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HomeHealthWhat does castor oil cure and how to drink it

What does castor oil cure and how to drink it

Verified medical by our consultants

Castor oil is popular in Bulgaria - it is known primarily as a laxative, but also as an assistant for beautiful skin and hair. Let's recall the benefits of this oil, adding to the knowledge of folk medicine the latest results of medical studies.

Castor oil is obtained from the seeds of the plant Ricinus communis (pictured are the plant and seeds), which is native to the tropics and subtropics. The tree can reach up to 8 meters in height. The qualities of the seeds have been known since ancient times.

Castor seeds look like ripe beans. They consist of 30 to 50% castor oil. Compared to some other oils, castor oil is quite viscous. It has a slightly yellowish color and when cold pressed, its taste is not particularly pleasant, rather it is bitter. Refined oils, on the other hand, are tasteless.

The composition of castor oil is 90% ricinoleic acid. It is a monounsaturated fatty acid that, like oleic acid (known from olive oil), is one of the omega-9 fatty acids. Most properties of castor oil are related to it. 

Look more: Castor oil against acne and dark circles under the eyes

What does castor oil treat?

Castor oil heals and helps with various conditions. It can be used externally for lubrication and internally. At the same time, the external application is not only for cosmetic, but also for medicinal purposes. It can penetrate the skin, enter the bloodstream and thus have a healing effect. 

Anointing with castor oil - here's what it helps with: 

  • Alleviation of inflammation
  • Improving blood circulation
  • It promotes detoxification and regenerates the liver. They are said to increase blood flow to the liver and gallbladder with 40%;
  • Improves lymphatic circulation
  • Regulates digestion
  • Increasing the antioxidant status of the whole organism.

The external application can be done using compresses on the area where you want to have an effect, or by direct rubbing into the skin with a light massage.

In addition, castor oil reduces tension and stress as it increases levels of oxytocin and dopamine. Both hormones make us feel happy and relaxed. Here are more of the uses of the oil through lubrication:

  • calms the peripheral nerves and therefore helps with polyneuropathy
  • improves sleep 
  • relieves dry eyes
  • makes hair thicker and fuller
  • prevents split ends of the hair
  • moisturizes the skin, shrinks pores, reduces spots, age spots and wrinkles. You can put a teaspoon in a homemade face or hair mask, or massage directly into the skin. 
  • makes eyelashes thicker and longer.

It is also said that applying castor oil helps to make papillomas disappear. These are benign growths on the skin, most often caused by the human papillomavirus. Warts, calluses and any skin ulcers are well affected. Apply the oil twice a day, put socks on it and let it work.

It can also relieve leg pain. Apply the oil to the feet before going to bed, put socks on them, leave them until the next morning.

Despite the studies, not all positive effects and possible uses of the oil are known. For the majority of them, there are no scientific studies, but there are observations from practice.

For sudden problems, such as a sore spot due to an infected foreign body (for example, fever) or an infection of the nail bed, you can wrap a towel soaked in the oil around the finger - fix it with gauze and leave it on overnight.

How fast does castor oil work? In general, changes in chronic problems should occur after 3 to 8 weeks.

How to drink castor oil

syrup medicine

Drinking castor oil is a long known practice. It has been known as a laxative for constipation for centuries. It is one of the relatively fast-acting natural laxatives. The time it takes for the effect to take effect depends on how the castor oil is taken. If you take it on an empty stomach (approximately 15 ml or 1-2 tablespoons), the effect can be felt after 2 to 6 hours.

Some recipes to eliminate intestinal parasites also contain castor oil.

You should not drink castor oil in the evening, otherwise you will have to go to the toilet more often at night. Moreover, it is not suitable for long-term use.  

Ricinoleic acid is responsible for the laxative effect. It activates the smooth muscle cells of the intestinal wall (by activating the so-called G protein-coupled receptors), which leads to an increase in contractions (peristalsis). Ricinoleic acid also binds more water in the intestines and increases stool volume.

Since the mentioned receptors are also present in the uterus, ricinoleic acid also has an activating effect there, which can lead to premature contractions during pregnancy. Therefore, it is not recommended to take the oil during pregnancy. 

Compresses with castor oil also act as a laxative

You don't have to drink castor oil to relieve constipation. Often, external compresses with castor oil on the abdomen are sufficient. A study conducted in two nursing homes showed that this treatment can also be very helpful in the elderly.

The compresses did not increase the number of bowel movements in the participants, most of whom had been constipated for 10 years or more. However, the consistency of the stools improved, became softer. Feces passed more easily, there was a feeling of complete emptying after defecation.

Compresses are a more pleasant way to relieve. If you take the oil by mouth, you should always expect abdominal cramps, nausea, and upset stomach.

In the study, the compresses were applied on three consecutive days, left on the abdomen for 1 hour each time along with a hot water bottle.

Castor oil is possible as a colon cleanser before a colonoscopy, at least as an adjunct, a 2022 study shows.  

Castor oil for cleaning dentures

A number of bacteria and fungi (eg Candida albicans) can grow on dentures. Improper cleaning can lead to health problems, such as denture stomatitis. It is an inflammation of the oral mucosa caused by Candida.

In people with weak immunity, which often happens in the elderly, the fungus can become dangerous and migrate to the gastrointestinal tract or lungs. Therefore, it is important to always clean the prosthesis thoroughly.

A 2017 study showed that castor oil can be used well for this purpose. A solution of sodium hypochlorite (liquid chlorine) was able to remove biofilm of bacteria and fungi better than castor oil. But oil works better than regular saline. Castor oil actually works better against candida than sodium hypochlorite.

Who should not drink castor oil?

Internal reception is good to consult a doctor. This is especially true in children or with a chronic illness such as Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, appendix problems, biliary tract disease, or abdominal pain of unknown origin.

Children under 10 should not drink castor oil.

Castor oil during pregnancy

pregnancy and nutrition

It is not recommended to be taken during pregnancy as the oil can cause premature contractions. If labor is delayed, the oil can again be helpful, but should ALWAYS be taken on prescription.

A 2022 meta-analysis from Iran described oral administration of castor oil as a safe method for opening the cervix and inducing contractions.

How is oil stored?

As with all oils, storage should be dry, dark and cool. For unopened oils, the shelf life here can be up to 2 years. Once opened, castor oil should be used within 6 months. Refined oils often have a longer shelf life than cold-pressed oils.

Which fatty acids are in butter?

The fatty acid composition of castor oil can naturally vary depending on the origin and quality:

  • 85 to 90 percent ricinoleic acid (an omega-9 fatty acid)
  • 4 to 5 percent linoleic acid (an omega-6 fatty acid)
  • 3 to 4 percent oleic acid (an omega-9 fatty acid)
  • 1 to 2 percent stearic acid
  • 1 to 2 percent palmitic acid
  • 0.5 to 0.7 percent linolenic acid

Is castor oil poisonous?

Castor oil is non-toxic, so it no longer contains ricin (see next section). Ricin is water-soluble and therefore does not leach into the oil (25). However, the press residue left over from oil production is rich in ricin and therefore initially poisonous. Before it is sold as fertilizer, ricin is extracted from it.

But you can also get unpleasant symptoms from castor oil (depending on the dose) if you take it (stomach pain, colic, diarrhea), which is sometimes desirable, at least the diarrhea, since the oil is a well-known laxative.

Is ricin poisonous?

Despite its many medicinal properties, the plant contains the poison ricin in all parts, but mostly in the seeds. Ricin is highly toxic and is even considered a potential biological warfare agent.

Note that if you accidentally eat the seeds, you don't notice anything repulsive. They have a relatively pleasant taste. It can be a problem if they fall into the hands of children.

If the seeds are ingested whole, the toxicity is not as pronounced. Since ricin is mainly contained in the seed coat, it is mainly released during chewing.

The lethal dose is estimated at 1 to 20 µg per kilogram of body weight (according to some sources 5 – 10 µg), which corresponds to approximately 5 to 10 seeds. In children – depending on their age – even half a seed can be fatal. However, there are also reports of people surviving after eating 30 seeds, but it is better not to test this.

Depending on the dose taken, symptoms appear after a few hours or even after two days (colic, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, dehydration, muscle pain, liver and kidney damage, cerebral (brain) seizures and eventually circulatory failure) .

If less than 1 hour has passed since taking ricin, activated charcoal can be tried. In animal experiments, therapy with N-acetylcysteine (a synthetic antioxidant) is thought to have proven beneficial (in cases of liver and kidney involvement).

Author Iliana Angelova

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