Be honest: Do you know what castor oil is? Of course, you’ve probably heard the term, or maybe your grandma or mom tried to feed you a spoonful for an upset stomach. But we asked around, and almost no one we queried really knew what it’s made of—or how many amazing things it can do.
So let’s break it down. This oil comes from the pressed seeds of the castor plant, also called Ricinus communis.
Taken orally, castor oil is most commonly used as a laxative, but some people also use castor oil instead of soap to clean their skin. The process, called oil cleansing, involves washing your face with a mixture of oils to remove the oils on your skin and in your pores.
Popular health blogger Wellness Mama claims that oil cleansing with a mixture of castor oil and olive oil has stopped her skin from breaking out. She uses a mixture of 3 parts olive oil to 1 part castor oil in her skincare routine.
The principle behind this method is that like dissolves like—in other words, the oil you apply to your skin will remove the oil that clogs your pores and causes breakouts. Though this idea is simple enough, few scientific studies have researched this method.
Another popular use for castor oil is in healing castor oil packs. Made by soaking flannel in castor oil, these packs are said to reduce inflammation, heal wounds, and even shrink tumors. To apply a castor oil pack, simply place the soaked flannel on the affected area of your body with a heating pad on top for 45 minutes or longer.
While many naturopathic physicians recommend this treatment, no scientific studies have shown it to be effective. Instead, most of the research into castor oil has been on its use as a laxative. Some studies also indicate that castor oil might be an effective way to induce labor in pregnant women.
Of course, you should consult a doctor or health professional before using castor oil for any medical treatment. But at the very least, it’s probably not a bad idea to keep a bottle of the stuff around for times when you need a little digestive help.
Photo credit: Paul Delmont
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