It’s almost certain that most of us have heard about castor oil. Aside from being used in traditional medicine, this versatile oil and its derivatives are also an important ingredient in many products that we use in our daily lives. Castor oil is an ingredient in lubricants, brake and hydraulic fluids, paints, soaps, dyes, inks, cold resistant plastics, coatings, waxes, and many more. Perhaps it’s about time that we learned more about this oil and its origins.
Castor oil is derived from the castor plant. It’s part of the Euphorbiaceae family which includes the cassava plant, Barbados nut, the rubber tree, and others. The castor plant is now being cultivated all year round in almost all regions in the entire world except in cold regions. Depending on what climate it’s grown, the plant can differ in size. In temperate zones, it reaches an average height of 8-10 feet. In the tropics, the plant can grow as high as 40 feet. The plant will not thrive in cold climates. It’s also noteworthy to know that the plant itself is toxic and precautions should be in place when handling it.
Castor oil has been part of traditional medicine to treat many types of illnesses. It has been used as a laxative for generations. The main component of the oil is ricinoleic acid, a type of fatty acid which has anti-inflammatory characteristics. As stated earlier, castor oil can be toxic when taken in large quantities. Caution is important when administering it. Moreover, because of its toxicity, medical experts only recommend using it for external use.
The Characteristics of Castor Plants
The plant can sexually propagate either through cross or self-pollination because it has both genders in the same plant. Although it has a level of toxicity, it’s being used as an ornamental plant because of its beautiful foliage. It is cultivated mainly for its poisonous seeds from which castor oil is extracted.
Leaves. The plant’s leaves are big and their diameter can measure from 5-inches to 14-inches. For those plants which are given more attention, the leaves can reach up to 23 inches. The leaves can either be or a mixture of red, purple, and green in color.
Flowers. Castor plant’s flowers are in clusters and one can be as long as 4-inches to 20-inches. The plant can produce flowers of different genders. As aforementioned, it can propagate through self-pollination. Or it can widen its DNA base through cross-pollination.
Female flowers are found in the floret’s upper part and measure between half an inch to one inch. The floret’s ovary is composed of three leaves with a protruding pistil designed to catch pollen essential for fertilization. The male flowers are much bigger and can measure between 10-inches to 12-inches. It’s located on the floret’s lower part. The flower has petals which can be as long as 5-inches as well as a calyx.
There is also a misnomer about why the plant was named castor. Many think that it comes from those dam-building rodents, the beavers. In fact, the castor plant doesn’t have anything to do with these animals.
What You Need To Know Before Using Castor Oil
Castor oil has had its share of bad raps mainly because it has not been used the correct way. For instance, and as of late, castor oil was used in some hair growth products and such treatments have gone awry causing some users to shed more hair on their heads or eyebrows. It was supposed to be a miracle treatment and the nasty side effects have been blamed partly on castor oil. Castor oil may have its benefits but it also has its side effects. It’s highly advised to read about safety measures before deciding to buy and use a product.
One can only feel empathy for those who used castor oil and had dire effects on their hair and eyebrows. Not to be vain, but nice hair is an asset unless something goes wrong. But such incidences should not discourage a person to resort to natural remedies to improve ourselves or make us well. Just remember that natural remedies can be beneficial most of the time but can sometimes be lethal.
Because of castor oil’s high viscosity, it was mass produced more for industrial purposes. This property also makes the oil a good pulling agent and emollient in many DIY recipes. Emollient refers to the quality of softening and soothing the skin. Sounds perfect but there are some potential risks involved when using this oil for treatment either for short-term or long-term use. Recent outcomes caused by castor oil should drive one to research on the risks involved before using it. There are plenty of journals about such risks. Read them before deciding to either ditch the product or profit from its benefits. Here are some facts that can help with the decision:
Use Castor Oil for Short-Term Purposes. The use of castor oil for treatment is recommended only for acute cases and never for chronic ones. A good example of such acute or short-term treatment is using tea-tree oil in treating acne. The antiseptic property of this oil is very strong. But prolonged use can cause severe skin dryness. This goes the same for castor oil. Too much use can cause unsightly skin problems. Make the skin adapts to castor oil by applying it gradually for about 7 days. Being over-eager to solve one’s skin issues by applying too much castor oil can lead to bad results.
Any kind of ingredient might be a possible irritant. It’s a wrong assumption that using natural ingredients can do a person no harm. On the contrary, many of these are considered as irritants. Aside from castor oil, the group includes baking soda, lemon essential oil, tea tree oil, clove essential oil, and bee pollen. Still, most are used to treat acute, moderate or chronic conditions. A patch test on the inside of the arm will help determine if it will have some dermal reaction. If there is none, one can start the treatment.
A combination of these irritants can also cause a problem, meaning that irritants which one already has excluded as an irritant can react differently when used with another irritant. To minimize these reactions, if any, make sure to dilute the essential oils with a type of carrier oil when used for skin treatment. If not sure how to do this, ask a herbalist or an aromatherapist.
Using castor oil topically isn’t likely to give one an upset stomach. When one consumes castor oil, this will most likely cause side effects, most prominent of which is the irritation of the small intestine. In case of topical applications, castor oil won’t have the exact same effect although some claim that topical ointments can affect a person’s digestive system if the oil should seep deep into the skin’s protective layers. Again, there is some contention with this statement because many of those who topically applied castor oil directly on the stomach claim that they were relieved from constipation.
Some castor oil seeds may contain a toxin that’s lethal. Many believe this to be true. The seeds do contain a very potent toxin known as ricin. One may have heard of this poison because it’s an ingredient utilized in chemical warfare. There is still an on-going debate on the presence of ricin in castor oil seeds. Some sources say that as soon as the oil has been extracted from the seed, the toxin stays in the bean’s pulp, not in the oil. Moreover, the toxin gets inactivated because of the heat extraction process.
The source of the castor oil is probably the source of the person’s irritation as well. Beware when buying castor oil products. It’s recommended to choose a trustworthy brand. Remember those eye-brow falling cases? It may not have been caused by castor oil but by some additives or preservatives like grapeseed extracts which can cause irritations. Castor oil does have a greasy aroma and to hide this property a lot of brands tend to add additives and aromas to make their product become appealing. One can have several claims about the use of castor oil causing irritations. Always check on the product’s label to ensure that what the person is buying is castor oil and nothing more. If one wants more insurance about a product’s safety, do a search on Google.
A lot of people claim that castor oil which is cold-pressed is the best. When buying castor oil products, make sure it is labeled “cold press.” Many of these oils can have the label but some manufacturers are inclined to heat the oil several times. Doing this process will decrease the oil’s topical benefits but at the same will kill any toxins present in the oil. Heat extraction loses the oil’s toxicity. If this were the case, then one should be better off with modern techniques of heat extraction. Moreover, if one opts for GMO-free or organic oils, this will negate any adverse skin reactions which could be caused by additives and pesticides given to the plant before extraction.
Dermal claims tend to be subjective. There are many claims about the benefits of using castor oils. Some good, some bad. For instance, there are potential benefits when using castor oil on the hair but the oil’s application on the skin is something to be studied further. There isn’t any sound research on the topical advantages of this oil. If there was, those who have lost their eyebrows could have been spared the embarrassment. When using DIY beauty products, the person will have control over what he puts on his body. Before introducing any beauty recipes on one’s person, make sure to read the proper instructions to avoid any dire consequence.
Skin Benefits of Castor Oil
Castor oil is quite beneficial to the skin. But one needs to be informed about the risks when using it. Most applications are topical. Do research on castor oil and learn about it through the internet. One can draw enough information about the oil, including benefits and risks.
Helps heal inflamed skin. The oil can be a blessing for those who have skin issues and inflammations like sunburn, dry skin, and acne. The oil itself has been used to prevent skin inflammations of any sort.
Fights the common signs of aging. When used topically, castor oil may slow down the aging of the skin. This is one of the best benefits of the oil. When a person applies castor oil topically, the oil will deeply penetrate and stimulate elastin and collagen production. These compounds help in softening and hydrating the skin and these effects, in turn, delay the emergence of wrinkles and fine lines, especially around the areas of the eye.
Helps reduce acne. People who suffer from this condition have the tendency to avoid any oily chemicals because these oils can further clog the pores of the skin which, in turn, will aggravate their condition. But using this type oil will not pose this same problem. Castor oil, as we’ve mentioned, contains a lot of ricinoleic acids and this chemical can ward-off the bacteria that causes acne. Its ability to penetrate the layers of the skin makes it a potent solution for acne.
Moisturizes the skin. Applying castor oil can leave the skin feeling smooth, revitalized, and supple. Look no further when one wants his skin feeling this way. Furthermore, the oil is inexpensive aside from being a natural remedy.
Castor oil is an excellent moisturizer. The fatty acids in the oil are highly-concentrated and can easily penetrate a person’s skin. It also helps in removing dry patches as well as in restoring skin hydration. Nowadays, castor oil is finding its way to many products in the industry but it’s prized mostly as a skin moisturizer.
Fades blemishes. Another popular use of castor oil is for fading acne and blemishes. Don’t expect immediate results on this one. The process works slowly and one will need to apply the oil regularly before he can see major results.
The fatty acids in the oil are again responsible for fading blemishes and scars. The fatty acids will seep deep into the scar tissue, making this plump while promoting the growth of healthy tissue around the scar.
Prevents the appearance of stretch marks. We are all familiar with this condition, especially women who have just gone through pregnancy. The skin on a woman’s abdomen will undergo drastic stretching during the course of the pregnancy. If the skin is elastic, there will be fewer stretch marks. Castor oil here should come to the rescue, Again, the fatty acids in castor oil when topically applied during the last months of a woman’s pregnancy can prevent the appearance of stretch marks.
Helps reduce pigmentation. Castor oil has proven itself to be a good agent in ridding the skin of marks and spots. This is because the oil has that property of reducing pigmentation. Many dermatologists recommend the use of castor oil in the treatment of uneven skin tones and marks.
It’s again the fatty acids that make this possible, especially the omega-3 fatty acids which are used to rehydrate the skin and promoting the growth of healthy tissue. These, in turn, will give one very tender and blemish-free skin.
Hair Benefits of Castor Oil
Aside from being beneficial to the skin, castor oil also has some significant hair benefits. And we don’t just mean promoting the health of the make. One can also use the oil to treat different hair conditions and more. Consider these benefits:
Supports hair growth. Castor oil is a great remedy for supporting hair growth. All one has to do is massage the oil into the scalp for longer and thicker hair. The oil works by boosting the circulation of blood to the follicles which, in turn, leads to the faster growth of hair. Also, the oil contains Omega-9 fatty acids which make the hair healthier. Finally, castor oil can even help reduce the occurrence of split ends, keeps hair breakage under control, moisturizes the hair, and conditions it too.
Helps in the treatment of scalp infections. Scalp infections may lead to major hair issues such as dandruff, itchiness of the scalp, and bald patches. When one uses castor oil, this can help eliminate these issues. This is because castor oil has both antibacterial and antifungal properties. This means that the oil can fight microorganisms and pathogens which may be causing the infection.
Prevents the premature graying of hair. For people who have started showing premature signs of graying hair, they can apply the castor oil. This will help prevent the hair from losing more of the pigment which, in turn, will slow down the graying. This is a popular method of dealing with the graying of hair so it’s definitely worth a try.
Conditions the hair. It seems like castor oil is the solution to all hair problems, doesn’t it? Another benefit of this oil is that it can help treat damaged and dry hair. This is because of the oil’s humectant properties. This helps lock in the hair’s moisture. The oil makes the hair softer and smoother by preventing dryness.
Health Benefits of Castor Oil
The benefits just keep on coming. Aside from being beneficial for the skin and the hair, castor oil also has some great health benefits. Despite the dangers of the plant, people can benefit a lot from this oil if they know where to get it and how to use it correctly. Take a look at these health benefits:
Helpful in the treatment of ringworm. Castor oil is very effective in the treatment of this condition which is a stubborn yet common condition which may occur in people of different ages. The undecyclenic acid which is an active compound in the oil is responsible for this benefit.
Can be used to disinfect wounds. Because castor oil has antibacterial properties, it’s also a very effective disinfectant for wounds, scrapes, and cuts. It also has anti-inflammatory properties which makes it effective in alleviating pain.
It’s an effective laxative. This is actually one of the main uses of castor oil. Folk and conventional practitioners of medicine use this oil as a laxative because of the ricinoleic acid content. Therefore, people who suffer from constipation can benefit a lot from castor oil.
Helps reduce arthritis. This oil is also an excellent remedy for reducing arthritis and treating the pain that comes with it. One may use a castor oil pack to get relief from the tissue and joint pain. Again, this benefit comes from the anti-inflammatory properties of the oil.
Gives the immunity a boost. This amazing oil can also give one’s immunity a boost. Even when one uses it topically, the oil can help increase the body’s defense mechanisms. When a person applies the oil topically, it would increase the number of T-11 cells in the body which, in turn, stimulates the defense mechanisms. The T-11 cells start forming antibodies against the toxins and pathogens, therefore, promoting the person’s health.
Helps in the treatment of back pain. The oil is considered one of the best natural remedies for the treatment of back pain. All one has to do is massage the oil into his back to eliminate stiffness and pain.
Excellent for stomach cleansing.Stomach cleansing has a lot of benefits to the health aside from improving digestion. And this is another excellent benefit of castor oil to the health. Castor oil can be mixed with different ingredients when a person wants to use it for stomach cleansing. These include:
- Castor oil with milk eases a person’s stomach and helps treat intestinal issues such as acidity, constipation, irritated bowels, and bloating.
- Castor oil with orange juice is perfect for those who suffer from constipation and extreme toxicity. It’s a great remedy which will help one get rid of toxins in his stomach. The removal of toxins can also reduce acidity and heartburn.
- Using castor oil detoxification packs comes with a lot of health benefits. It aids in stomach cleansing as it helps open up any gastric blockages in the intestines and in the stomach. Such packs can help treat bloating, nausea, gas, and acidity which are caused by heaviness in a person’s stomach.
- Castor oil with hot water can also serve as an excellent supplement for stomach cleansing. This combination may help remove any harmful bacteria in a person’s stomach and gut. Then, the harmful bacteria gets replaced with the healthy bacteria in order to reduce bloating and acidity and ease digestion too. This is a great home remedy used by ancient Indians as a way to enhance the body’s overall metabolism.
- Finally, one may also combine castor oil with ginger. This combination is a great ayurvedic cleansing supplement which will promote the health of the stomach and the digestive system.
Does Castor Oil Have Any Harmful Side Effects?
We have been told beforehand about the benefits of castor oil. We have often associated it with great health. But the oil has its dark properties and its improper use could lead to dire side effects. Castor oil has been with us for generations and has been part of traditional medicine. It has been used by Egyptians and is credited as those who used it for beneficial purposes. Many believe that even Cleopatra used castor oil to make the whites of her eyes brighter.
Today, castor oil is a popular ingredient in cosmetics, medicines, and massage oils because of its potent therapeutic benefits. By composition, castor oil is about 90% ricinoleic acid. Castor oil, indeed, has its side effects, most of which are associated with the gastrointestinal and skin health. When it enters the small intestine, the oil can irritate its linings. The source of castor oil seeds is another factor to consider. Many of the seeds today have been sprayed with harmful pesticides. Such may cause damage to the oil’s quality and this can lead to side effects. Here are the most common side effects of castor oil:
Nausea. Too much castor oil in one’s system may cause nausea. Chances of recovery are very high but without controlling the symptoms, it may lead to an electrolyte imbalance and serious dehydration. Also, it can lead to irregular heartbeats. As a laxative, castor oil is now seldom used because of its side effects and its palatability. Nausea that is caused by the oil usually comes with vomiting.
Diarrhea. Because it contains ricin which is one of the most lethal substances known, the ingestion of castor oil can cause diarrhea. However, this is still inconclusive and will need more studies to prove it.
Skin Rashes. Some studies have shown that castor oil can mildly irritate one’s skin. Allergic reactions can vary from itchiness of the skin to hives. This usually occurs on the skin where one applies the oil. There are also cases where leaving the oil on a person’s skin can trigger skin rashes. But these are rare cases. The best way to avoid the allergies is to wash the area that’s affected using water and mild soap. Another good remedy is washing the skin using water and apple cider vinegar.
Muscle cramps. We are aware that castor oil is an excellent laxative. Unfortunately, some studies have indicated that muscle cramps and weakness could be caused by an overdose of this oil. Moreover, the overdose can even be so serious it may require immediate medical treatment.
It’s the ricin content that is causing these problems. This toxin is so powerful that even just inhaling it can already cause some muscle aches. Here is a point to ponder: swallowing castor oil beans can cause less ricin poisoning as compared to when one chews on the beans.
Dizziness. This is a common symptom for those who overdose on castor oil. Other common symptoms include shortness of breath and fainting. According to reports, a subcutaneous injection of the extract of the castor bean can cause side effects such as nausea and dizziness.
Ricin toxicity. One may not believe this but a couple of grains of ricin salts is enough to be fatal to an adult man. Worse than this is that there’s no known antidote for ricin poisoning. The same poison is the reason why birds, beetles, and other kinds of pests avoid eating the seeds. Studies have shown that chewing then swallowing the castor beans can release the ricin poison which can lead to injury. Nausea and vomiting are side effects of swallowing ricin. This can also lead to low blood pressure and severe dehydration. If this should continue for a number of days, the liver and the kidneys can also be compromised. They can cease to function and this will certainly lead to death.
It’s dangerous for kids. Using castor oil on children isn’t recommended unless there’s a supervision from a medical professional. This is because the oil can cause some disturbing effects on children. The oil should never be administered to kids 2 years old and below because the powerful laxative property of the oil may be too harsh for the young.
For those less than 6 years old, using the oil isn’t a very good idea either because the kids in this age group won’t able to accurately talk about their symptoms. Moreover, young children tend to be more susceptible to the side effects of the oil. One will really need a doctor’s advice if he opts for castor oil treatment.
The castor oil plant can be an ornamental plant and can sit well in the garden. But parents need to be watching with their children because the plant does contain ricin, a very toxic substance. Better still, don’t keep the plant in the home in order to safeguard the children. Castor oil isn’t advisable for chronic usage on children below 10 years old.
Abdominal cramps. This is one reason why castor oil is not recommended for use as a laxative because of its potential in causing abdominal cramps.
Gastrointestinal irritation. Those who ingest ricin will most probably show symptoms and signs of ricin poisoning and the symptoms can manifest themselves within 6-12 hours. Other side effects can include vascular collapse and nausea. Fortunately, these days, ricin poisoning can easily be handled. Generally, there’s no need to worry about because of available precautions.
FAQs About Castor Oil
People can surf the internet for all the information they need about the castor plant, its seeds, and castor oil. Include in the search the benefits that the oil can offer as well as any side effects when using it. One may also want to know the precautions needed to address when using castor oil. Here are the most common questions asked about castor oil:
What Is Castor Oil Made Of?
The castor oil itself has composed of triglycerides and the main acid is ricinoleic. This is a type of monounsaturated fatty acid which comes with anti-inflammatory characteristics. Other acids contained in castor oil are linoleic and oleic acids.
What Countries Produce the Best Castor Oil?
The major producers of castor which account for most of the world’s production of the oil are Brazil, China, and India.
Does the Castor Oil Packs Have Potential Side Effects?
The answer is no or, if any, not as severely when the oil is ingested. These packs are used for inflammation, detoxification of the liver, and stimulating the thyroid glands which can benefit those suffering from hypothyroidism.
The process of creating the pack is quite simple. One can start by soaking a piece of cloth, usually flannel, in castor oil, placing a heating pad on top of it, and applying this preparation directly on the affected area for one hour. It’s that simple!
Is Castor Oil Safe For the Eyes?
Exposure of the oil around the eyes can cause some considerable discomfort although exposure to such areas is not generally harmful. The oil has side effects which affect the other parts of the body. For one, it can dry the skin too much. However, the skin surrounding the eyes is considered delicate and exposure to castor oil can cause undesirable side effects. One good benefit of castor oil is that it’s great for promoting the growth of eyelashes and eyebrows.
Do Castor Oil Products Have Expiration Dates?
These have expiry dates and one way to find out if the oil is still good is by simple observation. When it’s still good, the castor oil is usually clear and should not be cloudy. It has color variations from the color of gold to a light straw shade. Time to get rid of the stock if it’s already colored dark brown. Another feature of quality oil, it should be odorless.
Can Zinc and Castor Oil Ointments Cause Side Effects?
Castor oil and its derivatives are one of the more popular drugs because of their antiseptic action in relieving diaper rashes in small children. However, it shouldn’t be used on people who have peanut allergies. Ditto applies to those who may show allergies against soya.
What Is Hydrogenated Castor Oil and What Is It Used For?
Hydrogenated castor oil is formed through the bubbling of hydrogen into the oil. We also refer to the product as castor wax. This product derived from castor oil is largely used as an ingredient in cosmetics, polishes, coatings, petrochemical products, and greases.
How Does Castor Oil Work In Relieving An Itchy Scalp?
Castor oil has anti-fungal, anti-viral, and anti-bacterial properties. These can help in the treatment of itchy scalp. It’s quite simple to make an ointment that can help get rid of the problem. Just combine a tablespoon of castor and olive oil plus the juice extracted from half of a lemon. Apply this to the hair then rinse after an hour. As an extra bonus, the mixture can also cure dandruff.