Castor oil has had a therapeutic use since the beginning of time. As a naturopathic therapy, castor oil is of great importance and can be very helpful. For centuries, many parents and grandparents would reach for the castor oil bottle at the first sign of illness. It has been used internally and externally over the years, right back to Egyptian times. Castor oil packs are a gentle, safe and cleansing way of stimulating and removing toxins from the body via the lymphatic system. Current research has identified castor oil as an "anti-toxin".
Where does it come from?
Castor oil is pressed from the seed of the castor bean plant - Ricinus communis. The oil that is extracted is very thick in viscosity and varies in colour from clear to pale yellow. The oil contains fatty acids, phenolic compounds, flavonoids, phytosterols, terpenoids and amino acids. Because of this it is very therapeutic to use. It is known to act as an :
hepatoprotector (protective of the liver)
Immune system tonic
Smooth muscle tonic (great for digestion and period pains)
What is a castor oil pack?
A castor oil pack is a treatment where a cotton towel is soaked in castor oil and placed over the affected area. It is then wrapped and heat is added on top. The castor oil pack should be left in place for a period of an hour to an hour and a half whilst you relax.
What does it do?
A castor oil pack is a way of applying the oil on the skin in such a way that it will penetrate deeply right down into the dermis - the very lowest layer of skin. When the castor oil reaches this layer it is able to have an effect over the entire body. The dermis is where the capillary and lymph network are, allowing the castor oil to permeate into them and the cells around that area. By laying a castor oil pack over an area that needs support , (be it the intestines, the liver or an injury) its therapeutic properties can get right down into the area around the organ or injury and do their job.
When the castor oil penetrates deeply, it creates a neurological switch from a sympathetic state (on edge and aware) into a parasympathetic state (rest and digest). The pack also stimulates the cutaneous-visceral reflexes that put your body into a relaxed state. This is always good as the parasympathetic state will allow the body to produce an array of beneficial neurohormones that allow a feeling of relaxation and well-being.
As the oil penetrates the area of the organ itself, it puts the visceral organs into a parasympathetic state. This allows them to do their jobs more efficiently such as detoxification, elimination, absorption and in the case of the digestive organs - digestion.
Can`t I just rub it on my skin?
If you rub it into the surface of your skin, it will certainly make your skin healthy but won`t be able to penetrate as deeply to effect the area you are targeting. It needs compression and warmth to be able to open the pores and travel down the hair follicles into the deeper layers of the skin.
What can a castor oil pack help with?
Castor oil packs can be used far and wide. Some ways that they can help are:
Relieve painful arthritis or other joint/muscle pain
IBS, bloating or cramps
Increase lymphatic circulation - support with swelling and oedema
Supportive for gynaecological complaints such as dysmenorrhea (painful periods ), endometriosis, fibroids or PCOS
Breast infections -mastitis or blocked milk ducts
Support mood imbalances
Supportive for gall bladder and liver disorders
Supportive for infections
Gentle liver cleanse
Dissolve and remove adhesions and lesions
Strengthen the immune system
Improve intestinal flow
A cotton flannel or cloth that is preferably organic or dye free - around 25cm wide and 30 - 35 cm long that you can fold several times.
container that the cloth will fit into
Organic castor oil
Hot water bottle
Towels that you don`t mind getting oily
Hot water bottle
Lay a towel over the bed or area where you will lie
fold your cloth into 3 or 4 layers and completely saturate it with the castor oil.
Place the cloth over the liver. The liver is located just under your right rib cage.
You can place an additional cloth over any other affected area like the uterus or colon but you should always have a pack over the liver at the same time
Wrap the area with the plastic wrap to avoid leakage
Place a hot water bottle over the area that is packed
Cover yourself with a blanket or a towel and rest.
Lie for an hour to an hour and a half.
You will get the most benefit from castor oil packs if you do it at least once a week but more so if possible.
Castor oil head packs
Head packs are useful if you have depression, M.E or for unblocking mucous if you have a cold
Massage the oil into the scalp
Tug the hair first in a forward motion, then in a backward motion so that the oil can travel down the follicle into the pores.
Wrap an old towel around the head
You could even go to bed with this and rinse off in the morning.
Always drink plenty of water after doing a castor oil pack, they release toxins which will need to be eliminated. It is very beneficial to do a water enema after a castor oil pack. You can put your dedicated castor oil cloth in the container and store it away for next time. You don`t need to wash it in -between if it is in an airtight container. Just add more oil to it next time. You can do 30 packs before needing to wash it.
Castor oil packs should NOT be used during pregnancy If you have M.E or chronic fatigue, you can still do castor oil packs but start with only 25 minutes so that the toxin elimination isn`t too much for your energy levels. You can gradually build up the time you use them for. You could do a castor oil head pack instead. Some people think that doing a castor oil pack during menstruation can make cramps worse, so avoid during menstrual bleeds. Do throughout the rest of the month for gynacological problems instead.
If you are like me and don`t like the idea of wrapping yourself in plastic, you can find these castor oil pack aprons on etsy, like this one,or have a go at making your own.