What is Castor Oil?

Castor oil comes from the castor seed, native to India. It is extremely high in ricinoleic acid, which is thought to be responsible for its health promoting abilities. It is important to note that while Castor Oil is said to have health benefits, the castor seed itself can be deadly and internal use of even castor oil warrants caution.

While it is considered “Generally Regarded As Safe” by the FDA and up to a tablespoon per day is considered approved for internal use, it can cause extreme digestive upset in some people. I am not a doctor and don’t play one on the internet, so talk to yours before using castor oil or anything else internally.

It is sometimes used internally for inducing labor, mostly by causing raging diarrhea in thoughts that this will also stimulate uterine contractions. I chose not to try this and wouldn’t suggest it since there is some evidence that it can increase the chance of baby passing meconium before birth. It is also sometimes used to reduce constipation (again with the raging diarrhea).

Castor Oil Packs

Naturopathy recommend castor oil packs because of their ability to promote healing and to reduce inflammation. They also improve elimination and circulation, especially of the lymphatic system. Other ailments castor oil packs are said to aid with include hepatitis C, hyperthyroidism, pelvic pain, tendinitis, kidney stones, fibroids, ovarian cysts, swollen joints, irritable bowel syndrome, and digestive disorders.

The whole idea is to keep castor oil on a piece of cloth on the skin for at least an hour with a heat source to stimulate lymph and liver function. Unlike some “detox” methods, this is not said to have any negative side effects and the there are many accounts of people who noticed immediate better sleep, more energy and clearing of skin symptoms.

Castor oil packs also provide time for self care and relaxation, which also has health benefits.

Castor oil packs have traditionally been used on various body parts:

  • On the right side of the abdomen or the whole abdomen, which is thought to help support the liver and digestive system
  • On strained joints or muscles (not as a substitute for medical care but to speed healing of minor injuries that don’t need medical attention)
  • On the lower abdomen to help with menstrual pain and difficulties

Even for external use, I’d consult with a doctor or naturopath to make sure that this natural remedy is ok for you.  It should not be used if pregnant or struggling with a medical condition. If you have never used castor oil before, perform a small patch test. Apply a little oil to any part of your arm before using on a larger area of the body.  If any redness or irritation occurs do not use.

How to Do a Castor Oil Pack

Castor oil packs are simple to do at home and I like them because they require me to be still and relax and read a book for at least an hour. They can be messy, but with proper preparation are not.

Needed Supplies

If you don't have the time or ability to create your own no worries, we've created a Castor Pack kit for you . It has the castor oil, cotton flannel and a non-messy wrap around pack that removes the need for plastic wrap and has kept mine from leaking at all.

How to Do A Castor Oil Pack

I highly recommend carefully prepping the are where you’ll be doing the castor oil pack to prevent mess. I like using an old shower curtain, covered with a sheet under me, just to make sure nothing stains. I don’t often have to wash the sheet, and I just fold and store in the bathroom cabinet for the next use.

Before Beginning:

  • Cut a large piece of cotton flannel and fold into thirds to make three layers. My original piece was 20 inches by 10 inches and when folded it was roughly 7×10 but yours could be larger or smaller, depending on where you are planning to place it.
  • Thoroughly soak (but not completely saturate) the flannel in castor oil. The easies way I found to do this was to carefully fold the flannel and place in a quart size mason jar. I then added castor oil about a tablespoon at a time (every 20 minutes or so) to give it time to saturate. I also gently shook the jar between adding more oil so that the oil could reach all parts of the cloth. Ideally, this should be done the day before to give it time to evenly soak. I save the jar since this is where I keep the flannel between uses (it can be used about 30 times).

Instructions:  Using Castor Oil Pack

  • Put on a pair of old clothes you don't mind getting messy and stained.
  • Take your piece of flannel and place it in your glass container making sure to pour enough castor oil over it to soak it (make sure it's saturated, but it doesn't need to be dripping in oil).
  • Get your hot water bottle ready.
  • Place your towel on a flat surface (either a couch, your bed, or the floor). For added protection you can also put down a garbage bag so that your bed or couch won't get stained from any oil that manages to escape the plastic cover.
  • Once you lie down, place your saturated flannel over the lower abdomen or other affected area of your body.
  • Cover the pack with plastic.
  • Place the heating pad or hot water bottle over the pack and let it sit for at least 45-60 minutes. During this time you can rest or read a book.
  • When the time is up, remove the pack and clean the area with water and a bit of baking soda.
  • You can keep the pack in a plastic bag in a cool place or the refrigerator. I keep mine in a sealed glass jar in one of my kitchen cabinets. Just add another tablespoon of castor oil for the next session.