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Does old-fashioned medicine make you cringe? Control your gag reflex if you must, because it turns out our ancestors knew what they were doing when it came to home remedies. Old timey medical solutions might be out of favor now, but the benefits many of them can provide for your body are hard to overstate. Castor oil was probably a staple item in your grandmother’s home pharmacy, but have you ever considered what good it could do for you today? As it turns out, this simple oil is more powerful than you realize and is the secret to enhancing your body’s natural systems in dozens of ways.

Feeling skeptical? Keep reading to learn about the surprising benefits of adding castor oil to your health and home care routine.
closeup of castor oil plant

What Is Castor Oil?

Renowned by old-time healers and natural living enthusiasts alike, castor oil has been around for thousands of years. This potent oil originated in Africa and has long been popular throughout India and the Mediterranean. Coming from the castor plant (Ricinus communis), castor oil is extracted through pressing seeds in a similar process to producing olive oil.

The tasteless and odorless oil that results was valued by ancient civilizations like the Egyptians, Chinese and Persians as a high quality fuel for oil lamps. Throughout the Middle Ages, castor oil was used in Europe for treating skin ailments in the form of balms and ointments. Since then, castor oil has been used in a variety of cosmetic products, soaps, massage oils and plenty of medicines, all because of its well documented benefits for your skin, nails and hair.

The Scientific Makeup of Castor Oil

Like soybean and cottonseed oil, castor oil is a triglyceride made of fatty acids, 90 percent of which is the rare and beneficial ricinoleic acid. This makes castor oil an especially dense, concentrated form of oil that supports the immune system by increasing the count of T-11 white blood cells in your bloodstream. These T-11 cells act as antibodies and aid your body in fighting off invading viruses, bacteria, fungi and even cancer cells. Finally, the beneficial salts and esters naturally found in castor oil make excellent skin-conditioning agents, which explains why it has long been a popular ingredient in cosmetic products.

massaging castor oil into sore knee joint

How Can You Use It?

Adults today might cringe at the thought of times in their childhood when they were force fed a spoonful of castor oil to cure any ailment, but the naturally unpleasant taste of this oil shouldn’t deter you from incorporating it into your healthcare routine. Castor oil has long been an effective remedy against issues ranging from constipation to colds and fevers, and the health benefits don’t stop there.

Below are some of the top ways to use castor oil in your own life in order to experience its advantages, no matter how you choose to use it.

  1. Natural Laxative: The most common use for castor oil hasn’t changed much in the past centuries. This potent oil is an effective treatment for extreme cases of constipation, especially when store-bought laxatives just can’t cut it. Unlike other laxatives that start working in the colon, castor oil targets its efforts right at the small intestine, meaning you experience a total cleansing within 2 to 5 hours after taking it. Best of all, small doses of castor oil are so safe that even the elderly and small children can benefit from it.
    For the correct dosage, plan on using 1-2 tbsp for adults and 1-2 tsp for children under 12. For kids under 2, serve them a teaspoon or less to be safe. In order to improve the taste, you can stir in some fresh squeezed orange juice into the serving of oil.
  2. Ease Muscle Pain: Because castor oil is considered a warming oil, it improves blood circulation throughout the body, making it an ideal massage oil that can easily relieve the stress of overworked muscles. If your calves are aching after a hard workout, rub in some castor oil right at the sore spots for instant relief. Castor oil is also an ideal carrier oil for a number of essential oil remedies, including a facial through a hot oil cleanse.
  3. Find Relief From Joint Pain: You can thank the ricinoleic acid in castor oil for the relief it gives to your aching joints. The lymph vessels throughout the body form a wide network that collect waste from your blood and tissues. Congestion within them causes waste materials to build up and make you suffer immune system flare ups like rheumatism, arthritis and gout. A topical application of castor oil reduces this congestion and provides relief to your joints.
  4. Fungal Infections: The strong fungicidal properties of castor oil are due to the undecylenic acid it contains (a natural breakdown of ricinoleic fatty acid). This makes castor oil an ideal treatment for a variety of common fungal diseases like athlete’s foot and crotch itch (tinea cruris). In many cases castor oil is as effective as commercial anti-fungal products, but it leaves you without the negative side effects they cause. To use it effectively, heat up castor oil on the stove and let it cool until it can safely be touched. Apply this heated oil to the affected area and let it sit over night. Repeat nightly for a week in order to see long-term improvement, and continue the process until the fungus goes away completely.
  5. Perk Up Your Houseplants: If your ferns are looking a little droopy, give them an infusion of castor oil to make them stand tall again. Simply mix a tbsp of oil with 4 cups warm water and one tbsp baby shampoo. Carefully drip 3 tbsp in the dirt around your plant and water as normal. You’ll be surprised at the result.
  6. Get Rid of Backyard Moles: Moles and kids could compete over who hates castor oil more, and thankfully for you, adding some to your backyard will keep moles far away from your plants. Simply mix half a cup of oil with 2 gallons of water and pour the mixture directly into the molehills. This mixture won’t harm the moles at all, but they will find it so unpleasant that they will soon move their burrows elsewhere.
  7. Birth Regulation: Strange but true, castor oil contains a toxic protein called ricin that is a common ingredient in spermicide gels. Alternatively, castor oil has long been used as a labor stimulant. This same ricin can cause the intestines and uterus to contract, causing pregnant woman in many studies to go into labor within 24 hours. However, too high of doses can cause severe health problems for mom and baby, so castor oil should NEVER be self-administered for this purpose.
  8. Ease Menstrual Disorders: The ricinoleic acid in castor oil has another use; it can help relieve menstrual cramps! Not only can it help start menstruation when it’s been delayed, it can also reduce the severity of cramps. Simply apply some to a flannel cloth and place it where it hurts for quick relief.
  9. Natural Skin Care: The high concentrations of fatty acids in castor oil help it to naturally penetrate the layers of skin without clogging pores, and promotes healthy and glowing skin throughout the body. Your skin will shine, rough, dry skin will simply go away, and even scars will start to fade. Because castor oil is a natural emollient, it can reduce the appearance of aging by getting rid of fine lines, wrinkles and crow’s feet. To get the full effects of castor oil on your skin, gently massage a few drops into your skin every night before going to bed. After a few months you’ll start to see the results.
  10. Help With Hair Care: If you suffer from a dry, itchy scalp, the antimicrobial properties of castor oil should clean you up in no time. Even better, the fatty acids castor oil contains can nourish your hair and inject plenty of moisture into your strands. Not only will this keep your hair glowing, but treating the symptoms of microbial infections in your scalp can also stave off hair loss by keeping your strands locked to your scalp.
    To get the healthy hair benefits, heat castor oil and let it cool until you can safely touch it. Apply the oil to your scalp with your fingernails and gently massage it in. Both the heat and massaging motion will also work to stimulate blood circulation, so you should start to see the difference within two weeks. For an eyebrow boost, you can also apply castor oil to your brows with a Q-tip in order to encourage extra growth.
  11. Homemade Natural Mascara: Almost everyone wants their eyelashes to look fuller and darker, and castor oil can help you get the results you crave without relying on the toxic ingredients in conventional products. All you need to do is melt 1 tbsp beeswax in a double boiler and then add 2 tbsp castor oil. Stir until thoroughly mixed and add charcoal powder until you get the exact color you want. Alternatively, applying just castor oil onto your lashes every night before bed can help them grow thicker and fuller in time.
  12. Falling Asleep: Sleep deprivation is an unfortunate problem in the world today, but you can stave it off by using castor oil to get your body to enter a state of deep sleep faster than ever. All you need to do is dab a bit of castor oil to each eyelid. Your body will be ready to snooze for at least seven hours, so make sure to set aside the time it needs for total rest.

Precautions for Using Castor Oil

  • Castor oil may have many benefits, but it’s not without its dangers. Large doses can be dangerous, and long ago political prisoners occasionally were force fed castor oil until they died. For this reason, be sure to practice extreme caution with the amount of castor oil you use, especially if you plan to ingest it.
  • When using castor oil for the first time, it’s best to perform a skin test on your arm with a small amount of oil to see if your skin has an allergic reaction. Once your skin has passed, make sure to follow the instructions on your package and always carefully measure out each serving size. If you follow these precautions, castor oil should pose no danger to you.

In Summary

When used correctly, castor oil is a highly effective natural remedy that can be used for everything from treating your athlete’s foot to making your eyelashes grow thicker. When you take the time to try out simple, natural solutions like castor oil for your ailments, you’ll be amazed how cheap, easy and effective this simple oil truly is for your entire body.

About Author

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Lydia Noyes is an Appalachian homesteader and writer that lives on a land trust deep in the mountains of West Virginia.