Castor Oil Packs
One of my favorite and most often prescribed naturopathic treatments is use of castor oil. The term “castor oil” often elicits a distasteful response as people recall various stories, commercials, or even the infamous Tom and Jerry episode where castor oil was used as a punishment for bad behavior. I do not recommend the ingestion or internal use of castor oil as it acts as a strong laxative. The topical use of castor oil when applied to the skin or with a castor oil pack has a much different effect, however.
There are countless topical uses for castor oil. It supports elimination and detoxification by helping the liver to function more effectively. This tool is a simple and helpful addition to any detox program. In addition to detoxification, the liver is involved in catabolizing and recycling hormones, making this treatment part of the foundation for treating hormonal imbalances such as PMS, uterine fibroids, ovarian cysts, dysmenorrhea, irregular cycles, infertility, etc.
Castor oil aids in tonifying the digestive system. I prescribe its use for patients with constipation as well as with diarrhea with positive results. For people with digestive complaints ranging from bloating, irritable bowel syndrome, to ulcerative colitis; castor oil plays its part in the treatment plan for restoring normal physiology. Many patients find the castor oil pack to be very soothing and some children will ask for it because their stomach feels better as they use it.
Castor oil stimulates lymphatic circulation. This is importation for general health as it is connected to the effectiveness of the immune system. It can also be useful for specific conditions that are a result of lymphatic congestion such as lymphedema.
Furthermore, castor oil helps to decrease inflammation, which is one of the root causes of nearly every chronic illness. For arthritis, it can be applied to the area of pain and covered with clothing, gloves or socks. Castor oil packs that are applied to the abdomen help to decrease inflammation systemically as well as in the digestive system.
Castor oil comes from the castor bean (Oleum ricini). This is one of the most stable oils. It does not require refrigeration or careful storage. It is a thick, sticky oil that can leave an oil stain if it comes in contact with clothing, linens, etc. So, when applied to the skin, I recommend covering the area with an old piece of clothing, gloves, scarf, etc. that is ok if it gets stained. Consult your healthcare provider before using castor oil topically if you have a bleeding disorder, active ulcers, heavy menstrual bleeding, chemical sensitivities, cancer, or if you are pregnant.
What’s your experience with castor oil packs?