Castor oil is derived from the seed (commonly called the bean) of the castor plant, a plant native to India. While it is known for its use as a laxative, castor oil can be used on the skin to alleviate infections, dissolve skin growths, cure inflammations, and to clean the facial area. In an age of high health costs, castor oil is a cheap and easy treatment for a number of low-risk conditions, and an effective skin cleanser.

Castor Oil Facts

In his article “Castor Oil: Natural Protection from Deadly Viruses,” originally published the July 1995 issue of his newsletter Alternatives, Dr. David G. Williams explains that castor oil is “a triglyceride of fatty acids. Almost 90 percent of its fatty acid content consists of ricinoleic acid.” This ricinoleic acid may be the source of castor oil’s healing properties; Williams cites a study published in the Journal of American Oil Chemists Society which reveals that ricinoleic acid has been shown to effectively “prevent the growth of numerous species of viruses, bacteria, yeasts and molds.”

Medicinal Topical Uses

For an infection of the skin, you should soak the area in Epsom salts and then wrap the site in a cotton cloth soaked in castor oil. Leave overnight. Ringworm, inflammation and sunburns all respond to this treatment as well (see “The Benefits of Castor Oil”). Williams also notes that a castor oil pack treats keratoses, which are “noncancerous, wart-like skin growths,” skin abrasions, finger- or toenails with fungal infections, acne and persistent itching. You can make a castor oil pack using the following method: Soak a piece of wool or cotton flannel cloth in castor oil and place it on the skin. Cover the cloth with a plastic bag, and then place a hot water bottle or heating pad over the site. Leave in place for an hour. Remove, and rinsethe skin with baking soda and water. The treatment can be applied three times a week or daily, and you can reuse the same cloth up to 25 times.

General Skin Care

According to “The Benefits of Castor Oil,” rubbing castor oil into the skin once a week before bathing helps it to maintain healing responses. To soften skin and remove calluses, rub into dry hands and feet before bed. Williams also notes that it can be rubbed into the abdomen to prevent stretch marks .

Skin Cleansing

Castor oil is a crucial component in the Oil Cleansing Method, an alternative approach to facial care. According to, “the oil used to massage your skin will dissolve the oil that has hardened with impurities and found itself stuck in your pores.” To use this method, mix a ratio of castor oil to a vegetable oil such as extra virgin olive oil (30/70 for oily skin, 20/80 for balanced skin, and 10/90 for dry skin) in a clean bottle. Pour into your hands, rub your hands together to heat the oil and massage into your skin. Wet a washcloth with clean, warm water, and lay it over your face. Allow it to cool, then wipe away the oil. Repeat with the washcloth three times. This method is best used in the evening; morning cleansing is usually not necessary.


“The Benefits of Castor Oil” notes that pregnant and lactating women should not ingest castor oil. Pregnancy cycles can be affected, and for lactating women, castor oil can give an infant diarrhea. Castor oil should also never be applied to broken skin. Castor oil can stain furniture and clothes, so if using a castor oil soak or a pack, wear old clothes and cover the area beneath you with an old towel or sheet. Additionally, Williams notes that only cold-pressed castor oil, available at health food stores, is effective for most topical uses.