Castor oil is extracted from the seeds (or beans) of the castor plant, which is scientifically known as Ricinus communis (L). The plant is a member of the Euphorbiaceae family that abundantly grows in the tropical regions of the world. It is mainly grown in Africa, India, and South America. China and the United States are the major importers of the oil.
Castor oil is obtained by cold-pressing the castor beans or seed and then applying heat.
Castor oil is comprised of an important compound called ricinoleic acid. This compound has been shown to exert different effects on the gastrointestinal tract. For instance,
The oil is an important medicinal oil given its role as a cleansing laxative and purgative.
It is also used in the manufacture of biodiesel, cosmetics, paint, pharmaceuticals, and soap.
The oil also has applications in the food industry, where it acts as a direct food additive or adjuvant.
Castor oil is also a multipurpose vegetable oil that has been used by people for many years.
Note that there are two types of castor oils used for beauty purposes. That is the Jamaican black castor oil (which is dark brown in color) and the cold-pressed castor oil (which is clear in color). The Jamaican black castor oil is the most preferred choice during beauty treatments.
Following are some of the main uses of castor oil
Castor oil is used as a natural laxative, able to relieve constipation and promote regular bowel movement.
It is classified as stimulative laxative, given its ability to increase muscle movement in the gut, thereby helping to push materials through the intestines. This action helps to clear the bowels thus promoting better gut health.
As such, the oil has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as a stimulative laxative (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK551626/).
Researchers have also demonstrated that castor oil can relieve constipation. For instance, researchers Arslan and Eser (2011) examined the effect of castor oil packs on constipation in the elderly.
According to the results, individuals who received castor oil pack administrations reported decreased straining during defecation. They also reported feeling completely evacuated after bowel movement which eased symptoms of constipation.
Researchers have also shown that castor oil is an effective bowel cleansing agent in people who want to undergo noninvasive type of colonoscopy, also known as colon capsule endoscopy (Takashima et al., 2021).
Castor oil comprises a mono-unsaturated fatty acid known as ricinoleic acid. These types of fats can be used as skin moisturizers due to their ability to retain moisture. They do so by preventing loss of water by the outer layer of the skin (Purnamawati, et al., 2017).
Castor oil also exhibits skin hydrating properties. This is why it is added to products such as cleansers, lotions, and makeup.
Due its thickness, the oil is mixed with other skin-friendly oils such as almond, coconut, and olive oil, to make an ultra-hydrating moisturizer.
However, to some people, topical application of castor oil may trigger allergic reactions and/or irritations. Therefore, it is important to do a patch test to assess your skin’s response to the application of castor oil.
When castor oil is applied to a wound, it creates a moist environment that favors fast healing as well as prevents drying of sores.
This property has made castor oil to be incorporated in the manufacture of venelex, a popular ointment used by clinicians to dress wounds. Venelex is actually comprised of castor oil and Peru balsam.
Application of castor oil to wounds also helps to reduce odors produced by the injured tissue. The oil may also help to reduce skin inflammation and pain reduction in people with different kinds of wounds (Nada et al., 2018).
Researchers have demonstrated that soaking contaminated acrylic teeth in a solution containing 10% castor oil for a duration of 20 minutes can help reduce the counts of oral fungi such as Candida albicans, and oral bacteria such as Streptococcus mutans and Staphylococcus aureus (Salles et al., 2015).
In another study, scientists showed that a mouthwash containing castor oil can greatly improve the clinical signs of stomatitis, including inflammation, in people with denture-related stomatitis (Pinelli et al., 2013).
Castor oil has been used by most people for natural hair treatment. This is due to the moisturizing property of the oil, which helps to lubricate the hair shaft. This increases the flexibility of the hairs while reducing chances of breakages (Gavazzoni, 2015).
Anecdotal research indicate that some people also use castor oil for eyelash growth.
Castor oil has also been used to eliminate dandruff. Most hair products used for treating dandruff contain castor oil (Gavazzoni, 2015).
Castor oil contains antioxidants that help to fight free radicals responsible for causing aging of the skin, manifested by wrinkle formation.
The oil also comprises antibacterial compounds that help to eliminate bacteria responsible for causing acne.
Castor oil also has anti-inflammatory compounds that help reduce swelling and puffiness. The oil can thus be used to eliminate inflamed pimples or eye bags.
The oil can also be used to sooth skin pain caused by sunburns.
Castor oil is an important inclusion in many lipstick and lip gloss products. It is thus an effective agent in fighting dry lips.
Though considered safe by most people, ingesting castor oil can cause adverse reactions that may negatively impact one’s health.
Expectant women should avoid consuming castor oil at all stages because it may trigger contraction of the uterus. This is why medical professionals sometimes make use of the oil to induce labour in post-date pregnancies (Gilad et al., 2017).
Castor oil may be an effective remedy for constipation and related bowel problems. However, it may also cause side effects such as bloating, cramping, diarrhea, dizziness, and vomiting. The oil should therefore be used under medical supervision (Alookaran & Tripp, 2021).
Topical application of castor oil may trigger allergic reactions in some people. It is thus advisable to begin by applying a small amount in a tiny patch of your skin (that is, patch test) to assess how your body would react in case of wholesome topical application.
Individuals with health conditions such as appendicitis, bowel perforation, gastrointestinal obstruction, and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), should not use castor oil and other stimulative laxatives as this may trigger serious repercussions (Alookaran & Tripp, 2021).
It is also important to avoid taking castor oil in case you are taking certain medications because it may interfere with their function. These medications may include diuretics, antibiotics (such as tetracycline), bone medicines, blood thinners, and heart medicines.
When applying castor oil to your eyelashes, take care that it does not get into your eyes as it may cause irritation.
Alookaran, J. and Tripp, J. (2021). Castor oil. retrived from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK551626/
Arslan, G.G. and Eser, I. (2010). An examination of the effect of castor oil packs on constipation in the elderly. Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice, 17(1), 58-62. Retrieved from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21168117/
Gavazzoni, D.M.F. (2015). Hair cosmetics: an overview. International Journal of Trichology, 7(1), 2-15. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4387693/
Gilad, R., Hochner, H., Savitsky, B., Porat, S., Hochner-Celnikier, D. (2017). Castor oil for induction of labor in post-date pregnancies: a randomized controlled trial. Women and Birth: Journal of the Australian College of Midwives, 31(1), 26-31. Retrieved from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28750937/
Nada, A.A., Arul, M.R., Ramos, D.M., Kronekova, Z., Mosnacek, J., Rudraiah, S. and Kumbar, S.G. (2018). Bioactive polymeric formulations for wound healing. Polymers for advanced technologies, 29(6), 1815-1825. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6435308/
Pinelli, L.A., Montandon, A.A.B., Corbi, S.C.T, Moraes, T.A. and Fais, L.M.G. (2013). Ricinus communis treatment of denture stomatitis in institutionalized elderly. Journal of Oral Rehabilitation, 40(5), 375-380. Retrieved from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23438045/
Purnamawati, S., Indrastuti, N., Danarti, R. and Saefudin, T. (2017). The role of moisturizers in addressing various kinds of dermatitis: a review. Clin Med Res, 15(3-4), 75-87. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5849435/
Salles, M.M., Oliveira Vde C., Souza, R.F., Silva, C.H., Paranhos, Hde, F. (2015). Antimicrobial action of sodium hypochlorite and castor oil solutions for denture cleaning – in vitro evaluation. Brazilian Oral Research, 29, 1-6. Retrieved from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26313346/
Takashima, K., Komeda, Y., Sakurai, T., Masaki, S., Tomoyuki, N., Matsui, S., Hagiwara S., Takenaka, M., Nishida, N., Kashida, H., Nakaji, K., Watanabe, T. and Kudo, M. (2021). Castor oil as booster for colon capsule endoscopy preparation reduction: a prospective pilot study and patient questionnaire. World Journal of Gastrointestinal Pharmacology and Therapeutics, 12(4), 79-89. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8290927/
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