Editor’s Note: This article first appeared in the Jan 2016 edition of TTAC’s Insiders member newsletter.
Dating back to its first recorded medical use over 3,500 years ago, castor oil has been used to stimulate blood circulation in the body’s tissues and improve lymphatic drainage for optimal health and healing. Castor oil is known to promote detoxification processes, and can be used as a simple and natural home therapy to help your body detox.
Castor oil is obtained from the seeds of the castor plant (Ricinus communis). It is a colorless to very pale yellow liquid with a distinct taste and faint, mild odor.
Commercially, castor oil is used to make soaps, lubricants, hydraulic and brake fluids, paints, dyes, coatings, inks, cold resistant plastics, waxes and polishes, nylon, pharmaceuticals, and perfumes.
Beyond its commercial uses, people all around the world have reported remarkable success using castor oil packs for a number of health conditions – including cancer.
Historically, the Aztec Indians were said to have used castor oil packs to treat skin lesions, menstrual cramps, and digestive problems. The Persians used them as a therapy for epilepsy. The Egyptians for eye disorders, and the Greek physician Dioscorides used them for the reduction of tumors.
Early European users of castor called the plant “Palma Christe,” because they thought the leaves resembled the hand of Christ. They also found that it had remarkable medicinal qualities which made the name even more symbolic.
Castor oil packs (a flannel cloth soaked in oil) improve lymphatic drainage, stimulate lymphocyte development, and improve digestion. This uniquely powerful combination of health benefits makes castor oil packs a great addition to your healing regime.
Is Castor Oil Safe to Use?
Castor oil is pressed from the castor seed which is native to India and has a unique chemical composition. Castor oil is essentially a triglyceride, comprised of fatty acids with 90 percent being ricinoleic acid, which is only found in trace amounts in other seeds. Oleate and linoleates are the other major components in castor oil.
The main component of castor oil, ricinoleic acid, is a phytochemical. A phytochemical is a natural compound found in fruits, vegetables, and seeds that typically have specific actions in our body when we consume them. For example, ricinoleic acid targets specialized receptors within the intestines as well as in the smooth muscle cells of the uterus, naturally stimulating detoxification.
The U.S. Federal Drug Administration (FDA) and the Joint Food and Agriculture Organization Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA) both recognize castor oil as safe, but do not recommend that it be taken orally.
Castor Oil Promotes Lymphatic Drainage
How is it possible that castor oil was responsible in one study for suppressing tumor growth? Castor oil has cancer-fighting abilities by which it stimulates the release of toxic build up and debris from the lymphatic system. On the other hand, when the lymphatic system functions poorly, bacteria thrive within the fluid that accumulates in lymphatic tubules and ducts.
Researchers have found that the absorption of castor oil through skin stimulates blood circulation, lymphatic drainage, and the production of lymphocytes (a type of white blood cell belonging to the immune system, typically found in lymphatic fluid) that are critical to a healthy immune system. For this reason, castor oil can be used to treat individuals with weakened immune systems such as those with AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome) or HIV (human immunodeficiency virus infection).
How Castor Oil Packs Improve Immunity
A small study published in the Journal of Naturopathic Medicine in the late 90s found that a simple castor oil pack significantly improved key immune cell counts. This study found that a 2-hour therapy period produced a “significant” increase in the number of T-11 lymphocytes.
This increase in levels of T-11 cell lymphocytes represents a generalized boost in the body’s specific immune defense. Lymphocytes are produced in the bone marrow and the thymus gland and function to defend the body against viruses and other pathogens as well as against cancer cells. On the other hand, low levels of lymphocytes are a major risk factor in developing viral disorders and cancer.
Although the increase in T-lymphocytes was temporary, this study showed that castor oil treatment increased the T-lymphocyte count for over 7 hours following the treatment before slowly retreating back to normal levels by 24 hours posttreatment.
Castor Oil Promotes Healthy Digestion and Elimination
One of the simplest therapeutic strategies for promoting detoxification is to maintain the healthy functioning of your gastrointestinal tract by promoting frequent bowel movements. A popular cathartic, castor oil stimulates defecation. Although there may be additional therapeutic benefits of castor oil when directly massaged into the skin for absorption, castor oil packs can effectively promote healthy digestion and elimination.
This laxative effect of castor oil may help you to have regular bowel movements, along with an increase in energy and mood. In one study, 80 percent of elderly patients recorded relief from their decades of struggles with constipation after a short 3-day castor oil pack treatment.
The Liver’s Vital Importance to Detoxification
Their therapeutic properties and ease of use in the home make castor oil packs a natural and very effective detoxification therapy. One vital organ essential to your body’s natural detoxification abilities is your liver. Your liver functions just like your kitchen’s garbage disposal. Accumulation of pathogenic organisms and debris is similar to the inedible foods you put into the drain.
Just like the garbage disposal, your liver transforms toxic debris in your body into a form which can be properly eliminated. In the kidneys, this debris is dissolved, flushed out via the bile ducts, moved to the small intestine and successfully passed from the body in the stool. For this reason, if your stool appears chalky white, your body may be indicating to you that your liver is functioning poorly.
Castor oil packs can therefore be a great way to detoxify toxins from your whole body and reduce your risk of developing cancer.
Castor Oil Pack Tips
When making castor oil packs a standard routine for your body, use only therapeutic grade castor oil for optimum health benefits.
To avoid placing oil containing pesticide residue on your skin, seek and purchase castor oil labeled as:
- Cold pressed
- Without hexane
- 100% Pesticide Free
- Free of preservatives and additives
- Non-solvent extracted
Trusted Castor Oil Retailers
The following retailers offer trustworthy castor oil pack kits available for purchase:
Radiant Life: The kit from Premier Research Labs Castor Oil includes organic cotton flannel, a wrap-around pack, and cold-pressed, non-solvent extracted and hexane-free castor oil.
Heritage Store: Their kit contains hexane-free, cold pressed castor oil, unbleached wood flannel, and castor cleaning towelettes.
Banyan Botanicals Ayurvedic Herbs: Offer unrefined and organic castor oil.
Dr. Adorable Inc.: Their castor oil is cold pressed, hexane free, organic, and you can purchase this off of Amazon.
Castor Oil Pack Instructions: How to Prepare and Use
Before using castor oil packs, test for skin sensitivity to castor oil by first massaging a small drop of castor oil directly to the skin. If sleeping with a castor oil pack, it is highly recommended to use an electric heating pad with an automatic shut off to avoid burns. This can be a messy process so be careful and follow the directions to reduce castor oil spills on furniture or your body.
Materials for Use:
- Therapeutic grade organic castor oil
- A large wool flannel, unbleached and organic
- Piece of plastic (a plastic trash bag works well)
- Heat source such as hot water bottle or heating pad
- Large old towel or sheet
- Glass container to store the flannel (a mason jar is perfect)
Directions for Use:
- Make sure you are well hydrated and have gone to the bathroom and emptied your bladder and/or colon before beginning.
- Choose a space where you are able to lay down comfortably. To avoid any oil dripping onto the surface, cover the space with an old towel.
- Find a piece of flannel that is large enough to cover your abdomen but not any larger or it can make a mess. Saturate the flannel in castor oil; you want to get it wet but not dripping (Warning: This can be a messy process.)
- Lie down on your back on the surface protected by the old towel and cover your abdomen with the flannel. It is most important to make sure your right side (where the liver is) is completely covered from just above your groin to your sternum (breastbone) or pectoral muscles. You can also get 3 separate wool flannels that are about 1 foot by 1 foot and soak them and set them right onto your upper right quadrant of your abdomen (just under the right pectoral muscle).
- Put a very large pillow under your knees and feet in order to take stress off of your lower back and to focus the blood flow into your abdominal region. You could also lie on the floor and put your legs up on the couch.
- Cover the flannel with a piece of plastic (a plastic trash bag works well) and put the heating pad or hot water bottle on this.
- Relax for 45-60 minutes (up to 2 hours, but not recommended to go longer) while the castor oil pack does its work and use this period of time to read a book, pray, visualize, and/or spend time doing deep breathing. You could play some classical music or worship music. You could even take a nap. Just do something relaxing!
- When finished, remove the pack and put the flannel into a glass mason jar and seal it tight and store in the refrigerator. Keep saturating the flannel with castor oil for future packs as you desire. You can also discard and use a new piece of flannel next time, but that will cost more.
- Replace the castor oil pack when you notice a visible color change or if it smells bad.
- Wash off any remaining castor oil on your skin with a natural soap or a solution of 1 quart of water and 2 tablespoons of baking soda.
- Be sure to stay well hydrated as your hydration level will play a critical role in the detoxification effects from the castor oil pack.
- Using the packs for just a few days can be enough to provide relief from certain symptoms, but the best results come with continual practice.
Try to do a castor oil pack treatment for 4 continuous days each week and then take 3 days off for 1-3 months. The individuals that see the best results do it every day. This may not be possible for you based on the time commitment it takes.
- Try to create a schedule where you can use this therapy in the middle of the day as a detox break, prayer or meditation session, and nap.
- Do this at least 3-4 days a week for one month and you should notice improved quality of life.
- If you are battling a chronic disease than it is a great idea to stay on a castor oil pack routine while you are focusing on detoxifying and healing.
Combining Detox Therapies
Castor oil packs stimulate the lymphatic system to move toxins and the digestive system to purge these toxins from the body. The benefits of toxin removal can be amplified by combining it with other healthy adjunctive therapies.
Some of the best detoxification therapies to use in conjunction with castor oil packs include coffee enemas, infrared saunas, and hot/cold cycling showers. If you are using an infrared sauna or enemas as part of your health regimen, it is best to use the castor oil pack right before this to increase the amount of toxins being expelled by the body.
A great detox regimen would be to hydrate well in the morning including ingesting green juices and then using a castor oil pack for an hour, followed by a coffee enema, and finishing with 15-20 minutes in the sauna followed by an alternating hot-cold shower (if you don’t have adrenal fatigue) for five minutes (30 seconds hot and 30 seconds cold repeated five times).
Who Shouldn’t Use Castor Oil Packs
It is not recommended to use castor oil packs if you are experiencing any of the following conditions or life circumstances:
- Women Who Are Pregnant
Many midwives believe that castor oil may induce labor. Some research suggests that this could be true as ricinoleic acid may affect the lining of the uterus and potentially increase contractions in pregnant women. Therefore, castor oil should be avoided by pregnant women unless recommended by a qualified doctor to naturally induce labor.
- Women Who Are Breastfeeding
Castor oil packs move toxins into circulation so they can be expelled by the body. However, when a mother is breastfeeding, these toxins could potentially enter the breast milk. This could be dangerous for the baby, and thus castor oil packs are not recommended for breastfeeding women.
- Women with Heavy Menstrual Flow
Women who typically experience heavy menstrual bleeding cycles should avoid using castor oil packs during their menstruation. Castor oil packs may induce further bleeding and could potentially be life-threatening in these situations.
If the woman experiences cramps or discomfort without excessive bleeding, then castor oil packs can be extremely helpful in reducing pain.
- Certain Gastrointestinal Problems
Ricinoleic acid is a natural laxative and is good for improving conditions such as gas, bloating, cramping, and constipation. But it can also interact with the lining of the gastrointestinal tract and aggravate certain conditions such as ulcers, diverticulitis, hemorrhoids, and colitis. It is not recommended to use if you have these conditions.
- Extreme Skin Sensitivities
Some individuals have very sensitive skin or chronic skin conditions that are easily aggravated. These people are at more risk for a reaction to castor oil and therefore it is not recommended in these cases.
Castor oil packs have been used by people all around the world for a number of health conditions. They have anti-inflammatory and detoxification properties that improve the body’s ability to heal itself.
Cancer is often marked by reduced function of the digestive, circulatory, and detoxification pathways. By improving the function of these pathways, castor oil packs are a potent natural therapy for anyone dealing with cancer.
Natural health strategies such as castor oil packs receive limited attention from the scientific community and therefore the research and evidence supporting its use is minimal. However, there are thousands of stories from people all around the world who have used castor oil with remarkable success. If you are looking to improve your health, give castor oil packs a try and share your story with us.
Castor oil is known to promote detoxification processes, and can be used as a simple and natural home therapy to help your body detox.
Castor oil has cancer-fighting abilities by which it stimulates the release of toxic build up and debris from the lymphatic system.
Castor oil packs improve immune defense.
Castor oil can relieve constipation and promote a healthy, functioning gastrointestinal tract.