Pink ricin flowers
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Castor oil is extracted from the seed of the castor bean plant. The oil has been used for therapeutic purposes since ancient times. Historically, its principle use has been as a cathartic agent, stimulating the bowels with strong laxative action. A gentler use of castor oil is through topical application. Dr. William McGarey states that castor oil packs over the abdomen enhance liver function, increasing this organ’s ability to detoxify the body.

Consult your physician to determine if this treatment may be right for you.

Liver Function

The liver is the major detoxification organ in the body. According to Arthur Guyton's "Textbook of Medical Physiology," the liver breaks down all externally-produced chemicals, as well as your body’s own hormones, so that they can be easily excreted from the body. Additionally, over half of the body’s lymph fluid is produced in the liver. The lymphatic system is responsible for healthy immune function, as well as acting as your body’s internal janitor, collecting cellular waste products for elimination. A well-functioning liver keeps the blood cleansed of toxins and chemicals, allowing you to feel your very best. Castor oil packs can help to support this process in a number of ways.

Benefits of Castor Oil

Topical application of castor oil has multiple effects on the body. The lipid structure is easily transmitted through the skin’s surface and into lymphatic circulation. Dr. McGarey notes that as castor oil moves through the lymphatic channels, it stimulates healthy flow of lymph fluid, keeping each cell of the body properly cleansed of waste material. By supporting these detoxification pathways, topical castor oil treatments can have a positive effect on the entire body. A study by C Vieira, et al., published in 2000 in the journal "Mediators of Inflammation" indicates that the topical application of ricinoleic acid, the main component of castor oil, produces significant pain relieving and anti-inflammatory effects. Using castor oil packs at home is an easy way to derive the positive health impacts of this natural product.

Castor Oil Pack

To apply a castor oil pack you will need:

Flannel cloth (cotton or wool, approximately 36-by-18 inches) Plastic wrap (clear kitchen plastic wrap or a plastic bag without printing) Oven-proof glass dish 2 old bath towels (to prevent staining) Hot water bottle or heating pad Castor oil


Fold the flannel two to three times to fit over your abdomen, especially covering the upper right side.

Saturate the flannel with castor oil, put it in a glass dish, and place it in the oven until warm to the touch but not hot enough to burn.

Lie on top of one towel to prevent staining from the oil. Place the flannel on your abdomen, cover it with plastic and another towel, and place a hot water bottle or heating pad on top. Keep covered with a sheet and blanket to stay warm.

Leave the pack in place for 45 to 60 minutes. It’s okay to fall asleep with the pack on, as long as you aren’t using an electric heating source.

To remove castor oil from your skin, use a solution of 1 tsp. of baking soda with 1 pint of water. You can store the flannel in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. It can be reused many times; just add more oil before each new application.


Castor oil packs are a safe and effective treatment and can be used regularly for maximum therapeutic value. Dr. Dickson Thom suggests daily treatment, or on at least four consecutive days per week. Consistent treatment will support healthy liver function and help optimize detoxification processes in the body.


Avoid the use of castor oil packs during pregnancy and in cases of bleeding disorders or bleeding ulcers. As this therapy increases detoxification, it may create new symptoms when you are first beginning treatment. It is always best to discuss this and all treatments with your naturopathic physician before starting.