Castor oil: It's not what you think

Published on June 24, 2014


You may have heard of ingesting castor oil as a tried and true remedy for a bad case of constipation. The wonders of castor oil are, however, far more beneficial and much safer when applied to the surface of the skin.

Castor oil is a natural remedy derived from the castor bean (Ricinus communis). Its main component is ricinoleic acid, which is a type of fatty acid shown to have anti-inflammatory properties.

When applied to the surface of the skin, castor oil has been shown to increase circulation and the healing of tissues and organs underneath the skin. It is readily absorbed into the lymphatic system which can help digestion, improve immune function, and reduce swelling in injured joints (including arthritis) and injured muscles. When applied over the lower abdomen, castor oil has also been shown to aid many female health concerns such as menstrual irregularities, uterine fibroids, and ovarian cysts.

One of my favourite uses of castor oil is to treat common gastrointestinal problems in children such as constipation, colic and bloating. An abdominal massage with castor oil that follows the path of the intestine can be used to encourage intestinal peristalsis (contraction of the intestines) in order to promote proper digestive function and help relieve constipation.

If you would like to try this, apply a few drops of castor oil to your hands and warm it up by rubbing the oil between the hands. Starting at the right lower quadrant of the abdomen, massage the castor oil in to the belly in a clockwise circular motion using slight pressure. Massage up to the right upper quadrant, then to the left upper quadrant, down to the left lower quadrant and back to the right lower quadrant. Cover with an old T-shirt (castor oil will stain) and leave to soak in overnight.

Another use of castor oil is to aid in the body's detoxification pathways. Applying castor oil over the liver is a really gentle way to support the liver which is the major detoxification organ in the body. Dr. Fasullo, Naturopathic Doctor states, "The liver breaks down all externally produced chemicals, as well as your body's own hormones, so that they can be easily excreted from the body. Additionally, over half of the body's lymph fluid is produced in the liver. The lymphatic system is responsible for healthy immune function, as well as acting as your body's internal janitor, collecting cellular waste products for elimination. A well-functioning liver keeps the blood cleansed of toxins and chemicals, allowing you to feel your very best. Castor oil packs can help to support this process in a number of ways."

Once again, if you would like to try this, rub castor oil over your liver, which is located below your right breast and extends a little below the bottom of your rib cage, cover with an old t-shirt and leave to soak in overnight.

Remember, using castor oil is only considered safe when applied to the skin's surface. Do not use when pregnant or breastfeeding. Women should avoid doing castor oil belly rubs during their menstrual cycle. Please consult a qualified health care provider before starting any natural therapies to see if it is right for you.


Dr. Amy Punké, ND, has a naturopathic practice at Whole Self Wellness Centre, 106 Stellarton Rd., New Glasgow (above Healthy Selection). Visit or call 902-755-1210.