Even half a century ago, castor oil was the stuff of nightmares for many children, and there were sufficient reasons for that. It was extensively used as a purgative, and most peculiarly, as a medicine against almost all ailments in children and the elderly. These possible applicable illnesses ranged from cough, cold, and fever, to constipation, indigestion, ingestion of any poisonous material, tape worms and round worms, skin diseases and a number of others. The idea behind such a treatment was that malfunctions in the stomach were the root of all other problems. So, whenever you had a problem, you needed a thorough cleanse of your digestive system and the problem would disappear. Castor Oil was infamous for other reasons too.
Once upon a time, it was used to poison and even kill people. When administered in lower dosages, it induces nausea, vomiting, sickness, and loose bowels. It is not a very healthy or nutritious thing and that is why it found its uses more in industries than in edibles. All the medicinal uses it has are mostly due to its germicidal, toxic, purgative and disinfectant properties.
Castor Oil is tasteless and odorless oil that is extracted from Castor seeds obtained from the castor plant, which is scientifically known as Ricinus Communis.
Health Benefits of Castor Oil
Let’s have a look what this powerful oil can do for us; the health benefits of castor oil include the following:
Rheumatism: The Ricinoleic Acid, Oleic Acid, Linoleic Acid and other fatty acids found in castor oil are very effective in the treatment of rheumatism, arthritis, and gout. They easily penetrate through the skin. Castor Oil is many a times mixed with other medicines for rheumatism to facilitate their penetration and to enhance the effects.
Birth Control: Castor Oil contains a toxin called Ricin (a protein) which, if administered in very low dosages, acts as a germicidal substance. Due to this property, it is also used as a spermicide in spermicidal gels, and lotions. If administered to pregnant women in higher dosages, it may also cause abortions. However, this second mode of birth control can be fatal for the mother too and is never recommended.
Menstrual Disorders: Ricinoleic acid, present in castor oil, is an emmenagogue by nature and helps open menstruation in cases of delayed, painful, or obstructed menstruation. It also helps to relieve pain during menstruation.
Skin Care: Castor oil contains Undecylenic Acid which, due to its germicidal and disinfectant properties, is useful for treating skin diseases and skin ulcers, particularly those which are caused due to bacterial or fungal infections.
Constipation: Castor oil is most widely used as a laxative (better to call it a purgative). It is thus a very effective treatment for extreme cases of constipation where bulk laxatives do not work.
Lactation: Most of the substances which are considered emmenagogues are also galactagogues by nature, meaning that they stimulate the secretion of milk. Castor oil also does this. Apart from easing and enhancing milk flow, it also increases the quantity of milk due to the presence of fatty acids in the oil. However, its cold-compressed form only should be taken in low doses to avoid any adverse effects on the infant.
Hair Care: The germicidal, insecticidal and fungicidal properties of Ricin and Ricinoleic acid that is present in castor oil protects the scalp and hair from microbial and fungal infections, the two prime causes of hair loss. In addition to this, the fatty acids in it nourish hair and prevent the scalp from drying by retaining moisture well.
Other Benefits: Used as an effective purgative. Ricinoleic acid is anti-inflammatory by nature. Castor oil is also used in medication for HIV positive patients, as compounds like Ricinoleic acid and Ricin have germicidal and antiviral effects. Castor oil is also used on burns and wounds to protect them from infections.