive antibodies for the immune system, and eliminate toxic waste from your tissues, it also helps absorb fat molecules in the small intestine.
In fact, a great deal of all the fat from the gut is absorbed by the lymphatic system.
However, some fat molecules cannot be absorbed because of their large size.
When this occurs, the lymphatic system receives them and then releases them into the bloodstream.
Eventually, they are carried throughout the body to be used as fuel.
Improves Immune Function
Castor oil is reported to improve blood flow, thymus gland health, lymphatic drainage, and other immune system function.
According to Cell Immunology’s 2010 study, patients who use abdominal castor packs produce significantly increased levels of lymphocytes, compared to patients using placebo packs (3).
“Disease-fighters” is another name for lymphocytes for their function of protecting the immune system from invaders such as bacteria, toxins, and other perceived threats.
Castor oil is also helpful when it comes to the production of adequate levels of lymphocytes, which are transferred to and stored in the lymphatic tissue.
The lymphatic system is also responsible for the proper function of the circulatory and digestive system because castor oil is capable of helping you detoxify, thereby boosting your heart health and treating digestive issues such as constipation, as well.
Pancreatic enzymes hydrolyze castor oil in the small intestine, which leads to the release of ricinoleic acid glycerol, along with other beneficial metabolic compounds.
Proper blood flow and immunity depend on each other.
This means that it is much more likely someone will become chronically ill when the lymphatic system fails, or edema develops.
The function of the circulatory system is to pump blood to and from the heart, where it releases oxygen throughout your entire body via tiny vessels and small arteries.
Blood exchanges oxygen and nutrients for cellular waste within microscopic tubular structures in the lungs.
This process is essential because it keeps us alive, brings oxygen to our cells, and detoxifies our bodies.
When absorbed through the skin, castor oil increases both lymphatic drainage and blood circulation.
Promotes Healthy Digestion
In folklore, castor oil is known as a potent cathartic, meaning it stimulates the complete release of substances from the gastrointestinal tract and ultimately promotes defecation (5).
However, when absorbed via the skin from a castor oil pack, the oil may provide the same therapeutic properties.
If you apply castor oil packs in the abdominal region, this can help you with achieving regular bowel movements, which will result in an increase in energy.
Scientists found a correlation between this laxative effect and depression because removing infectious agents from the lining of the gut has been found to alleviate symptoms of depression.
According to Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice, castor oil can relieve symptoms of constipation.
Castor oil packs for therapeutic care were given to elderly patients, who were observed with immediate improvements following less than three days of treatment, even though 80% had been seeking relief from symptoms of constipation for over ten years (6).
Balances Hormones and Improves Libido
The formation of healthy hormones greatly depends on the absorption of fat molecules within the digestive tract.
Castor oil enhances this function, making it possible to balance hormones naturally (7).
Furthermore, better hormonal flow, coupled with decreased floating toxins present within and around cells, causes the sexual organ system to function more efficiently.
This alleviates PMS symptoms, mood swings, fatigue, and depression.
In ancient times, castor oil was used as a natural remedy to help pregnant women induce labor.
Nowadays, these alternative methods are backed by science.
A group of researchers from Australia and New Zealand conducted a study in 2009 to assess the effectiveness and safety of castor oil to labor in pregnancies.
The findings suggest that castor oil had no side effects affecting induction of labor (8).
Castor oil has been given orally to pregnant women for centuries to help speed up uterus contractions.
Many have questioned the link between castor oil and induction of labor.
However, the science suggests that ricinoleic acid in the oil triggers EP3 prostanoid receptors in the uterus.
Even though the above-mentioned study reports no side effects, some women feel nauseous after using castor oil, which may be one downside of using it for this purpose.
Decreases Symptoms of Arthritis
Castor oil is often taken as a natural treatment for inflammation, joint swelling, and arthritis pain.
Due to its natural anti-inflammatory properties, it can be used as an ideal massage oil and applied to aching muscles, joints, or tissue.
Physiotherapy Research in 2009 published a study that castor oil can be used as an effective therapy in primary knee osteoarthritis.
The subjects were evaluated by routine, clinical laboratory investigation for improvement of disease.
The results suggest significant effectiveness in the treatment of knee osteoarthritis, and no side effects were reported (9).
Use castor oil followed by a hot water pack to increase absorption and drainage by massaging aching areas.
If you practice this process twice a week, it will most certainly alleviate the aching symptoms.
Treats Skin Infections and Wounds
The health of your skin is a good reflection of how healthy your immune system, gut, and hormonal balance is.
If you use store-bought skin care products, know that your skin will be loaded with chemical ingredients, which usually make the skin irritation worse.
On the other hand, using castor oil is completely synthetic-free and natural, yet your body will absorb it directly through the skin, which will result in a few positive outcomes for skin’s appearance.
First, as we have already mentioned, castor oil promotes an increase in circulation and blood flow, thereby promoting a better defense against infections and faster healing for wounds.
In 2003, a group of researchers from the Fountain Valley Regional Hospital Wound Care Program in the USA conducted a study suggesting how castor oil is beneficial to treating skin wounds (10).
Health Benefits of Castor Oil for Skin
Castor oil works similarly to coconut oil for healing skin, as it acts as a natural antibacterial agent.
It is also a good skin moisturizer, treats blemishes due to its anti-inflammatory properties, and can delay the signs of aging such as wrinkles for its capacity to increase collagen and elastin production.
Heals Inflamed Skin
Castor oil is truly beneficial to healing skin inflammation that can be caused by acne, sunburns, and dry skin.
Castor oil has healing properties, that is, it contains ricinoleic acid that helps with skin inflammation of all kinds.
According to a 2000 study published by the Mediators of Inflammation, ricinoleic acid, the main component of castor oil, causes remarkable anti-inflammatory effects and may be seen as an anti-inflammatory agent suitable for the peripheral application (12).
Fights Signs of Aging
When used topically, castor oil has the amazing benefit of slowing aging.
When applied to the skin, castor oil penetrates deeply and promotes the production of collagen and elastin.
In turn, this helps soften and hydrate the skin.
Not only will it delay the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines, but it will also make your skin softer, smoother, and appear younger.
Moreover, you can treat the fine lines around the eyes by applying castor oil.
Most people that have acne-prone skin keep their skin away from most oils because their pores are susceptible to clogging, which only makes things worse.
However, you can use castor oil safely to treat acne.
Castor oil leaves you with supple, smooth, and revitalized skin.
For that reason, castor oil acts as a natural and inexpensive skin moisturizer.
Castor oil is a great moisturizer as it contains fatty acids that penetrate the skin easily, thereby helping eliminate dry patches and restoring hydration of the skin (14).
You can use castor oil for fading blemishes and scars, even though the results will not be visible overnight.
You need to apply it on a regular basis to see clear results, as it works slowly.
Due to the fatty acids found in castor oil, it can penetrate deeply into scar tissue, thereby removing dead cells and promoting the growth of healthy tissue.
Therefore, your blemishes will eventually fade away (15).
Prevents Stretch Marks
Stretch marks usually occur after pregnancy when the skin in the abdomen goes through drastic stretching over a short period.
Castor oil plays an important role here because it causes the skin to be more elastic, which prevents the formation of stretch marks.
Fatty acids found in castor oil can prevent stretch marks when used topically during the final two months of pregnancy (16).
Castor oil is extremely beneficial in clearing your skin of marks and spots.
Due to its ability to reduce pigmentation, many dermatologists recommend using castor oil to treat uneven skin tone, marks, and spots.
Castor oil is packed with fatty acids, specifically omega-3 fatty acids.
These acids hydrate the skin while promoting the growth of healthy tissue, thus giving you blemish-free and supple skin (15).
Health Benefits of Castor Oil for Hair
Castor oil has become a popular remedy to treat hair loss.
Every month, your hair grows about half an inch on average.
You can boost hair growth by three to five times the usual rate with the regular use of castor oil.
Not only does it spur hair growth, but it also promotes hair thickness within a few months of use.
Also, castor oil can make your eyebrows and eyelashes thicker and longer (17).
Promotes Hair Growth
By massaging your scalp with it, castor oil promotes hair growth, giving you longer and thicker hair.
Castor oil does this by stimulating blood circulation to the follicles.
The oil also contains omega-9 essential fatty acids that keep your hair healthy.
In addition, it helps with reducing split ends, controlling hair breakage, and conditioning and moisturizing your hair (18).
Treats Scalp Infections
Most major hair problems such as dandruff, bald patches, and an itchy scalp stem from scalp infection.
If applied, castor oil can prevent these issues.
Castor oil is antibacterial and antifungal.
It can fight the microorganisms and pathogens causing the infection (19).
Castor oil can be extremely effective in treating dry and damaged hair because it contains the humectant properties that help lock in moisture.
This prevents your hair from turning dry and makes it softer and smoother (20).
How to Use Castor Oil
You can use castor oil in a few ways: you can apply it topically on the skin, by doing a massage with it, or by using castor oil packs.
As with any other skin treatment or essential oil use, you should make sure that any oil you consume or ingest is of the highest quality to ensure effectiveness and safety.
When purchasing castor oil, look for cold-pressed, pure castor oil.
According to some, castor oil is the most effective when used in an oil pack or poultice, as these increase topical absorption through the skin’s pores.
How much castor oil you are taking internally depends on what you are using it for, in addition to your age, response to laxative-type treatments, and existing medical conditions.
Prior to purchasing and using castor oil, make sure to read the package directions carefully.
Also, increase your dose slowly, and do not go over the recommended amount.
Finally, do not take it for more than seven days consecutively.
The recommended dosage for adults is one teaspoon once a day on an empty stomach.
This dosage is helpful to regulate bowel movements and improve blood flow.
On the other hand, taking less than recommended is useful for maintaining general health.
However, prior to taking it on a regular basis and/or for extended periods of time, consult with a medical professional.
For children, half of one teaspoon once per day is the common dosage.
Castor oil is available in both capsule and liquid forms and is usually sold as a laxative formula.
It is known for having a foul taste, strong smell, and yellow color, so most people prefer taking it by mixing it with some other liquid.
Before you use castor oil topically or internally, perform a skin test by applying a small amount of oil to check for allergic reactions.
One of the best-known side effects of using castor oil is its ability to cause strong pelvic contractions which may lead to premature birth or miscarriage.
Therefore, pregnant women should never use castor oil internally unless specifically instructed by their doctor.
When taken internally, castor oil causes a very strong laxative effect.
If you overdose on castor oil, this can result in severe dehydration, which can be fatal in extreme cases.
Other possible side effects of an overdose include diarrhea, abdominal cramps, dizziness, fainting, hallucinations (rare), nausea, throat tightness, skin rash, chest pain, and shortness of breath.
Individuals with bleeding problems like peptic ulcers should not use castor oil internally.
Finally, make sure to keep castor oil out of the reach of children.
And as always, check with a medical professional if you have any concerns or questions about the use of this natural and potent remedy.
Despite minimal research backing up this potent remedy, castor oil is believed to be helpful and versatile when it comes to treating a number of medical conditions.
It is a remedy with a long history and warrants greater scientific exploration.
Nonetheless, make sure to take precautions before taking castor oil.