Castor oil is derived from the seeds of the Ricinus communis plants that grow wild in wastelands across tropical regions. It is often grown as an ornamental garden plant in milder climates, and now cultivated on a large scale for biodiesel manufacture. Castor oil has been around for a very long time, and has been widely used for medicinal purposes in its native lands spread across Africa, the Indian subcontinent and the Mediterranean basin. It is one of the first vegetable oils to be used for industrial purposes because of its high viscosity and lubricating property. In fact, the automotive lubricant company Castrol derives its name from castor oil. Infamous as a laxative, many people consider castor oil a crude product. But this unique vegetable oil has so many wonderful uses that it deserves a place in every home.
Safe, Natural Laxative
When the oil is used as a laxative, the dosage can be easily adjusted as its effect is directly proportional to how much oil you are using. 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 mix the oil with orange juice to make it more palatable. Unlike other laxatives that act in the colon, the action of castor oil starts in the small intestine. You can expect a complete clean out of the bowels within 2 to 5 hours of taking the oil.
Relieves Muscle Soreness
Castor oil is 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. If you have aching calf and thigh muscles after vigorous exercise or active sports practice, apply a little castor oil on the sore area and rub it in. Castor oil is a good carrier oil for essential oils. Add a few drops of Roman chamomile oil or peppermint oil to a tablespoon of castor oil to make the massage more relaxing and healing.
Soothes Joint Pain
The analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties of ricinoleic acid which constitutes almost 90% of castor oil have been well documented. A major part of it comes from its decongestant action on the lymphatic system. The lymph vessels that form a wide network all over the body collect waste from the tissues and carry it to the blood for elimination. Congestion in these vessels and accumulation of toxic wastes is implicated in many autoimmune diseases like arthritis which causes pain and inflammation in the joints. Castor oil eases up the congestion and gets the lymph moving freely.
It acts directly on the immune system by stimulating the thymus gland and increasing the count of a type of white blood cells called lymphocytes. What is amazing is that mere topical use is found to bring about these internal changes. If you want to use cayenne pepper for arthritic pain relief, castor oil is excellent for making a potent mix for local application.
Treats Fungal Infections
Castor oil has a strong fungicidal property thanks to undecylenic acid, which is a breakdown product of the ricinoleic fatty acid abundant in the oil. It can be used to treat common fungal diseases like ringworm, athlete’s foot and tinea cruris (crotch itch). It is as effective as the azole drugs used to treat fungal infections, if not more, but without any of the toxic effects of the antifungal drugs. Heat some castor oil and allow it to cool until it is just warm to touch. Apply it in the affected area just before bedtime and leave it on overnight. Repeat for a week to see significant improvement. Continue the treatment until the infection completely disappears.
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. And as always, consult with your doctor if you have any questions or concerns about the use of this natural remedy.