Whether it’s the old black and white photos of a mother holding a giant spoon out to a cringing child or the horror story from your friend who, in a moment of pregnancy induced hysteria, would try anything to get labor going, castor oil tends to have a pretty bad reputation.
Your grandmother might recommend taking a teaspoon of castor oil as a general cure all – from a healthy dose of run of the mill nastiness for unruly children to taking it yourself to help loosen up your bowels and get you feeling better.
And, she might be right. Castor seeds have been used around the world for millennia to treat a number of ailments, from constipation to syphilis(1,4). Castor has been associated with promoting flow, warding off disease causing microbes, soothing skin lesions and reducing inflammation.
But if you can’t get the idea of explosive diarrhea and fascist torture methods (Wikipedia) out of your head when contemplating this thick bitter liquid, I have good news for you:
Castor oil can be used topically to provide many of the benefits without the sometimes violent side effects associated with oral doses. Because of it’s subtle yet powerful action on the lymphatic system and compatibility with daily use, topical application of castor oil is a wonderful and gentle detoxification method.
The idea of using castor oil topically by making Castor Oil Packs, a simple compress using heat to increase transdermal absorption was popularized by Edgar Cayce, the mysterious “sleeping prophet” of the early twentieth century and the father of modern holistic medicine.
Cayce’s prescription for using Castor Oil Packs as a general cleansing practice as well as for chronic or acute physical ailments seems to be as mysterious today as it was half a century ago, but science is starting to catch up with the insights that Cayce tapped into.
As we discussed in Dry Skin Brushing, the lymphatic system of the body can be accessed primarily through the skin. This is key because, “the lymph is the only fluid that maintains contact with every cell in the human body. It is the vehicle that allows the wastes accumulating around the cells to be removed.”
Castor Oil Packs stimulate the lymph, increasing production and flow of T-cell lymphocytes (a type of white blood cells). With more antibodies, our bodies are better prepared to fight off viruses, bacteria, fungi and cancer cells.
Because this increase in lymph flow and production peaks between 7 and 24 hours after application, Castor Oil Packs are recommended as a regular step in daily or weekly cleansing rituals. (Castor Oil: An Essential for Health)
You might be interested in our Seasonal Cleanse Kit: