I was first introduced to the magic of castor oil by the acupuncturist that I had been seeing over a decade ago. He suggested that I try rubbing some castor oil on swollen glands that were still hanging out at the tail end of a cold. Skeptical but open, I walked over to the health food store down the street, purchased a bottle and rubbed it in right away. By the time I got off the subway and arrived home to my apartment, my swollen glands were no longer swollen. It seemed like a miracle and I decided to learn a little bit more about the seemingly miraculous substance.
I learned that the oil itself contains a substance called ricinoleic acid which has anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial and moisturizing properties. The use of castor oil, which was popularized in the US in the early 1900’s by the medical medium and famed “bedside healer” Edgar Cayce, has a long history of medicinal use dating back to ancient Egypt.
It has also been used in Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), Ayurveda, ancient Japanese healing arts and throughout the Mediterranean for various maladies as a people’s medicine. From a TCM perspective, castor oil has the ability to move blood and body fluids, which makes it incredibly effective at treating pain and moving stagnation in the body… such as the lymphatic fluid that had been stagnant in my glands!
I started experimenting with castor oil. I’ve tried using it externally for dry skin, on sunburn, over acne breakouts and on sore breasts during my cycle, and internally as a (fairly intense) bowel stimulant. My favorite way to use castor oil, however, is to create a poultice, or castor oil pack. The packs are an effective and simple home remedy that can be employed for a multitude of issues. Some of the many benefits of castor oil packs include its ability to:
* combat inflammation around injured and overworked joints, reduce stubborn back pain and pain from arthritis
* help to alleviate constipation and move slow bowels
* soften scar tissue
* support the body’s immune system
* increase lymphatic drainage
While castor oil packs are a truly wonderful tool for so many issues, I love them most for their application in the realm of uterine health. When placed low on the abdomen, the packs increase circulation throughout the entire pelvic cavity. Some conditions that can be treated include PCOS, endometriosis, ovarian cysts, uterine fibroids and painful menses.
Making your own castor oil pack is simple:
Gather your supplies
– high quality, hexane-free, cold-pressed castor oil
– a heating pad or hot water bottle
– a few squares of wool flannel large enough to cover the area of use
– plastic wrap
– old clothes that you don’t mind getting messy (the oil does stain)
How to apply
Fold the fabric so that it covers the area of the body that you want to focus on. Saturate the wool flannel with castor oil- you want just enough so that the fabric is soaked but not dripping. Set yourself up in a comfortable position. I usually find lying on the back with support under the knees to be most relaxing.
Place the saturated fabric on your body and wrap with the plastic wrap, then place the heating pad or hot water bottle on top and rest for at least 60-90 minutes.
Alternatively, you can simply rub the oil on the area that you are focusing on, cover with the pack, and wrap. The key here is consistency!
The pack can be reused up to 20 times. Add additional oil each time you use the pack to ensure that the fabric is saturated and store in a plastic bag or glass bottle in the fridge between uses. When the fabric begins to look dirty, you know it’s time to switch it out.
When to use
For slow bowels, lymphatic drainage, immune support and physical pain, apply castor oil packs whenever you feel like you need support.
For uterine and menstrual issues, apply packs 3-4 times per week for at least a month. If you experience a heavy menstrual flow, do not apply packs during your period.
For scar tissue, apply 3-4 times per week until you begin to feel a softening in the texture of and decrease in resistance when you massage your scar tissue.
Avoid the use of castor oil packs if you have a fever, experience neuropathy, have an open wound or a scar that has not yet fully healed, or if you are pregnant. If you’re trying to conceive, it is best to avoid castor oil packs unless you are menstruating.
Castor oil is a safe, easily accessible and beautiful plant medicine that you can add to your wellness arsenal. If you have any questions or are curious about how to use castor oil, ask me about it at your next appointment.