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Castor Oil – Uses, Benefits, Precautions & More!

By Dr Ashok Pal +2 more

Introduction: 

Castor oil, derived from the seeds of Ricinus communis, is a vegetable oil that is used in different preparations due to its medicinal properties. It is pale yellow in colour. The contents of castor oil include palmitic acid, stearic acid, oleic acid, linoleic acid, ricinoleic acid, and linolenic acid. Major castor oil-producing countries are Brazil, India and China. India accounts for approximately 90% of the global castor oil export. Castor oil is considered important in the global chemical industry.1,2 

Properties of Castor Oil:  

Castor oil contains different beneficial properties like:    

A bottle of castor oil

  • It may have anti-inflammatory properties  
  • It may show purgative (laxative) activity3  
  • It may show expectorant properties4  
  • It may have hepatoprotective (liver protective)  properties
  • It may show anti-cancer  activity
  • It may have antioxidant  property3  

Potential Uses of Castor Oil:  

Potential Uses of castor oil for Treating Constipation:  

Castor oil functions as a laxative. It might help to relieve constipation. It can also be helpful to empty and prepare the bowel for surgery.5  However this effect of castor oil needs further research to validate and provide scientific evidence to the claim.

Potential Uses of Castor Oil for Hair:  

Castor oil contains omega-6 fatty acids that can have some effect on hair loss.6  These benefits are not proven thus, you must consult an ayurvedic physician for help regarding use of castor oil for hair loss.

Also Read: 5 Ayurvedic Herbs for Hair Growth

Potential Uses of Castor Oil for Joint Pain:  

According to animal studies, applying castor oil to the skin might help in reducing pain and inflammation due to its ricinoleic acid content.7  The studies related to castor oil for benefits in humans are insufficient. Before using castor oil for these properties for diabetic conditions, make sure you consult your healthcare provider and get a proper diagnosis and treatment. Avoid using castor oil or any other herb as medicine without consulting your physician.

Though various studies show the potential uses of castor oil in various conditions, these are insufficient and there is a need for further studies to establish the true extent of benefits of castor oil on human health.

Based on my observations and many studies I came across, castor oil possesses antibacterial and wound healing properties. Due to the presence of these properties, castor oil might be useful in preparing dressings for wound healing.

Dr. Siddharth Gupta, B.A.M.S, M.D (Ayu)

Also Read: Multani Mitti – Uses & Benefits

How to Use Castor Oil? 

  • Castor oil is taken orally.
  • Follow the medicine label’s instructions.
  • A marked spoon can be used to measure each dose.
  • It is essential to take medicines at regular doses and not more frequently than directed.
  • Consult a paediatrician regarding the use of castor oil in children.
  • You must contact an emergency room or poison control centre if you feel you’ve taken an excess of castor oil.5 

You must consult a qualified doctor before taking any herbal supplements. Do not discontinue or replace an ongoing treatment of modern medicine with an ayurvedic/herbal preparation without consulting a qualified doctor.  

Based on my past experiences, castor oil has many medicinal properties. Due to its anti-inflammatory properties, castor oil might be useful for reducing eye infections, sexually transmitted diseases, and liver diseases. Additionally, castor oil might be effective as a disinfectant, germicidal agent, antifungal agent, etc.

Dr. Rajeev Singh, BAMS

Also Read: Unravelling the Truth: Is Olive Oil Good for You?

Side Effects of Castor Oil: 

  • You should report allergic reactions like skin rash, itching or hives, swelling of the face, lips, or tongue to a doctor as soon as possible.5 
  • Side effects that generally do not require medical attention are diarrhoea, nausea, stomach pain, and vomiting. However, you must report to your health care professional if these side effects are bothersome or continue.5 

Moreover every herb may react differently in every individual. Therefore, if you experience any of such side effects, seek immediate medical help from your doctor who has prescribed it to you. They will be the best guide for providing proper treatment to overcome side effects.  

Also Read: Suhaga – Uses, Benefits, Side Effects & Precautions

Precautions to Take With Castor Oil: 

Castor oil is unsafe to use in the following medical conditions: 

Pregnancy

Castor oil, in some cases, is used for the induction of labour. However, it should be avoided in all stages of pregnancy as it can result in premature contractions.11 

Abdominal Pathologies

Stimulant laxatives like castor oil should not be used when having problems related to the abdomen like gastrointestinal obstruction, perforation, inflammatory bowel disease, and appendicitis.11 

Electrolyte & Acid-base Imbalances

Regular monitoring must be done in case of electrolyte imbalances and acid-base disturbances. Imbalances might develop due to the elimination of water, electrolytes, and bicarbonates, and this may worsen with diarrhoea. The patient might present with confusion, sleepiness, weakness, and vomiting. These problems must be addressed as soon as possible as they can be potentially lethal. The doctor should also keep an eye on the patients for signs of laxative abuse.11 

Also Read: Mineral Oil for Constipation: A Viable Solution?

Interactions With Other Drugs:  

It is essential to keep in mind not to use castor oil with laxatives. Taking other laxatives with castor oil can lead to severe dehydration. It is advised to drink plenty of water to prevent dehydration.5  You must take advice from a qualified doctor before consuming any herb. Please discuss your ongoing medication with your doctor for better advice.

Also Read: Palash Tree – Uses, Benefits & Side Effects

Frequently Asked Questions: 

1) What is castor oil? 

Castor oil is a vegetable oil derived from the seeds of Ricinus communis.1 

2) In which places are the castor plant widely cultivated? 

Major castor oil-producing countries are Brazil, India and China. India accounts for approximately 90% of the global castor oil export.2  

3) What are the side effects of castor oil? 

Side effects to report to a doctor or health care professionals soon as possible are allergic reactions like skin rash, hives or itching, swelling of the face, tongue, or lips.   Side effects that usually do not require medical attention (report to your doctor or health care professional if they continue or are bothersome) are nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, and stomach pain.5   Therefore, if you experience any of such side effects, seek immediate medical help from your doctor who has prescribed it to you.

4) What side effects can occur due to the intake of castor beans?  

Ricinus communis (castor oil plant) contains the toxin ricin. Seeds or beans swallowed whole with the hard outer shell intact usually prevent absorption of significant toxin, whereas purified ricin derived from the castor bean is extremely toxic and lethal in minute doses.12  It is advisable to consult your Ayurvedic physician to understand dosage, uses and precautions as per your health condition.

5) What are the constituents present in castor oil?  

The contents of castor oil include palmitic acid, stearic acid, oleic acid, linoleic acid, ricinoleic acid, linolenic acid.1,2 

Also Read: Kalmegh – Uses, Benefits & Precautions

References  

1. Fitranda MI, Sutrisno, Marfu’ah S. Physicochemical Properties and Antibacterial Activity of Castor Oil and Its Derivatives. IOP Conference Series: Materials Science and Engineering [Internet]. 2020 Jun 30 [cited 2022 Feb 14];833(1). Available from: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/342563806_Physicochemical_Properties_and_Antibacterial_Activity_of_Castor_Oil_and_Its_Derivatives 

2. Patel VR, Dumancas GG, Viswanath LCK, Maples R, Subong BJJ. Castor Oil: Properties, Uses, and Optimization of Processing Parameters in Commercial Production. Lipid insights [Internet]. 2016 [cited 2022 Feb 14];9(1):1. Available from: /pmc/articles/PMC5015816/ 

3. Al-Mamun MA, Akter Z, Uddin MJ, Ferdaus KMKB, Hoque KMF, Ferdousi Z, et al. Characterization and evaluation of antibacterial and antiproliferative activities of crude protein extracts isolated from the seed of Ricinus communis in Bangladesh. BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine [Internet]. 2016 Jul 12 [cited 2022 Feb 14];16(1). Available from: /pmc/articles/PMC4942971/ 

4. Ricinus communis [Internet]. [cited 2022 Feb 14]. Available from: https://hort.purdue.edu/newcrop/duke_energy/Ricinus_communis.html#Folk%20Medicine 

5. Castor Oil oral solution [Internet]. [cited 2022 Feb 14]. Available from: https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/drugs/18391-castor-oil-oral-solution 

6. Omega-6 fatty acids Information | Mount Sinai – New York [Internet]. [cited 2022 Feb 14]. Available from: https://www.mountsinai.org/health-library/supplement/omega-6-fatty-acids 

7. Vieira C, Evangelista S, Cirillo R, Lippi A, Maggi CA, Manzini S. Effect of ricinoleic acid in acute and subchronic experimental models of inflammation. Mediators of Inflammation [Internet]. 2000 [cited 2022 Feb 15];9(5):223. Available from: /pmc/articles/PMC1781768/?report=abstract 

8. Boel ME, Lee SJ, Rijken MJ, Paw MK, Pimanpanarak M, Tan SO, et al. Castor oil for induction of labour: not harmful, not helpful. The Australian & New Zealand journal of obstetrics & gynaecology [Internet]. 2009 Oct [cited 2022 Feb 15];49(5):499–503. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19780733/ 

9. Neri I, Dante G, Pignatti L, Salvioli C, Facchinetti F. Castor oil for induction of labour: a retrospective study. The journal of maternal-fetal & neonatal medicine : the official journal of the European Association of Perinatal Medicine, the Federation of Asia and Oceania Perinatal Societies, the International Society of Perinatal Obstetricians [Internet]. 2018 Aug 18 [cited 2022 Feb 14];31(16):2105–8. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28618920/ 

10. Dugoua JJ. Vitamins, Minerals, Trace Elements, and Dietary Supplements. Clinical Pharmacology During Pregnancy. 2013;367–82.  

11. Castor Oil – StatPearls – NCBI Bookshelf [Internet]. [cited 2022 Feb 15]. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK551626/ 

12. Castor oil overdose: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia [Internet]. [cited 2022 Feb 15]. Available from: https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/002768.htm 

Disclaimer:

The information provided here is for educational/awareness purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for medical treatment by a healthcare professional and should not be relied upon to diagnose or treat any medical condition. The reader should consult a registered medical practitioner to determine the appropriateness of the information and before consuming any medication. PharmEasy does not provide any guarantee or warranty (express or implied) regarding the accuracy, adequacy, completeness, legality, reliability or usefulness of the information; and disclaims any liability arising thereof.

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Also Read: Camphor – Uses, Benefits, Precautions & Side Effects

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