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Thursday, November 18, 2010

Herbal Medicine Chest - Castor oil packs

Castor oil - Palma Christi - christened "The Hand of Christ" in the Middle Ages because of it's miraculous healing power, this plant yields one of the most amazing healing substances of all time.  Castor oil has been used since Ancient times to cure a wide range of diseases and boost immunity.  What's so special about this unsaturated, omega-9, triglyceride of fatty acid?  Well for starters, it's an amazing anti-inflammatory and analgesic.

Nearly 90% of this fatty acid is ricinoleic acid; a substance unique to castor oil and thought to be the reason for it's awesome healing properties due to it's effectiveness in preventing the growth of many bacteria, viruses, yeast and molds.  Pretty impressive, huh?  In the past, castor oil has been used internally as a laxative.  But it's real value comes from topical application.  Transdermally applied to various areas, it works by being absorbed through the skin into the tissues and organs beneath.  So what does that mean to you?

Well, in our home, we find relief from various muscular and/or joint pain by rubbing castor oil mixed with a few drops of rosemary essential oil into the area and covering with a cloth or piece of old clothing because it will stain fabric.  It's helpful when dealing with gout.  We've removed warts by placing a bandaide soaked in castor oil over the offender until it dries up and comes off.  It heals fungal infections under finger and toe nails.  And a biggie, fluid retention or edema.  But there's so much more.

Let's talk about how or why castor oil works.  To do that we need to look at how the body works.  Everyone is familiar with the circulatory system that delivers blood to all parts of our body.  But there's another type of system that also reaches all parts of our body - the lymphatic system.  It works hand in hand with our circulatory and digestive systems.  When our individual cells assimilate the food and oxygen delivered by the blood, they work like tiny little factories expelling excess fluid and large protein molecules.  Due to the impurities and toxins in the food we eat, and the process of changing our food into sustaining nutrients, there are waste byproducts released into the surrounding tissues.  And then where does it go?  If we didn't have a system in place to remove this waste, we'd soon swell up and die of toxic poisoning and asphyxiation.  That's where the lymphatic system comes into play.  The many miles of lymphatic vessels and glands move these excess fluids, proteins and waste back to the blood so they can be reused or eliminated.  The Thymus gland, the spleen, and Peyer's patches are also part of the lymphatic system.  The lymph nodes found all along the vessels act like little filters and produces antibodies when foreign proteins are encountered.  You've probably had tender, swollen lymph nodes in the past when your body is fighting an infection.  Curiously, aside from the fact that this system manufactures white blood cells, doctors don't seem to know a lot about it.

We've been talking about how the lymphatic system works with the circulatory system but I also mentioned the digestive system.  Part of our lymphatics includes areas in the small intestine called Peyer's Patches.  Their job is to absorb about 90% of fat molecules which are generally too big to pass through the intestines directly and pass them along the lymphatic system releasing them in to the blood. 

So what happens when our lymphatic system isn't doing it's job?  A simple test for excess fluid can indicate that our system isn't working properly but the problem is that by the time this test is effective, our fluid levels are 30% higher than normal indicating a serious problem.  At this stage the individual cells are pushed apart and away from the blood vessels limiting their ability to absorb nutrients and oxygen and causing them to live in their own waste and toxins.  Some cells die and others begin to deteriorate causing organ function to suffer. 

What's all this have to do with castor oil?  When castor oil is absorbed through the skin, lymphocyte counts increase, lymph flow increases.  As you can imagine this has huge positive impact on our tissues and organs as they begin to function more normally.  We feel more energised, saliva pH alkalizes and our general feeling of well being increases.  Fats, which are the foundation to hormones and other building and repair components, are more easily absorbed.  Our body can actually "breathe" at the cellular level allowing everything to function better.

Castor oil packs are the next step in applying castor oil transdermally.  It's a little messy and time consuming but very effective at delivering a fast, deep dose of healing ricinoleic acid to tissues by heating a castor oil soaked cloth applied to the body. 

Earth Clinic had this to say about castor oil packs:

"A castor oil pack is placed on the skin to increase circulation and to promote elimination and healing of the tissues and organs underneath the skin. It is used to stimulate the liver, relieve pain, increase lymphatic circulation, reduce inflammation, and improve digestion.

Castor oil packs are a traditional holistic treatment for a range of conditions, such as: cholecystitis (inflammation of the gall bladder), poor eliminations, epilepsy, various liver conditions such as cirrhosis and torpid liver, scleroderma, headaches, appendicitis, arthritis, incoordination between assimilations and eliminations, colitis, intestinal disorders such as stricture and colon impaction, incoordination between nervous systems, neuritis, and toxemia.

Castor oil packs are made by soaking a piece of flannel in castor oil and placing it on the skin. The flannel is covered with a sheet of plastic, and then a hot water bottle is placed over the plastic to heat the pack.

A castor oil pack can be placed on the following body regions:

The right side of the abdomen to stimulate the liver; inflamed and swollen joints, bursitis, and muscle strains; the abdomen to relieve constipation and other digestive disorders; the lower abdomen in cases of menstrual irregularities and uterine and ovarian cysts.

Safety precautions: Castor oil should not be taken internally. It should not be applied to broken skin, or used during pregnancy, breastfeeding, or during menstrual flow.


* Three layers of undyed wool or cotton flannel large enough to cover the affected area
* Castor oil
* Plastic wrap cut 1-2" larger than the flannel (can be cut from a plastic bag)
* Hot water bottle
* Container with lid
* Old clothes and sheets. Castor oil will stain clothing and bedding.

Place the flannel in the container. Soak it in castor oil so that it is saturated, but not dripping. Place the pack over the affected body part. Cover with plastic. Place the hot water bottle over the pack. Leave it on for 45-60 minutes. Rest while the pack is in place. After removing the pack, cleanse the area with a dilute solution of water and baking soda. Store the pack in the covered container in the refrigerator. Each pack may be reused up to 25-30 times.

It is generally recommended that a castor oil pack be used for 3 to 7 days in a week to treat a health condition or for detoxification."

Earth Clinic also offers lots of testimonials from folks who've tried their remedies and provided empirical evidence to their effectiveness and the nice thing is they give both sides to the issue.  I can speak for the healing power of castor oil from my own experiences, too.  It has been very effective in treating perimenopause issues surrounding cysts, fibroids and irregular bleeding that has led to my anemia.  During a period of gallbladder pain, I applied a castor oil pack to the area for several hours and the next day I actually passed several gallstones and the pain subsided.

Note:  when applying heat to the castor oil pack, I've found that a heating pad set to the highest temp tolerated seems to work best.  That may be for a couple of reasons including better absorption due to open pores or the viscocity of the thick oil thinning but it could also have to do with the bodies ability to rid itself of pathogens at higher body temps.  Using a heating pad is also recommended in several places where castor oil packs are discussed.

The Sleeping Prophet - "For forty-three years of his adult life, Edgar Cayce demonstrated the uncanny ability to put himself into some kind of self-induced sleep state by lying down on a couch, closing his eyes, and folding his hands over his stomach. This state of relaxation and meditation enabled him to place his mind in contact with all time and space. From this state he could respond to questions as diverse as, "What are the secrets of the universe?" to "How can I remove a wart?" His responses to these questions came to be called "readings" and contain insights so valuable that even to this day individuals have found practical help for everything from maintaining a well-balanced diet and improving human relationships to overcoming life-threatening illnesses and experiencing a closer walk with God."

Many, many illnesses were healed by Cayce's recommendations to apply castor oil packs.  I don't know what to think of his psychic abilities, all I can say is that his treatments were and are effective and he gave all the glory to God.  But castor oil's healing history began long before Cayce's time with much praise and glory to God as indicated by the nick name, "Hand of Christ."

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  1. Hi Wanderer, I love this post! Very very informative. I did not know most of this about castor oil and I have used it myself before to stimulate labor when I was 2 weeks overdue with my first child (I just applied to the abdomen, did not take internally). I was wondering if a castor oil compress would be beneficial on the low back for back pain? Thanks for sharing at Monday Mania! :)

  2. Hi, Sarah! Welcome to The Journal! Yes! Castor oil is very helpful for lower back pain, especially shooting sciatic pressure pain. I've used the packs for gall bladder, menstrual problems, and back pain and generally see results in 2-3 days! And it lasts, too. Continued use for maintenance, even just 1-2 times/week, could really make a difference. Hope that's helpful...if you don't mind, let me know your results...either here or in a private email. God Bless! Sharon

  3. Hi!
    Great blog!! Very informative. I was wondering if you know anything about using the packs for adhesion's. I had a C-section just over a year ago and I am having pain in my abdomen. I went to the doc and had an ultra sound done which showed nothing. I started some research and have read from several women that have had c-sections that they are experience the same exact symptoms I am. I am almost certain it's adhesion's causing the pain. If you could let me know if you have ever heard of using packs for this and what the best way to do that is I would greatly appreciate it. Thanks,

  4. @ Kathryn - Castor oil is so healing for so many things. You can read a little story about a gal who used castor oil packs to heal abdominal adhesions on the earth clinic site. I link to it above. The packs have worked wonders for me and they are so safe that I wouldn't be afraid to try it. May take persistant the story. Hope this helped.

  5. Thanks for the info! My natruopath recently had me start using castor oil paths over my liver area. It's good to read more on what is going on when I do so. I may have to try it on some muscle strains too! Thanks again!

  6. A friend of mine has a bottle of castor oil her naturist doctor gave her. Now I should keep some of it. Thank you for sharing.

    Following your lovely blog. I am also inviting you to join Autumn Blog Hop 2011 at Momma's Lounge ( ) where you meet more mom bloggers; shout away; add your giveaways and/or blog and business links; and get featured by sharing your crafts, recipes and interesting musings. I blog at

    Thanks and have a great day!

  7. Thanks for sharing this with the Hearth and Soul blog hop. My only experience with castor oil was using it unsuccessfully to try to get my overdue body to go into labor....
    I didn't know castor oil had so many other uses!

  8. Hi Sharon,
    Thanks for sharing this great information on the Living Well Blog Hop.
    Castor oil packs are amazing and I'm glad you explain how it works.

  9. It's good to learn about plants such as wild turmeric, castor and milkweed that help to remove warts

  10. My 17 year old daughter was just diagnosed with an ovarian cyst about the size of a jumbo egg. Her doctor told her that it is normal and to wait 6 weeks and they will take another ultrasound. I went to our local natural practicioner who advised to the use Castro oil pack after applying my dad ghter was in extreme pain she said it felt like something was poking at the cyst and is afraid to do another treatment. Is this pain normal?

    1. Wow! I wish I could address this question for you but I am not a health professional so if you have a natural practitioner, who advised you to try the castor oil packs, you could ask them about the pain. I'd be interested to know what they tell you. I've read that sometimes the cysts will break or be absorbed into our bodies but I can't really say what happened with your daughter. I would keep an eye on her temperature and hot spots in the area that may indicate infection...if that happens please consult your doctor or natural practitioner right away. I am a huge fan of natural remedies, as you can see, but sometimes emergency medicine needs to be the allopathic variety which will act quickly. God Bless and keep me posted if you don't mind.

  11. I have lesions as the dr called them!! In my lower and where would I need to apply Cpack I also think I have a stricture

  12. Can castor packs be used on the scalp or head?

    1. Hi. Thanks for your question. I am not a medical doctor so this is just my humble opinion. I've read that castor oil is great for your hair and scalp so I don't think it would hurt to try it on your scalp. But I would also follow up with your doctor just to make sure of what it is you are trying to treat. Also, USP grade castor oil, without any added essential oils or anything helps me when I have a sinus or eye irritation.
      Hope that helps! :)

  13. For starters this was an amazing post. Sharing it with my husband and starting him on castor oil asap. He's had adhesions from his surgery 18 months ago, drs aren't doing anything... offered to cauterize the nerve or give him addictive drugs :( hoping this works.

    Why can't a breastfeeding mom use castor packs though? I really want to work out but my body is injured. I'd love to try this on my sciatic and ankles but I'm breastfeeding. Is it one of those we say this so we aren't liable things? Or is there a reason mom's shouldn't do this?

    1. Breastfeeding moms should use castor oil packs with caution because of the detox that often happens after use.

  14. Abdominal adhesions are the formation of scar tissue between the little and internal organs. In any case, it is very important for you to understand that the patient may first be treated with Herbs for Adhesions to see whether it is fruitful in relieving the blockage and the related side effects, while surgery is utilized as a go down.


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