Years ago, practically every household had a bottle of castor oil in the kitchen cabinet. Many mothers swore by its benefits as a tonic, basically good for whatever the current ailment was. Many people became more aware of it due to the trance readings of Edgar Cayce in the 1920s and ’30s. During these readings, Cayce would often make recommendations regarding an individual’s health situation—and castor oil was one of his favorite remedies, for everything from headaches and constipation to arthritis and gallstones.
It seems hard to believe that such a simple remedy could have benefits in so many different areas, but when you look more closely at castor oil, the picture becomes a little clearer.
Castor oil’s actions appear to be due to its stimulation of a compound called prostaglandin E2 (PGE2). Among its many functions, this derivative of fatty acids increases the output of neurotransmitters in the brain; makes blood platelets more sensitive to natural clotting factors; and affects smooth muscles in the airway, bladder, uterus, and blood vessels. Interestingly, PGE2 can have opposite effects on the same tissue, depending on which receptors are in use at the moment.
There’s no doubt that castor oil is an effective laxative. In fact, it’s so effective that it’s commonly used in experiments to induce diarrhea (to test the effectiveness of anti-diarrheal medications). Castor oil is also an immune stimulant and has the power to help relieve arthritis pain.
One of the most useful and least utilized methods of using castor oil is to employ packs—an economical and efficient method of delivering the healing components of castor oil directly into body tissues.
Make Your Own Castor Oil Pack
To make a castor oil pack you will need the following items: cold pressed castor oil, a standard heating pad, a plastic garbage bag, two or three one-foot square pieces of wool or cotton flannel, and one large bath towel.
- Place the heating pad on a flat surface and turn the setting to high.
- Lay the plastic garbage bag on top of the pad. Next, soak the flannel pieces with castor oil (about ½ cup) and lay them on top of the bag and pad.
- The entire pack can now be placed against the body with the oil-soaked flannel on the skin. For general conditions the pack should be placed on the abdomen. (For treating lower back problems or joint pain, the pack can be placed there.) To help hold the pack in place and to keep oil from getting on bedding, et cetera, the body can be wrapped in a large bath towel.
- The pack should remain in place for at least one hour and the temperature of the heating pad should be kept at the highest temperature tolerable.
- When you remove the pack, the remaining oil can be massaged into the skin or cleaned off using a little soda water made from 1 quart of warm water and 2 tablespoons of baking soda.
- The flannel can be reused if stored properly after removing the pack. Put the flannel in either a zippered freezer bag or plastic container and place it in the refrigerator. Before using it next time, let it warm up, and always add another 1 or 2 tablespoons of fresh cold-pressed castor oil. (After a month of use I would recommend using new flannel.)
Whether you choose to take castor oil orally or use it topically, it’s one remedy every home should have.