Castor oil is a vegetable oil obtained by pressing the seeds of the castor oil plant (Ricinus communis).
This oil seems to have a bad reputation amongst most people as being something hazardous and also something given to us as a punishment (more on this later). The truth is that, it is not only safe, but even suitable for small children.
I use it mainly for hair growth but I’ve come across many other benefits, all of which I’ll share with you below.
· It promotes hair growth. Apply warm oil to your scalp with your fingertips, massaging it in. If it is done every night, you will see the difference in as little as two weeks. Helps with dry scalp and dandruff too.
· Castor oil can be used to enhance the natural colour of your hair and make it look rich and thick. When applied on the hair, it preserves the moisture in the hair shaft and makes each strand thicker and darker. Can also help prevent and repair split ends.
· If you have sparse eyebrows, the oil can be applied with the tip of your finger over the area. Hair will grow denser there- I’ve witnessed this working first-hand on my mum.
· Applying castor oil to the eyelashes every night with a mascara brush can give you thicker and darker eyelashes over a period of time.
· It does wonders for dry and cracked lips.
· Spot treatment for skin problems. Use castor oil to treat acne, warts, and skin tags that seem to appear for no reason. Most of these problems seem to get resolved with regular application for one or two weeks. It helps to decrease the inflammation from the acne and kills bacteria which helps the acne to clear up. It works really quickly, too so put it on before you go to bed and you will notice a drastic improvement when you wake up in the morning.
· Great for eliminating and preventing wrinkles as it promotes the production of elastin and collagen. This is also good for reducing the appearance of scars and stretchmarks. If you want to use castor oil on your face, you first need to mix it with a carrier oil (pick one based on your skin type).
· Castor oil can be used to moisturize dry skin. It’s thick and penetrates deep into the skin tissue and nourishes it with fatty acids. Apparently it does not promote hair growth on the body. It may be kind of sticky at first, but once you get it on the skin in a thin layer, it gets absorbed rather quickly, leaving no oily feel. Mix it with our friend, coconut oil, for easy application.
· It’s considered a warm oil that promotes the circulation of fluids in the body. It is excellent as massage oil, and can relieve the soreness resulting from overworking the muscles.
· Massaging just a small amount of castor oil into your cuticles and on your fingernails each day for a couple of months will give you long, healthy and beautiful nails.
· Natural sleep aid. This is one I’m excited to try! It is not clear exactly how castor oil induces sleep, but people who use it on their hair or around the eyes vouch for its effectiveness (I will also add an update once I try). Dab a bit of castor oil on your eyelids. Be prepared for a longer than usual sleep (7 to 8 hours), so if you’re setting up the alarm to go off after 5 or 6 hours, you will wake up groggy. It also works great to remove tiredness from around your eyes and will leave you looking and feeling a bit more refreshed in the morning.
· Soothes joint pain. The anti-inflammatory properties of castor oil eases up the congestion and gets the lymph vessels moving freely. What is amazing is that mere topical use is found to bring about these internal changes.
· Treats fungal infections. It can be used to treat common fungal diseases like ringworm and athlete’s foot and is as effective as pharmaceutical drugs, if not more, but without any of the toxic side effects.
· Can help to relieve calluses and corns on feet by helping alleviate the pain and swelling that they cause and ultimately make them disappear over time. This takes a few applications but definitely works.
· Rubbing a tiny bit on a baby’s tummy helps to relieve colic.
· The oil is naturally anti-allergic and taking a few drops a day can greatly reduce the symptoms of hay fever and other allergies. Consult your doctor before using castor oil orally. I know castor oil has an awful taste so not sure if I’m willing to try this one.
· Castor oil can help you fight infection and energize the immune system. In studies, when castor oil was applied to the outside of the body, the white blood cell count was increased within 24 hours of application.
· Laxative. The usual dosage is 1 to 2 tbsp. for adults and 1 to 2 tsp for children 2-12 years old. Children under 2 years shouldn’t have more than a teaspoonful at a time. You can expect a complete clean out within 2 to 5 hours of taking the oil.
Warning! Unlike Coconut Oil, Castor oil should not be ingested by pregnant women. Inducing labor is one of the ancient uses of castor oil, but all doctors now advise against it because excessive water loss from loose motions may dehydrate the mother. Consuming castor oil causes strong pelvic muscle contractions which carries the risk of miscarriage or premature birth.
Before you use castor oil internally or topically, perform a skin test using a very small amount of the oil to check for allergic reactions.
So those are some of the great uses of castor oil. Before I go let me tell you a bit more about why this oil has a bad reputation…
Firstly, the castor oil plant, including the castor bean, contains a highly potent toxin called ricin (a few grains of this could kill an adult), but it is deactivated during the oil extraction process. Not many people trust this process.
Secondly, back in the day, parents often punished children with a dose of castor oil. It's very thick, and has a funky smell, and tastes pretty bad. This is akin to putting soap or chilies in the mouth these days.
Lastly, a heavy dose of castor oil could be used as a humiliating punishment for adults. The most famous use as punishment was from Mussolini. Political dissidents were force-fed large quantities of castor oil. Victims of this treatment did sometimes die, as the dehydrating effects of the oil-induced diarrhea, not from any toxic substance. Today, the Italian terms “manganello” and “olio di ricino” still carry strong political connotations. These words are still used to satirize patronizing politicians, or the authors of disliked legislation. They should be used with caution in common conversation.
*Fun fact*: As a means of punishment or torture, force-feeding castor oil still lives on in animated cartoons such as Tom and Jerry.