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For thousands of years, castor oil has been used as a natural remedy and moisturizer for skin and hair, making this product a popular multi-purpose oil.
How many of its benefits are scientifically proven? Below we will find what castor oil is, its uses and possible side effects.
It is a vegetable oil obtained by pressing the seeds of the castor plant. Although these seeds contain a toxic enzyme, the heating process makes de oil safe for human use.
It is popularly used to treat a wide variety of medical conditions, especially digestive problems. When taken, castor oil breaks down ricinoleic acid, a compound with laxative properties that accelerates and promotes the digestion process.
Besides, there are several studies that suggest that it also plays an important role in moisturizing and repairing skin and hair.
However, castor oil and its derivatives are commonly used in the manufacture of soaps, lubricants, paints and dyes, pharmaceuticals, preservatives, and perfumes, leading to suspicions about its reliability.
As mentioned above, not all uses and benefits of this oil are backed up by scientific evidence. Below is a variety of healthy and positive properties of this multi-purpose oil.
For centuries, castor oil has been used as a natural hair conditioner thanks to its nourishing properties. The application of certain oils and greases to the ends of the hair can help to increase its flexibility and reduce the chances of breakage. It also promotes hair, eyelashes, and eyebrows growth, among others.
This product is rich in ricinoleic acid, a monounsaturated fatty acid. These types of fats have moisturizing properties that can be beneficial for the hydration of very dry skin.
Moisturizers retain humidity from the skin by preventing water loss through its outer layer.
It is very common to find castor oil as one of the main components of moisturizing cosmetics. Besides, it can also be used as a natural alternative to chemical lotions and moisturizers.
We can mix it with other oils, such as almond oil, olive oil or coconut oil, to make a homemade, natural moisturizing cream.
Some people may be allergic to this product, so we recommend to use it with moderation at first.
Castor oil is one of the best-known powerful natural laxatives.
It increases the movement of the muscles that push fecal material through the intestines, helping to clear these organs.
Stimulant laxatives act very quickly and are popularly used to relieve temporary constipation.
It decomposes when it reaches the small intestine and releases ricinoleic acid. This acid is absorbed and stimulates a powerful laxative effect.
However, castor oil is considered safe in small doses. Otherwise, it can cause abdominal cramps, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
The ricinoleic acid found in castor oil has anti-inflammatory properties.
Studies in animal models suggest that it can reduce inflammation and relieve pain when applied to the skin. Thanks to its anti-inflammatory properties, this fatty oil may be particularly useful for the symptomatic treatment of some inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis or psoriasis.
Although these results are encouraging, human studies are needed to more accurately determine the beneficial effects of this product in the treatment of inflammatory diseases.
Applying castor oil to a wound creates a moist environment that promotes healing and prevents ulcers from drying out. It also stimulates tissue growth to form a barrier, decreasing the risk of infection.
In addition to all the above benefits, this oil has antifungal properties that can help fight certain fungi, such as Candida when they affect the gums causing an overgrowth of dental plaque.
Although castor oil has a wide variety of applications, it is important to bear in mind that it has very specific and particular uses.
This means that if not used properly, it can cause some side effects, such as skin rashes, swelling, and itching.
Even though it is an effective way to relieve constipation, it can cause diarrhea if consumed in higher than recommended doses.
Finally, castor oil has been popularly known for its childbirth-inducing effects, so pregnant women should avoid consuming it, regardless of their stage of pregnancy.
Boel, ME; Lee, SJ; Rijken, MJ; Paw, MK; Pimanpanarak, M; Tan, SO; Singhasivanon, P; Nosten, F; McGready, R (October 2009). "Castor oil for induction of labour: not harmful, not helpful". Australian and New Zealand Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology. 49 (5): 499–503.
Ogunniyi, D.S. (2006). Castor oil: A vital industrial raw material. Bioresource Technology, 97(9): 1086–1091.
Wilson, R., Van Schie, B. J. & Howes, D. (1998). Overview of the preparation, use and biological studies on polyglycerol polyricinoleate (PGPR). Food and Chemical Toxicology, 36 (9–10): 711–718.