One of my favorite ways to relax and recharge is using castor oil packs. Historical textbooks list castor oil as one of the oldest ways to support health with citations dating back to 1550 BC in Egypt, thousands of years in India and China, and it was deemed the Palma Christa in medieval Europe.
What is Castor Oil?
Castor oil and its major constituent ricinoleic acid, an unsaturated omega-9 fatty acid, has been researched for analgesic, anti-inflammatory, laxative, and uterine relaxation effects. Additionally, castor oil may treat many ailments that resist traditional therapies. It can be applied as a balm for skin issues, a soothing tonic to alleviate allergies, and as a “castor oil pack”. Known to conventional medicine only as a strong laxative, this extract of the castor bean is a safe, gentle, easy-to-use remedy when used externally.
Castor oil also stimulates lymph and liver function by increasing lymphocyte count. This improves detoxification in the body while reducing inflammation. Specifically castor oil has been shown to increase the levels of T-11 lymphocytes in the top layers of the skin, increase prostaglandin E2, and activate the EP3 prostanoid receptor. Increase in T-11 lymphocytes is hypothesized to support normal immunity, whereas increases in prostaglandins may be responsible for the induction of labor in pregnant women.
The heat from a castor oil packs increases blood flow and may improve oxygenation to target tissues. Castor oil also activates the VR1 receptor similarly to capsaicin, and this may account for its analgesic effects.
A review of published studies about using castor oil packs claims castor oil packs may serve as an effective means of pain reduction, relief from constipation, reduced fatigue, and improved immune and liver function. Increased liver enzymes following castor oil packs boosts detoxification in the body.
How to Use a Castor Oil Pack
Castor oils packs are typically placed over the liver or uterus. The former supports liver health, while the latter supports reproductive health. As with many natural remedies, there is debate on the proper way to use a castor oil pack during menstruation, when trying to become pregnant, and during pregnancy.
- During menstruation, I know plenty of women, including me, who use castor oil packs to ease menstrual cramps. However, they may increase menstrual blood flow.
- There is controversy on whether to use the packs while trying to become pregnant. Some claim that the increased blood flow to the uterus supports the ability to become pregnant. Others claim heat interferes with sperm viability. If you are concerned about sperm viability, do not use a castor oil pack for up to 3 days following sexual intercourse. If you use the castor oil pack before intercourse, be sure the belly is completely cool.
- Castor oil packs should be avoided during pregnancy. Avoid castor oil by mouth at any point during pregnancy, because castor oil induces labor.
- There is general consensus that castor oil packs are safe and potentially beneficial in women with uterine fibroids.
- Talk to your physician before starting any new health and wellness routine.
To complete a castor oil pack, first gather supplies:
- Wool flannel large enough to cover the liver. Alternatively, you may choose to get a larger piece of wool that can cover the entire abdomen.
- Organic, cold pressed castor oil.
- Plastic wrap.
- Hot water bottle.
- Towel that you don’t mind getting oily.
- Storage jar for wool flannel once finished with pack (a mason jar or plastic bag will do just fine).
- Warm water on the stove until almost boiling. Lay towel on bed or couch.
- Stretch plastic wrap over towel and lay wool flannel on top of plastic wrap.
- Saturate the flannel in castor oil (you want it fully saturated, but not dripping).
- Once water is warm, fill water bottle.
- Place wool flannel wrapped in plastic wrap over your liver on the upper right portion of your abdomen. Cover as much of the flannel as possible with another sheet of plastic wrap.
- Lie down on towel and place warm water bottle on top of liver.
- Relax for 20-30 minutes or longer. Repeat this procedure as often as desired.
Not into Doing-it-Yourself?
Click here to check out my favorite ready-made castor oil packs from Queen of The Thrones and even take a quiz to find out which one is right for you!