Castor oil is made by extracting oil from the seeds (castor beans) of the Ricinus communis plant. These seeds contain a toxic enzyme called ricin. However, the heating process that the seeds undergo during production deactivates the toxicity of the ricin, and renders an oil that is rich in ricinoleic acid. (A monounsaturated fatty acid) These types of fats can be used to moisturize the skin. Castor oil is used in cosmetics to promote hydration. Manufacturers often add it to products like lotions, makeup, and cleansers. It is also a known natural remedy to treat ailments like eye dryness and irritation, and even taken to stimulate labor in pregnancy.
Castor oil packs are a traditional remedy that may be one of the MOST IMPORTANT naturopathic applications one can implement to improve overall health. To have an effect over the entire body, castor oil must permeate through all 3 layers of the skin. The dermis (middle layer) is where there is an abundance of blood vessels and lymph connections reside. Castor oil HAS to reach this deeper layer to enable access into the visceral parts of the body. These packs are meant to be reused over and over. They can be washed as needed, but I would refrain from adding them to the washing machine with other items, as the oil may transfer to certain materials. The packs can be used with or without heat. (However, heat increases circulation which can improve absorption)
When castor oils packs are placed on the skin over the liver, it works to support optimal function and detoxification. The ricinoleic acid helps the body rid itself of excess toxins. Castor oil has been shown to improve levels of glutathione. Glutathione carries toxins, byproducts of plastics, BPA, and estrogens out of the body.
Daily applications of castor oils packs may help strengthen a weakened immune system by increasing the number of immune cells. They may also work to counter the physical effects of stress and anxiety. When one is "relaxed" and using the pack, the contact of the pack on the skin can stimulate the bonding hormone, oxytocin. This impacts the limbic system and results in a release of the neurotransmitter, dopamine. You also get a variety of physiological benefits! Your gut mucosa is functioning at a high level when the body returns to a state of ‘rest and digest.’ When you are in a stressed state (fight or flight) your gut lining is leaky, the gap junctions are lost, and it becomes inflamed over time. Most of the inflammation in our bodies can be found in our gut. The anti-inflammatory effect of castor oil packs can result in a reduction in issues associated with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD) such as Crohn’s and colitis, constipation, gastritis, GERD, abdominal discomfort, bloating, and tenderness. They may also improve digestion and aid bowel elimination.
Another way Castor Oil is beneficial is it may help to resolve hormonal imbalance. They may positively impact infertility and improve overall female reproductive health. They have been shown to help reduce cysts and fibroids. Calm the pain associated with endometriosis and in some cases slow the progression of the condition. They are also a key strategy for reducing estrogen dominance, PCOS and adrenal issues. In estrogen dominance, an enzyme called beta-glucuronidase has been shown to be elevated. Castor oils help to lower levels of beta-glucuronidase. Rebalancing hormones can result in glowing skin, improved mental clarity, and increased energy.
Castor oil packs work because they support the foundation of health, they improve the function of the gut, reduce inflammation, calm stress, and help to reset the microbiome over time. When these processes are supported, your body will respond accordingly. Wearing your pack overnight is the best way to utilize castor oil packs. During sleep is when the most important systemic cleansing happens in the body. However, if that isn’t possible, wearing the pack for 1-2 hours during the day is an alternative option. Unfortunately, many of us have so much inflammation, unhealthy gut bacteria, hormone imbalances and 'stress', that 1-2 hours daily just isn’t enough.
Word of advice:
HYDATION is important! Healthy hydration allows the system to flush and purge toxins and debris effectively. Don’t be surprised if your bowels need to evacuate as soon as you wake up. You may also note changes in the color, consistency, and odor of your stool. This is normal and occurs because you are cleaning out mucous, inflammation, toxins, and more.
How to use Castor Oil Packs:
1). Apply it daily if possible. – Minimum: Wear daily for at least 1-2 hours daily
Best results: Apply and wear overnight.
2). Wear over the liver (under the right rib cage).
3). Make sure to use the soft part of the compress on your skin. Pour 2-4 tablespoons of organic castor oil onto the pack.
4). Apply the oil in the center of the compress.
5). Wear old clothes. - Castor oil will leave “oil shadows” if it gets on your clothing. These do not wash out.
6). Apply a hot towel or heating pad (on low to medium heat) OVER the castor oil pack for 1-2 hours.
7.) Remove in the morning, fold the pack, and reuse the next night. Appling new oil on top of the old every day.
Apply your oils of choice to the castor oil and mix well before applying it to your pack. The healing constituents of the essential oils will enhance the effects of castor oil packs.
-Cypress, Lemon and Lime for lymphatic flow.
-Ledum, Dill and Caraway for good for liver health.
-Ginger, Fennel, Anise, and Peppermint for gut health and digestion.
-Oregano, Thyme, melissa are good for clearing viral pathogens.
** Remember SOME essential oils are “hot oils” and may cause the skin to redden, or even feel very hot/burn.” To reduce this possibility, start with ONE DROP and work up as tolerated.