Benefits and Side Effects of Castor Seed Oil

Castor beans

Castor beans

Castor seed oil is derived from the seed of castor oil plant (Ricinus communis). Many people all over the world use castor oil for its many health benefits. Castor oil however, also has several side effects that many users should be aware of.

Ricinus communis can naturally be found all over the tropics, but it originated from India, Eastern Africa and the South Eastern Mediterranean. It is easily cultivated and can grow to tree-like size. The seed contains a large percentage of oil (40-60%) that contains numerous triglycerides, particularly the compound ricinolein. It is this compound that is responsible for castor oil’s potency as a laxative.

Health Benefits

Castor oil has many health benefits. Cold pressed castor oil has traditionally been used as a skin application to treat rashes, eczema, wounds, and burns. When used on the skin, it can also improve texture and conditioning. It can also reduce outbreaks of acne and pimples. To apply for this use, simply dab a piece of cotton or cloth containing a few drops of castor oil into the area to be treated.

Castor seed oils can also be used to massage swollen joints and tendons, reducing swelling and easing pain. A castor oil wrap can be made by treating a piece of cloth with castor oil, and placing a plastic wrap over it. It can be placed over a tender region, especially sore muscles and arthritic joints. A heat source (warm bottle of water or a heating pad is then placed over the wrap to maximize the effect.

Castor oil has been used in Italy during Mussolini’s fascist regime to induce diarrhea as a form of torture. It can, in moderate amounts, be a very effective laxative. A teaspoon of castor oil taken with lukewarm milk, ginger juice or orange juice can purge the body of toxins and intestinal parasites.  The effect starts an hour after taking the concoction. The effect may be unpredictable and can sometimes cause abdominal pain.

Abdominal cramps and headaches can be alleviated by rubbing the oil on the affected area.

Castor oil can be rubbed on the sides of the nose, under the eyes and behind the ears to relieve sinusitis.

A small portion rubbed into the breasts of a lactating woman is traditionally believed to improve the quantity of milk produced.

Applied to hair and scalp, castor oil effectively reduces dandruff and improves hair growth and luster. It can also reduce hair loss.

Applied to fungal infections like athlete’s foot, castor oil is an effective remedy.

Side Effects

The health benefits of castor oil are numerous; however, ingesting castor oil can also lead to several side effects. Castor oil contains the toxic compound ricin which can cause death when ingested in high amounts. Moderately high doses of ingested castor oil exaggerate its laxative effects, causing extreme diarrhea and vomiting. Use of castor oil in persons with intestinal infections or inflammations would further complicate the illness. Pregnant women should take very special care when using castor oil, since it can lead to abortions or premature births. Children should also never take castor oil since it is easy for them to overdose, leading to death. People with kidney disorders should also avoid using castor oil.

Castor oil is highly effective for a number of illnesses. The myriad uses of castor oil makes having a bottle handy in every household a good idea. However, bottles of castor oil should always be kept out of reach of children. Correct castor oil dosage should be followed since it also contains a very potent toxic substance. Proper care should always be used when ingesting castor oil, preferably under a physician’s or herbalist’s guidance.

References

  • Wedin, G.P., Neal, J.S., Everson, G.W., and Krenzelok, E.P. (1986). Castor bean poisoning. Am J Emerg Med.
  • Fae, Rita (2007) The benefits of Castor Oil retrieved from http://www.lifescript.com/Health/Alternative-Therapies/Supplements/The_Benefits_Of_Castor_Oil.aspx