Castor Oil: The World's Oldest Herbal Medicine

Illustration from @juana_gomez_m

 

Castor Oil is the world’s oldest and most valuable herbal remedy. Used by practitioners for thousands of years to improve the health of ancient civilizations, the thick, golden oil is prized for its healing properties. Though Castor has gained (relatively) recent popularity as a hair & skincare remedy, the oil has historically always been used for its medicinal benefits.

 

Castor Oil is anti-inflammatory, analgesic and anti-pruritic; meaning it can reduce swelling, pain and itchiness. It is also rich in naturally occurring vitamins and bio-active compounds that have a range of different health care benefits. From soothing pain to healing scars, the ancient ritual of using Castor Oil as a holistic, healing treatment deserves a place in any modern medicine cabinet.

 

An Ancient Remedy

 

Historians have found evidence of Castor Oil in almost every ancient civilisation. The Greeks & Romans used the oil as an ointment and health elixir, and later, in Ayurvedic medicine, the oil came to be known as ‘the secret of beauty’.

 

 

The Egyptians were early pioneers of the oil, using it first as lamp fuel before realising its healing potential. According to Ebers Papyrus, an Egyptian medical text from 1500 BC, the Egyptians used Castor Oil to protect the eyes from irritation. Cleopatra herself is even reputed to have used it to brighten the whites of her eyes. The oil was so popular at the time, that Castor seeds have even been discovered in ancient tombs dating back to 4000 BC.

 

Our ancestors have been using Castor Oil as a medicinal ointment for millennia and many of its traditional uses have since been backed up with modern science. Including its use to soothe dry eyes, its use as a natural laxative, and its ability to induce labour.

Harvesting Castor Oil

 

Castor is one of the oldest cultivated crops in human history. Starting its life in the rich soils of India, Africa or South America, the oil is pressed from the seeds of the castor bean plant. Traditionally practitioners would pick, peel and press the seeds by hand to release the nutrient-rich oil.

 

 

Thousands of years on, the extraction method we use is essentially the same, though technology has made the process far more efficient. Our Castor Oil is cold-pressed on a small, organic farm in India who have harvested Castor for years. Cold-pressing is not the fasted method of extraction, but by avoiding excessive heat we are able to maintain as much of the innate healing qualities of the seed without disrupting the molecular make-up of the oil.

 

Not all Castor Oils are created equal. To reap the ancient, medicinal benefits of Castor, you need high quality, hexane-free, non-GMO oil. This is why we use traditional harvesting methods.

 

Molecular Makeup of Castor Oil

 

Castor Oil is a nutrient goldmine. It is rich in vitamin E, essential unsaturated fatty acids (like omega-6 & 9) & other bio-active compounds. These components are what give the oil its healing properties.

 

 

Image from: Scielo.br - Structure of castor oil molecule. (A) indicates carboxylic groups; (B) indicates double bonds; (C) indicates hydroxyl groups.

 

Over 90% of Castor Oil is made up of ricinoleic acid, a powerful antioxidant with anti-inflammatory properties. When applied topically, it can increase circulation & oxygenation in the skin (& tissues beneath) to speed up the cell regeneration process and encourage healing. The oil’s high vitamin E and omega-6 & 9 content support the function of the cells in the body to reduce inflammation, swelling and reduce pain. There is also evidence to suggest Castor Oil has detoxifying qualities and can be used to stimulate our Lymphatic systems to boost immunologic function.

 

Due to its specific molecular makeup, pharmaceutical manufacturers use Castor Oil in a range of different medications. It’s often included in eye drops and is even used as a mix-in to deliver some Cancer medications. Starting as just a small seed in the earth, the reparative oil has endless uses in naturopathic medicine.

 

Medicinal Uses of Castor Oil

 


Heal Scars, Wounds & Skin Conditions

 

Massaging Castor Oil into the skin may soothe dryness, psoriasis, eczema and fade the appearance of scars. The ricinoleic acid works to reduce irritations and inflammation while the bio-active compounds stimulate cell regrowth to heal wounds. A 2014 study showed that Castor Oil helped ulcer wounds to heal faster and better than when the wounds were treated with other treatment methods.

 

Castor Oil also works as an emollient to naturally rehydrate the skin. It has humectant properties meaning it provides a protective barrier to prevent further moisture loss - making it an excellent natural healer for troubled or sensitive skin.

 

Reduce Inflammation & Pain

 

Castor Oil can be applied topically to the skin via a Castor Pack. Used by ayurvedic practitioners as a natural pain relief method, a cloth is soaked in the oil and then placed onto the affected area and left to absorb into the skin. (To find out how to make a Castor Pack at home - we have a guide here.)

 

The analgesic and anti-inflammatory qualities of Castor Oil soothe muscular pain, joint pain & even improve digestion. If you are feeling bloated or constipated, placing a castor pack over your stomach or lower back can help ease the symptoms. Some practitioners have even used Castor Oil packs to improve liver function.

 

Ease Menstrual Cramps

 

You can also use a Castor Pack to soothe menstrual cramps. The omega-9 present in the oil relieves feelings of pain and discomfort by reaching deep beneath the skin to promote circulation and alleviate cramps. A study published in the Journal of Naturopathic Medicine found that the use of Castor Oil packs may stimulate the lymphatic system. This identifies Castor Oil as an anti-toxin which may help to support uterine and ovarian health.

 

Similar to using a hot water bottle, a warmed Castor Oil pack is a soothing release from pain and uncomfortable cramps.

 

Castor Oil promotes circulation and blood flow, so while it is reported to help ease menstrual pain, it might not be suitable for people with heavy periods (or people trying to conceive). We recommend letting your body guide you.

 

 

Calm Arthritis

 

A 2009 study showed that Castor Oils anti-inflammatory & analgesic properties may help treat Osteoarthritis. After four weeks, 92% of participants showed significant improvements in pain levels when taking a Castor Oil supplement.

 

You can use our Castor Oil topically to help ease the symptoms of Arthritis. The anti-inflammatory ricinoleic acid present in the oil absorbs into the skin to help reduce inflammation & pain in the joints.

 

 

Soothe Dry Eyes

 

Castor Oil is used as an ingredient in many well-know brands of eye drops. This is because studies have shown that Castor Oil can reduce inflammation and dryness of the eye. The oil creates a light, non-intrusive film over the eye that helps to stop water from evaporating from the surface of the eye.

 

We recommend sweeping a small amount of our Castor Oil across the eyelid. The anti-pruritic qualities of the oil help to relieve dry, sore and itchy eyes. A great natural alternative for sufferers of dry-eye syndrome or hay fever.

 

Protect & Grow Hair

 

The natural properties of Castor Oil work to improve the condition and growth of hair. The fatty acids and omegas coat the shaft of the hair to protect it as it grows, allowing it to grow stronger and longer.

 

When massaged into the scalp or brows, the oxygenating properties of Castor stimulate the hair follicle and have been reported to extend the growth phase of the follicle.

 

 

Prevent Skin Care Damage from Free Radicals

 

Castor Oil is loaded with antioxidants, so alongside being hydrating and soothing when applied to the skin, it also protects from free radical damage. This, in turn, prevents premature ageing by avoiding collagen damage that can lead to wrinkles.

 

The oil also acts as an effective humectant, creating a seal on the skin to keep moisture in, and reduces acne by fighting off bacteria and calming any inflammation. 

 

Castor Oil is one of the world’s oldest herbal remedies, and it is still being used by millions of people around the world today. The simple, single ingredient oil is a completely natural alternative to soothe a range of ailments and pains. We are strong believers in trusting the simplicities of nature and returning to ancient methods of healing to inform our modern-day rituals.

 

We hope that you try using Castor Oil as a natural, herbal remedy - if you do, we’d love to know how you get on.

 

EXPLORE OUR ORGANIC COLD PRESSED CASTOR OIL

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nature itself is the best physician.

— HIPPOCRATES

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