Castor oil is derived from the Castor bean (Ricinus communis) and has a long medicinal history dating back to ancient Egypt. The plant was mentioned in the Ebers Papyrus, an ancient Egyptian medicinal treatise, and evidence of the plant was found in tombs said to be as old as 4000 BCE. Internally, Castor oil was used as a laxative and purgative to remove poisons or harmful substances from the body such as parasites. Alternately, in small doses, it was used to initiate labour in pregnant women.
I have no personal experience consuming the plant internally, however, I have seen it bring on labour when nothing else is working and the mom is well past her due date. (*please only use the oil for this purpose under the guidance of a midwife).
However, I have plenty of experience using the oil externally, in the form of a Castor Oil Pack. Castor oil packs are wonderfully healing, and one of my favourite self-care practices.
The oil is anti-inflammatory, and given our skin is an organ capable of absorbing whatever we rub in it, the castor oil permeates the skin and has an anti-inflammatory and mild stimulatory effect on the organ (or joint) when a castor oil is applied.
WHEN TO APPLY A CASTOR OIL PACK:
Every spring and fall I do a 30 day herbal cleanse. I don’t mean “cleanse” in the trendy sense that assumes our bodies or organs are dirty to begin with. I basically mean I “cleanse” my diet of rich foods and increase my greens and herbs more than I normally do. This consists of eating and drinking more nourishing herbal teas, salads, tinctures and vinegars then usual, and I eliminate all sugars, white flours, dairy and processed foods (not that I do much anyway, but you know how it goes). Basically, I increase my seasonal greens such as baby kale and wild salads like minors lettuce, raw foods that are in the local farmers markets (nothing more lovely than fresh from the garden celery), all for the intent of giving my body, liver especially, a break.This is a great practice to create more space for new growth in one’s life.
And before bed, I apply a castor oil pack over the area of the liver for some mild liver stimulation and anti inflammatory action. I do not have liver disease or liver issues, this is preventative, nourishing, and encourages my liver to efficiently do what it already knows how to do – detox waste.
Castor oil packs are known to be very useful to ease painful, irritated, swollen parts of the body and: help dissolve cysts, fibroids, swollen nodules, inflamed bladder, sore achy swollen joints, back pain, back spasms, sciatica, joint stiffness. This may seem miraculous. But remember, the castor oil packs are simply bringing heat, circulation, and the anti inflammatory agents of castor to a local area to facilitate the body to do what it already knows how to do. Basically, from an energetic perspective, it’s breaking up stagnation.
HOW TO APPLY A CASTOR OIL PACK
First, gather your supplies. NOTE: CASTOR OIL STAINS. I suggest wearing clothes you don’t mind potentially staining. Keep this in mind with furniture, your bedding, etc depending on where you’ll be resting while enjoying the pack.
The right tools for the job are essential. Shown here: flannel, castor oil, hot water bottle, oven-safe glassware
1. A bottle of castor oil (at least 250ML) purchased at any local health food store.
2. A large piece of flannel big enough to cover the affected area once FOLDED 3 OR 4 TIMES.
3. Glassware that’s oven-safe to warm up the oil soaked cloth
4. A hot water bottle
5. A piece of plastic (like a plastic bag) large enough to cover flannel
6. A large towel
7. A wool blanket
8. A rag with which you can wipe your hands
1. First, rip or cut your flannel to size. This is a great way to re-use old flannel sheets, pyjama’s, etc. Alternately, many pharmacies sell sheets of flannel specifically for castor packs.
2. Place your flannel in oven-safe glassware, and pour the castor oil over it. You want the flannel to be saturated, but not dripping with excess oil. It’s a good idea to squeeze out extra and put it back in the bottle.
3. Next, lay out a wool blanket and towel on top of it. If you are making a pack for someone else, have them lay down as shown. If it’s for you, then have the blanket and towel in position.
4. Next, lay the saturated flannel over the affected area
Flannel saturated with castor oil laying over the desired area (in this case the general location of the liver)
5. This next step is optional: Lay a piece of plastic over the flannel to protect your towel and blanket from the staining oil
6. Now lay the hot water bottle (filled with hot water!) over top
7. And now, to hold everything together and to hold in heat, wrap the towel and the wool blanket around the entire body.
Now rest and enjoy! It’s recommended to have the pack on 30-45 minutes ~ but I suggest just going with comfort level. It’s nice to set someone up with pillows, a good book, and naturally a sweet companion (such as this beloved canine Tucker) enhances the healing properties of a Castor oil pack.
Castor oil was brought back into “modern” use by Edgar Cayce. Here, the Edgar Cayce Institute produced an instructional video for Castor Oil Packs. I’m not sure exactly when it was filmed, but wow, gotta love these dated videos!
* Big thanks to my sister Krystle for being the demo girl, and to Tucker for being the best dog in the world.