The castor oil plant is one of the most fascinating gifts that Mother Nature has offered us so far. Extracted from castor beans, this oil has so much utility, it’s used across multiple industries. Yet these same magical beans contain ricin, a toxin that could be deadly. Deadly toxins in such a healthy and useful plant? How does that even work?
What Is Castor Oil?
Where does castor oil come from? Derived from castor beans that grow on a plant called Palma Christi usually found in the tropics, castor oil is nothing else but vegetable oil. Castor oil can be either transparent or have a yellowish color. It has a very specific odor, so if you’ve smelled it once, it’s easy to recognize it again.
The use of castor oil dates back as far as ancient Egyptian time and is still used today. It is a very popular ingredient in the cosmetics and medicine industries, but also has multiple other uses that we’ll go over in the following paragraphs. Despite the fact that castor oil is very versatile and has great utility, castor beans where it is extracted from contains ricin, which is extremely toxic. So, next question, what is castor oil good for?
Castor Oil Uses in Medicine
Is castor oil safe? In medicine, castor oil is known for bringing quite a number of ayurveda/holistic medicinal and nutritional benefits: from its antimicrobial and antioxidant properties to its capacity of healing wounds, muscle aches, and constipation. And since there are next to no castor oil side effects, it’s recommended by professionals. But some people still wonder how to use castor oil.
Consumption of castor oil has frequently been tested orally for its ability to improve blood flow, lymphatic drainage, and other immune system functions. The Journal of Naturopathic Medicine has published a study in this regard. The results showed that subject with castor oil packs applied on their skin has experienced an increase in lymphocytes production.
Since castor oil may help with lymphocytes production, it can also help improve the digestive system, meaning it could aid with other problems, such as constipation.
There is a strong link between a person’s blood flow and the health of the lymphatic system. Problems with the latter can surely lead to issues with the former. The body’s lymphatic circulatory system needs a healthy cardiovascular system in order to make sure that there are balanced levels of lymphatic fluid and blood in your organs.
The pure form of the oil has magnificent antibacterial properties. In fact, there is a lot of resemblance between the benefits of coconut oil and that of castor. Aside from being a great moisturizer, castor oil also has anti-inflammatory properties, especially when used with a cold compress. Since castor oil doesn’t have any synthetic chemicals but is very rich in fatty acids, it can help with problems such as dry or irritated skin by keeping it moisturized at optimal levels daily.
Furthermore, this oil is known for being able to aid in healing wounds because it is efficient against different forms of bacteria. Staphylococcus aureus is one of the types of bacteria that are quite difficult to get rid of and is known for its potential of causing severe skin infections.
For a very long time, it has been used to help pregnant women induce labor. Because it’s edible, women that have reached their full pregnancy term would take a teaspoon of castor oil to induce frequent uterus contractions.
Note: Pregnant women who plan to use this oil should consult their doctor first!
This particular oil contains ricinoleic acid, which can activate certain receptors in the uterus. Even if this practice isn’t medically approved, it is considered to be safe as a method of labor induction. However, it may induce a feeling of nausea.
There are a lot of people that use castor oil supplements to treat arthritis pain. Because of its anti-inflammatory properties, castor oil is frequently used as a massage oil, applied on swollen joints, aching muscles, and tissue.
Different observational studies have revealed the fact that ricinoleic acid applied topically can act as an analgesic and has anti-inflammatory effects. Another study has examined the effects of pills, capsules, and tablets containing castor oil on knee osteoarthritis. By taking three capsules of this particular oil every day, over a duration of four weeks, patients have shown just as much improvement as those that have taken the conventional treatment.
It is recommended to massage areas with castor oil and then you apply hot water packs to make sure that the body fully absorbs the oil.
Natural Sleep Aid
Yes, castor oil is a natural sleep aid, a perfect solution for people who are having trouble falling asleep and getting some proper rest. Just place a tiny amount of castor oil on the eyelids, but make sure that you have at least eight free hours to get your beauty sleep. If you have to wake up in five or six hours, you will feel groggy.
If you’re a parent, you are most likely with this medical mystery that is a baby’s colics period. It’s true that the exact triggers of colics remain unknown, but what if there was a way to tone down your baby’s suffering with a natural and completely safe remedy?
You can apply this particular oil to the baby’s belly, and then massage it with gentle circular movements. While this has not been medically tested, it is believed that the oil’s analgesic properties are the ones that soothe the baby’s pain.
However, always keep in mind that skin irritations are sometimes a side effect of the oil, so if you want to use it, test it on a very small portion of the skin to make sure the baby isn’t allergic to it.
TIP: If you want to create a castor oil pack, take a clean piece of wool, cotton, or flannel, dip it in castor oil and let it absorb the liquid a bit, and then put it on the affected area. Those of you who want to reuse that pack can place it in a ziplock bag.
Castor Oil in the Beauty Industry
It may be used internally as a laxative, but did you know that it has so much cosmetic external skin and face benefits when used correctly?
- As we’ve already established, this particular oil has anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties, which means it can give relief from acne. That’s because it contains ricinoleic acid, which destroys the bacteria responsible for acne. It even helps with yeast infections.
- Since it’s rich in fatty acids, castor oil can also help improve the texture of your skin and lips. It makes your skin softer and smoother. The same fatty acid can improve your facial complexion through the restoration of uneven skin tones, moles, and even on the scalp. In other words, they promote healthy skin tissue.
- People with sensitive skin are better off using this particular oil compared to other sketchy facial creams that contain zinc and other things. Because of its low comedogenic score, castor oil will not clog skin pores, which diminishes the rate of blackheads appearing on your face.
- If you have irritated skin, you can also use castor oil since the anti-inflammatory properties can help with healing.
- Rich in triglycerides, castor oil keeps your skin moist, a feature of interest amongst people that suffer from dry skin. Even more, triglycerides in castor oil can clean the skin, which makes it a good cleansing product.
- Did you know that this particular oil can be used as an ingredient to make your own home mascara? All you need is the oil, charcoal power (if you want a black mascara; alternatively, you can use cocoa powder for a brown color), and beeswax. Melt the beeswax, and then combine it with two tablespoons of castor oil. Mix in the correspondent powder, based on the color of your choice, until you get mascara-like consistency.
- The best part of it all? Castor oil is way less expensive compared to fancier cream brands that promise miraculous anti-aging processes and don’t live up to the hype, despite their spicy price.
- Castor oil promotes hair growth, even for beards, by improving blood circulation to the follicles. And even reduces inflammation.
Other Applications for Castor Oil
It also has some industrial uses because it’s broken down into chemical compounds. Here are some other uses of castor oil:
- Cold pressed castor oil has antifungal properties. In translation, it means that it can help prevent the apparition of mold and fungi. Naturally, this property has paved the way for castor oil to become used in the food industry.
- Aside from being antifungal, castor oil is also pest repellent. Products such as cowpea are rubbed with castor oil, and they soaked in water to remove all traces of it before being cooked.
- The lubricant properties of castor oil are superior, which makes it usable in the fabrication industry as it can lubricate machine parts when needed. Because of its good performance in both cold and warm environments, castor oil is used to lubricate moving parts of race cars. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t use it at home, on items such as scissors.
One of the many medicinal uses and facts of castor oil is stomach cleansing. When you combine castor oil with milk, you can create a stomach remedy. Drinking this mixture helps lower stomach acidity, but it also cleanses the stomach to improve intestinal problems. This mixture is made by mixing one tablespoon of castor oil into a full glass of cold mix. You can drink it on an empty stomach once per week.
This particular oil can also be mixed with orange juice to cure constipation, creating a sort of enema. The mixture should also be drunk on an empty stomach. It is recommended that you drink hot water 20 minutes after ingesting this particular oil and orange juice mix, and after the cleansing process is complete, you can eat some yogurt.
If you want to cleanse your stomach from harmful bacteria, mix a tablespoon of castor oil with warm milk. Not only will this cleanse your stomach, but it also helps improve your metabolic rate.
Ginger is a plant known for its health benefits, but did you know that you can mix it with castor oil to get a drink that improves your digestive system? Place a pan of water on the stove and wait for it to boil. When the water is boiling, crush some ginger and add it to the pan. Turn the heat down to medium and leave the pan there for an extra ten minutes. When ready, add a tablespoon of castor oil to the mixture and drink it on an empty stomach. It’s even been used for cooking in some recipes.
How to Grow the Plants
Castor oil is made from the beans produced by the plant with the same name. As we all know by now, it has many important uses, especially in the cosmetic and pharmaceutical industry. Also known as “ricinus communis”, the castor oil plant is considered to be really dangerous, and it might not be a good idea to grow it if you have any children or pets. But if you do decide to take on this challenge, here is what you should know:
- It generally takes about three months for a castor oil plant to grow. That’s because it’s a plant native to the tropics. This also means that it needs a lot of light and warmth to thrive, somewhere in between 77 to 86 degrees Fahrenheit.
- You will need to plant castor beans in order to start growing your plant. Make sure that there are at least three feet of distance in between the seeds.
- The soil has to be moist at all times. It also helps to add rotted compost to the planting hole, which should be about one inch deep.
- If you live in an apartment and want to grow this plant inside a pot, you will need a large container, filled with potting mix.
- For a plant to grow successfully, you will need soil rich with organic substances. Keep the soil moist but avoid over-watering, making sure that the soil is well-drained.
- Even if you keep the plant in the sun, it’s important to avoid strong winds. The plant grows quite high and could easily break.
- All-purpose fertilizer added to the soil once a month is more than enough to keep the plant well-fed. When you notice the first buds, place an inch of compost or manure at the plant’s base.
- Castor oil plants do not require pruning.
- The plant is also pretty strong against diseases and pests.
- When the plant is ready for harvesting, you can collect the bean pods from the plant. When they’re ready, they will start drying. Make sure that you wear garden gloves and long sleeves.
When deciding to grow your plant, remember that ricin is toxic and that’s present in both the beans and the leaves of the plants, and your children and pets could be exposed to it. The plant can also trigger allergic reactions in some people.
That’s a Wrap!
Castor oil is a product rich in a lot of ingredients that can boost your organism towards health. It has fatty acid, ricinoleic acid, and has anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties. While cultivators need to be extra careful around castor plants because of the toxic ricin, the end product that you buy is absolutely safe and very beneficial.
There are a lot of things that you can do with this particular oil, as it promotes a health internally, as well as beautiful skin and hair. You can create facial masks, hair masks, apply it on your skin for healing and rejuvenation, use it as a medicine for stomach cleansing and other stomach problems. It also helps improve blood circulation, aid with arthritic pain, and improves the health of your immune system.