16 February 2023 / Laura Garvin Gomez
Castor Oil Benefits and Uses
This underrated carrier oil is most famous for its digestive qualities as well as its great applications for hair. Learn more about castor oil here.
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Castor oil is one of the oldest herbal remedies around - present in almost every ancient civilisation.
It's perhaps most famous for its use as a natural laxative, but the applications of castor oil have increased significantly into other areas across recent years, particularly in the cosmetic field.
Castor oil also boasts several medical benefits that make it a worthy asset to any wellness collection.
We'll be breaking down all the facts about castor carrier oil, including its most infamous benefits as well as the most popular uses of castor oil.
What is Castor Oil?
Identifiable by the botanical name Ricinus communis, castor oil is a non-volatile fatty carrier oil that is derived from the seeds of the castor bean plant.
It is usually cold pressed or expeller pressed to retain its nutrients, and ranges from a common pale yellow colour to variations of dark amber or light green.
Castor oil is native to the Mediterranean as well as to parts of Eastern Africa, however the largest quantities of castor oil can be found in India. In fact, India is responsible for over 90 percent of castor oil exports across the globe.
Like most carrier oils, castor oil is generally odourless, and is therefore a popular choice for combining with essential oils in order to dilute them for topical use.
The fascination surrounding castor oil and its benefits comes from its exceptionally high content of ricinoleic acid - a fatty nutrient that counts for around 90 percent of castor's natural composition.
It is also rich in other healthy fats and compounds such as flavonoids, amino acids, terpenoids, and phytosterols. All these elements contribute to castor's success as a wellness agent for the hair, skin, and body.
What are the benefits of Castor Oil?
Despite its relative popularity for digestive issues, castor oil can be found in over 700 cosmetic products - and counting - thanks to its surplus nutrient and fatty acid count.
These healthy compounds have also led to numerous other applications that have been used for centuries by ancient societies up to the present day.
Some of the most prominent castor oil benefits include:
- Boosting hair health
- Aiding digestion
- Moisturising and healing skin
- Strengthening the immune system
- Healing joint pain and inflammation
Can castor oil boost hair growth?
While scientists have been back and forth over the effectiveness of castor oil as a hair growth agent, there's no denying the benefits it carries for hair health overall.
Castor oil is naturally rich in vitamin E and omega 6 - two components that are known for boosting circulation to the scalp. The additional blood flow provided by these nutrients can encourage thicker and shinier locks as well as potentially aid hair growth.
A 2016 study confirmed that the effects of omega 6 could also help promote hair growth by stimulating dermal papilla cells in the hair follicles.
The high ricinoleic acid content in castor oil is said to be highly anti-inflammatory as well as antibacterial and antifungal. These factors can help clear the scalp of dandruff and safeguard it from infection or irritation. Castor's high antioxidant levels can also act as a protective shield against environmental damage.
Many men have begun applying castor oil to their beards as a way to prevent irritation underneath as well as to stimulate hair growth, thickness, and shine. Use of castor oil on the eyelashes and eyebrows has also risen as a result of its rumoured effects for growth.
Does castor oil aid digestion?
The most famous associations for castor oil come from its benefits as a natural laxative.
Known for providing relief from constipation as well as discomfort during cramping, castor oil can be used frequently by sufferers to help maintain sound bowel movements and support a healthy digestive system.
The ricinoleic acid found in castor is said to stimulate nutrient absorption in the bowels, which in turn cleanses the system and allows for easier digestion. It can also increase muscle movement of the intestinal muscles to help pass bowel movements more efficiently.
A 2010 study conducted in Turkey measured the effects of castor oil on a series of elderly people who had spent at least ten years dealing with constipation issues. An astounding 80 percent of participants reported improvements in their symptoms after taking castor oil for three days.
While using castor oil in this way is best targeted in capsule form, topical application can also provide some relief from some symptoms.
What benefits does castor oil have for skin?
Castor oil has become a popular alternative to commercial facial cleansers and moisturisers due to its numerous skin-loving ingredients that have been said to tackle everything from psoriasis and acne to stretch marks and sun damage.
Both castor oil and ricinoleic acid are said to improve absorption levels in the skin, as well as reduce signs of irritation and dryness thanks to the oil's anti-inflammatory qualities.
Castor oil is ideal for those with sensitive or acne-prone skin as it has a low comedogenic score - meaning it is unlikely to clog the pores or produce blackheads. In fact, its antimicrobial properties can help tackle acne symptoms by inhibiting bacterial growth and removing excess dirt from the skin.
The triglycerides found in castor oil can also help maintain moisture in the skin, while its humectant properties can draw in additional moisture from the air and lock it into the skin barrier.
Can castor oil improve immune function?
Using castor oil regularly is a good remedy for supporting the body's lymphatic system, which in turn contributes to strong immune-enhancing effects.
The lymphocytes, found in the lymphatic system, are types of white blood cells that help safeguard the body from threats such as foreign bacteria or toxins.
Topical application of castor oil to the abdominal region, as was discovered by a small 2012 study, can help the body maintain proper levels of lymphocyte production as well as improve lymphatic drainage, increase blood flow, and protect the thymus gland.
Is castor oil good for joint pain?
Like a number of other carrier oils, castor oil has developed several credentials as a useful massage treatment for sore muscles and inflammation.
It is particularly effective against joint pain and has even been viewed as a natural arthritis treatment by some holistic sources. This is due to the oil's strong anti-inflammatory qualities as well as the analgesic effects found in ricinoleic acid.
A 2009 study observed the effects of castor oil on severe cases of knee pain, and found that its benefits equated to those of conventional pain-relief treatments.
How to use Castor Oil
Castor oil can be applied to the skin in a number of impactful ways. Its most popular use is as a natural cleansing alternative, but it's also not uncommon to apply castor as a moisturiser or body ointment depending on which benefits you prefer to target.
For use as a natural cleanser, simply pour around a teaspoon of oil onto your palm and massage in circular motions onto your face as needed. Then, proceed to rinse the oil off with warm water. This technique is great for protecting your skin against dryness and irritation as well as for clearing acne.
When using castor oil as a moisturiser, apply an amount around the size of a coin to your palm, rub your hands together, and apply across your face as needed. This same method can be used for spot treating dry areas or outbreaks of psoriasis.
Adding castor oil to your daily haircare routine may not only boost your chances at longer locks, but also promote healthier, shinier, and stronger hair in the long run.
To effectively apply, warm up a small amount of oil into your palms and smooth onto your hair - starting from the roots and gradually moving down to the tips. Leave the oil in for at least fifteen to twenty minutes before rinsing out in the shower.
You could also try adding essential oils like rosemary to the mix to help increase your chances of successful hair growth.
If you're looking to use castor oil on your beard, apply the same technique as above using warm water or your chosen beard wash to rinse thereafter. Application to the eyebrows and eyelashes should be done gently with a cotton bud, being careful to avoid the eye area.
Castor oil acts as a fantastic protective agent for the cuticles and nail beds, with its thick, enriching formula helping to target dryness as well as encouraging strength.
Thanks to its high levels of omega 6 and 9, castor oil is also said to help with nail growth and can even eliminate signs of infection as a result of its antibacterial and antifungal properties.
To apply, add around fifteen to twenty drops of castor oil to the base of your cuticles using a cotton ball or pad. Massage the oil into your nails for two to three minutes, and leave on for a few hours until the oil has absorbed. Wipe off any excess oil and continue with your routine as normal.
Because castor oil is so effective at relieving constipation, massaging a few drops onto your abdominal area may be a good way to encourage better bowel movements as well as relieve some of the cramping.
You could also try rubbing the oil onto these areas for the benefit of boosting immune functions, as well as relieving joint or muscular pain across your body.
Pour some castor oil into a bowl and heat gently until lukewarm (try not make it too hot!). Apply in circular motions to your chosen areas for around ten minutes, or for however long you see fit until the oil is absorbed.
While castor oil itself doesn't give off any particular kind of smell, it is incredibly useful for diluting essential oils safely onto the skin and hair.
As essential oils are naturally very potent, they require carrier oils like castor to make them safe for topical use. Combining castor oil with essential oils like rosemary, lavender, or frankincense can work well to boost many of its existing benefits.
What is the history of Castor Oil?
There has been evidence for the use of castor oil in almost every ancient civilisation across time. The oil is considered one of the oldest herbal remedies used by man, and was employed extensively for numerous applications including cosmetology.
The Greeks and Romans would adopt castor as a multi-purpose health elixir, while Ayurvedic medicine coined the oil as "the secret of beauty".
Castor oil was most heavily relied on by the ancient Egyptians, who would initially use it as lamp fuel before unlocking its medicinal properties. From that point onward, it was considered so valuable that remnants of castor seeds have even been found in ancient tombs dating all the way back to 4000 BC.
Ebers Papyrus, an ancient Egyptian medical text, also mentions castor oil as a remedy for protecting the eyes from irritation. It was said that Cleopatra herself would use the oil to help whiten and brighten her eyes.
What are the precautions for castor oil?
- Avoid using castor oil if you're pregnant, as it has been known to induce labour in some women.
- If you're prone to allergies, be sure to always perform a patch test before applying castor oil to your skin or hair.
Frequently Asked Questions
Still looking for more information on castor oil uses and benefits? Here are some of the most asked questions for this up-and-coming oil.
Is castor oil good for skin?
Yes, many people use castor oil for skin. It's high levels of ricinoleic acid make it a great natural moisturiser, while its anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial effects work to effectively protect the skin barrier.
What is castor oil used for?
There are numerous castor oil uses that people opt for. Many like to apply castor oil to their hair, skin, and nails, as well as use it to dilute their favourite essential oils for safe topical application.
What does castor oil do for hair?
The benefits of castor oil for hair include eliminating dryness, soothing irritation, and sealing in moisture to promote shine. Some also use castor as a hair growth treatment due to its ability to increase blood flow to the scalp.
What is castor oil made from?
Castor oil is made from the seeds of the castor plant, native to the Mediterranean, East Africa, and India. 90 percent of castor seed oil exports come from India as a result.
Can you drink castor oil?
Some opt for drinking castor oil due to its powerful laxative qualities, but this is not always advised. The fatty acids found in castor oil can pose potential health risks, so it's best to speak to your doctor before consuming any internally.
Can you put castor oil in your hair everyday?
Most haircare experts recommend applying castor oil to your hair no more than once per week. It is not meant for daily use as it can be quite heavy and oily on the scalp.
Find out more about the benefits of castor oil for hair.
Castor oil can come in handy for a whole wealth of medical, cosmetic, and aromatherapeutic applications thanks to its high levels of fatty acids, vitamins, and essential nutrients.
Whether you're searching for a new eyebrow growth serum, or scouring the web for the perfect carrier oil to mix your essential oils with, versatile castor oil will certainly add new levels to your wellness routine.