Castor Oil – an ancient approach to health

Castor Oil – an ancient approach to health

Castor oil has been used in recent years as part of a naturopathic approach to health and wellbeing especially for supporting detoxification and elimination.  It does however, have a very rich history that spans thousands of years having been found in ancient Egyptian tombs that date back to 4000 BCE.

The Ebers papyrus, an Egyptian medical papyrus of herbal knowledge dating back to c.1550 BCE is among the oldest and most important medical documents of ancient Egypt. [i] According to this ancient text, Egyptian doctors would use castor oil to protect the eyes from irritation, for beauty treatments, as well as for the treatment of constipation which it is now well documented.

Native to Africa and India, castor oil has a long tradition of use in Ayurveda which is the Indian system of medicine. It is extracted from castor beans by mechanical cold pressing and is refined to remove ricin, a potent toxin.

How does castor oil work?

Its primary active ingredient is ricinoleic acid (RA), which makes up 80- 90% of total fatty acids present. [ii]Other fats include the omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acid linoleic acid and the monounsaturated omega-9 oleic acid. RA has been shown to exert analgesic and anti-inflammatory actions with one study also highlighting antioxidant and antibacterial effects.

Castor oil has many uses and has been used for centuries to help ease bowel movements. A small study in Turkey found that the application of a castor oil pack to treat severe constipation in elderly subjects showed that castor oil was able to soften the hardened faeces which decreased straining and complete evacuation after the bowel movement.[iii] It is thought that the RA can bind to the VR1 receptors which helps to reduce straining.

What are the benefits?

Constipation is a common gastrointestinal complaint and is an obvious inhibitor of effective detoxification, with built up old faecal matter causing bloating, discomfort, and reduced nutrient absorption as well as the recirculation of toxins and impurities. The use of castor oil packing offers a natural way to relieve constipation, with its soothing properties and the warmth of the pack can help to stimulate circulation and promote smoother bowel movements.

Castor oil is also used topically and is often suggested for inflammatory skin conditions. Castor oil packing has been shown to produce an increase in T-lymphocyte immune cells below the skin’s surface, thereby demonstrating immunomodulating actions. T-lymphocytes are found throughout the skin, mainly in the layers of the epidermis and upper dermis and can communicate with the overall general immune response. It is possible that the ability of RA to enhance prostaglandin production may be the mechanism by which the oil influences T-cell actions.[iv]

With these mechanisms now more clearly understood, we can now see how castor oil packs may support the following –

  • Reducing pain and inflammation
  • Supporting detoxification
  • Liver function
  • Gas and bloating
  • Skin health
  • Fibrocystic breasts and more.

The early Egyptians have certainly given us much to appreciate of this remarkable oil, not just for health but for its beauty secrets. The oil used topically on the scalp can support hair growth as well as apply a little to eye lashes/brows to encourage growth.

How to make a castor oil pack?

Using castor oil packs could not be simpler, it can be an excellent time for rest and relaxation as you allow the oil to absorb into the skin. A castor oil pack is a cloth soaked in oil which is then placed on the skin as desired such as the abdomen to support bowel function or directly place over the liver area for example.

You will need:

  • Old sheets to lay on, and old clothes as the oil can stain
  • Castor oil (hexane free)
  • Castor oil fabric or Flannel/cloth
  • Hot water bottle
  • Old towel
  • Piece of plastic wrap (cling film) or wrapping fabric
  • A glass container that has a lid

How to:

  • Place the flannel/cloth in the container and soak with the oil so it is wet but not dripping
  • Place the saturated cloth over the area you are targeting, then wrap the cling film around yourself to hold the fabric in place
  • Wrap the towel over the area and around you
  • Place the hot water bottle over the pack and then another towel or blanket to cover you to keep warm and to keep the heat inside
  • Allow the oil to penetrate into the skin for at least 45 min- 1 hour, which is a great time for some rest time too!!
  • When finished remove the hot water bottle and place the used fabric cloth into the glass container, covering with the lid and place in the fridge until next time. Whilst the fabric can be used several times you will need to add more oil each time, discard if it smells rancid over time

Oil packing is an excellent adjunct to any detoxification or cleansing programme, working synergistically with other practical techniques that support the eliminatory pathways such as dry skin brushing and enemas

The ancient Egyptians truly understood the natural powers and were truly ahead of their time when it came to this golden oil.






Previous Post
Soothe The Mind With Ashwagandha
Next Post
Keeping Active: Nutrition Support for Bone Health

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Fill out this field
Fill out this field
Please enter a valid email address.
You need to agree with the terms to proceed


Elisabeth Philipps

Karen Devine

Karen Devine

Shelley Harvey

Related Blogs:

castor oilcastor oil packsconstipationdetox kitsDetoxificationDigestive Healthdigestive supportgut healthSkinskin health

Like this article? Share with your friends!