Castor oil (Ricinus communis) comes from the castor seed which is native to India. About 90% of the oil is composed of the fatty acid ricinoleic acid, which is thought to be responsible for its health promoting abilities.
Castor oil packs have been used for centuries in traditional medicine and natural health practices for their potential therapeutic benefits. Their use can be traced back to medical textbooks in Egypt as early as 1550 B.C.
Health Benefits of Castor Oil Packs
Studies and personal accounts suggest potentially wide-ranging benefits from castor oil packs, some of which include:
- Detoxification: Advocates of castor oil packs claim that they can help the body eliminate toxins and waste through the lymphatic system. The oil is thought to stimulate lymphatic circulation and liver function by increasing your lymphocyte count. This then allows the body to speed up the process of removing toxins from your tissues. It is widely accepted that lymphatic congestion is a key factor in inflammation and disease. Detoxification of the liver and lymph system will in turn help to strengthen the immune system. Using castor oil packs is also said to increase Glutathione, which is the master cleaning agent in the body. It is a super antioxidant that pulls and supports the elimination of most toxic substances from the body, including heavy metals.
- Improved Digestion: Applying a castor oil pack over the abdominal area may help improve digestion, reduce gut inflammation and alleviate symptoms of gastrointestinal disorders. It is also said to breakdown biofilm, the protective barrier that surround bad bacteria and candida which makes them hard to treat. It may also promote beneficial gut microbiome.
- Reduced Inflammation: Castor oil contains ricinoleic acid, which has anti-inflammatory properties. When applied to the skin, it may help reduce inflammation in the area.
- Constipation Relief: Some people use castor oil packs to relieve constipation. The oil is believed to have a laxative effect when applied topically to the abdomen.
- Skin Health: It is often used in skincare products due to its moisturising and soothing properties. Applying it to the skin through a pack may help improve skin health, hydration in addition to breaking up adhesions or scar tissue.
- Hair Health: It is said to improve hair health by strengthening the roots and reducing damage, reducing hair loss, increasing growth, and thickening hair.
- Thyroid Health: The oil may help shrink thyroid nodules and cysts and increase thyroid health by supporting autoimmune conditions such as Hashimoto’s.
- Painful Joints and Muscles: Castor oil packs can be applied to painful joints and muscles to provide relief from conditions like arthritis, fibromyalgia, and general muscle aches. They can also alleviate abdominal pain and provide relief from menstrual cramps.
- Female Health Support: The oil may help to reduce painful menstrual cramps, regulate cycles, shrink fibroids and ovarian cysts.
- Stress Reduction: The process of applying a castor oil pack and taking time for self-care can be relaxing and reduce stress. It can also help to improve sleep quality when done at night.
If you suffer from autoimmune issues, hormonal imbalances, chronic constipation, gut dysbiosis, then castor oil packs may prove to be a beneficial addition to your health routine. However, it’s important to note that the effectiveness of castor oil packs can vary from person to person.
How to Use a Castor Oil Pack
Castor oil packs can be placed over smaller targeted areas such as the liver (for detoxification), painful areas (such as joints and muscles), the thyroid (for thyroid conditions) or mid-section (for abdominal complaints and in supporting reproductive health). Or they can be placed over the entire abdomen, targeting the liver, digestive system and gynaecological complaints at the same time.
They are simple to do and you can do them in the comfort of your own home, but they require some preparation and care to ensure that they are effective and safe.
The following is a step-by-step guide on how to use a castor oil pack using a pack which covers your whole abdomen and is kept in place with ties like the one in the image below.
- High-quality, organic, hexane free, cold-pressed castor oil. Preferably stored in a dark glass bottle.
- Castor oil pack
- Hot water bottle or heating pad
- Old towel (to protect your clothing and bedding)
– Choose an area on your body that you want to treat. Common areas include the abdomen, liver, lower back, or joints.
– Take the castor oil pack out of its packaging. (Wash prior to first use to ensure it absorbs as much oil as possible).
– Place a towel on your bed to prevent oil from leaking and staining. This is uncommon when using a castor oil pack like the one in the image, but just adds peace of mind in case of any leakage.
– Boil the kettle and add boiling water to your hot water bottle so it’s ready to use.
- Applying the Castor Oil:
– Pour the oil onto the centre of the inside of the pack, enough so that it is moist, but isn’t dripping wet. Try to stay away from the edges as the oil will spread once applied to the body and heat added. 2 tablespoons are usually plenty when saturating the pack for the first time.
– Place the oil-soaked cloth over the area you want to treat and fasten the ties so that the pack is securely held in place.
– Lie down on top of the towel.
- Applying Heat:
– Place a hot water bottle or heating pad over the pack. The heat helps the oil penetrate the skin and is believed to enhance its therapeutic effects.
– Keep the heat source at a comfortable temperature, but not too hot to avoid burns.
– Relax for 45 minutes to an hour. It would be beneficial to use this time for meditation or relaxation to support and boost your healing efforts. The pack can also be applied at night and worn while you sleep for best results since your body repairs whilst you sleep.
- Cleaning Up:
– After the treatment, remove the pack.
– Save the oil-soaked pack for reuse.
– Clean your skin with a mild soap and water to remove any residual oil. Or if used overnight, wash off in the shower.
– Store the castor oil in a cool, dark place, away from direct sunlight.
– Store the castor oil pack in the packaging it came in if sealable, otherwise store in a Tupperware box or glass jar between uses. Store in the refrigerator or cool dark place. The pack does not need to be washed between uses and can be used up to 2-3 months before replacing. If before this time the pack discolours or starts to smell, the oil has probably gone rancid so throw out and use a new pack.
- Next Uses:
– Since subsequent applications will be using the same pack with castor oil already on it, you won’t need to apply as much going forward. Adding one tablespoon of the oil before each subsequent use should be sufficient to re-saturate the pack.
– Then repeat using the same instructions as above.
How Often to Use a Castor Oil Pack
It’s generally recommended to use the castor oil pack 3-4 times a week for at least a month to assess its potential benefits. It is safe to use for consecutive months or long-term. Some people continue using them regularly as part of their health and wellness routine after they feel better for maintenance. Clients who use the pack daily report the most benefits. There are no specific rules to castor oil packs, so do what feels good for you.
Do not use castor oil packs while menstruating, whilst pregnant or trying to conceive without professional support.
If you experience any discomfort or irritation, discontinue use, and consult with a healthcare professional. Additionally, it’s a good idea to consult with a healthcare practitioner before starting castor oil pack therapy, especially if you have underlying health conditions or are taking medications, to ensure they are safe and appropriate for your specific situation.