encyclopedia

Castor Seed Oil

Scientific Names:    

Ricinus communis L. [Fam. Euphorbiacea]
    
     
Forms:    

Oil isolated from the seeds of the castor bean plant.    
     

Traditional Usage:    

– Anal fissures
– Anti-bacterial
– Cleansing/Detoxifying
– Colic
– Constipation
– Dandruff
– Diarrhea
– Dysentery
– Enteritis
– Hair and Scalp Oil
– Hemorrhoids
– Labor Inducer (Post-term)
– Laxative
– Pre and Post Operative Cleansing
– Skin Disorders
– Warts
– Wrinkles
– Worms     
     
    
Overview:    

The castor seed plant, Ricinus communis L. [Fam. Euphorbiacea], is thought to be native to tropical Africa but by ancient times had already become widespread throughout Africa, India, and southern Asia. Castor beans have been found in Egyptian tombs dating back to 4000 BC. The Ebers Papyrus, an ancient Egyptian medical treatise believed to date from 1552 BC, translated by George Ebers in 1872, describes castor oil as a purgative. Herodotus in 500 BC reported that Egyptians purged themselves with castor or aloes every month, three days successively, seeking to preserve health by emetics and enemas, for they believed that all diseases proceed from the food they use. Castor oil, also known as Oleum Ricini, is expressed from the seed or bean of the plant and is a mild cathartic, acting quickly to produce soft, thin stools that can be easily and painlessly passed, and causing little or no nausea or gastrointestinal upset. Because of its mild action, it is especially suitable for young children and post-operative patients, likewise for hemorrhoidal affections, colic, diarrhea, dysentery, enteritis, after hernia operations, obstinate constipation, cleansing putrefactive substances and feces from the intestines, clearing catarrh of the gastrointestinal tract, and in worms. It is frequently used to remove constipation, and also in diarrhea when due to undigested material. Castor oil is also recommended for cases when throat and skin disorders are thought to originate from intestinal accumulations. One traditional reference recommends a mixture of one part oil of turpentine* mixed with 3 or 4 parts of castor oil to increase its purgative and anthelmintic effect. Castor oil is also widely used in folk tradition to stimulate the onset of labor in post-term pregnancies. However, such use should only be undertaken with the supervision of a qualified medical doctor, as serious birth complications can result.

Recent Clinical Trial Results:

To evaluate the relationship between the use of castor oil and the onset of labor, a prospective evaluation clinical trial was organized in a community hospital in Brooklyn. A total of 103 singleton pregnancies with intact membranes at 40 to 42 weeks were used for the study. Patients were alternately assigned to 1 of 2 study groups: a single oral dose of castor oil (60 mL) or no treatment. Castor oil was considered successful if labor began within 24 hours after dosing. Fifty-two women received castor oil and 48 were assigned no treatment. Following administration of castor oil, 30 of 52 women (57.7%) began active labor compared to 2 of 48 (4.2%) receiving no treatment. When castor oil was successful, 83.3% (25/30) of the women delivered vaginally. Women who receive castor oil have an increased likelihood of initiation of labor within 24 hours compared to women who receive no treatment. Note: Many medical specialists recommend against using castor oil for this purpose as it may induce the baby to release the meconium (baby's first stool) into the amniotic fluid, which can lead to dangerous and life-threatening infections and the need for painful medical interventions. One woman describes her experience with castor oil in the following way: “The castor oil worked for a bit but lead only to bad cramping and severe vomiting and diarrhea (I totally recommend this never be done by anyone!). There was meconium in the water but my midwives were not concerned too much”. This woman eventually required a cesarean section and she and the baby were in real peril, which likely would have been avoided with more conventional approaches at a hospital.     
    
     
Active Ingredients:    

Castor seed oil contains: 90% ricinoleate (12-hydroxyoleate or 12-hydroxy-oleate) a hydroxy fatty acid. Castor oil contains small amounts of Stearic acid but is free from palmitin or olein. Its chief constituents are ricinolein (C3H5[C18H33O3]3), isoricinolein, and dihydroxystearin. Ricinoleic acid (C18H34O3) is the principal acid of the oil; it forms a thick oily liquid, solidifying below 0° C. (32° F.), soluble in alcohol and ether.
    
    
Suggested Amount:    

Castor oil is recommended with the dosage of 60ml once daily. As an enema, castor oil may be used with the dosage of 2 or 3 fluid ounces mixed with some mucilaginous liquid. Externally, it has been recommended for itching, ringworm, and other skin diseases. According to Dr. James Duke in The Green Pharmacy, along with other herbal specialists, daily application of castor oil to warts is said to remove them in a few weeks. The dosage for adults is 1-1.5 fluid ounces; for an infant, 1, 2, or 3 fluid drachms, according to its age. According to King's American Dispensatory, mixing castor oil with alcohol and adding a few drops of various aromatic essential oils can make a hair wash for preventing hair loss and treating dandruff.  Note: 1 Ounces = 16 Drachms = 28.35 g
1 Drachm = 1.77 g
   
     
Drug Interactions:    

None known.    
       
     
Contraindications:    

None known.    
     
    
Side Effects:    

The greatest objections to using castor oil as a laxative come from its nauseating taste and its related tendency to induce vomiting in sensitive individuals. This may be overcome by adding a pleasant flavoring such as peppermint essential oil, which has a digestive settling property itself. Excessive use of laxatives is not recommended. CAUTION: Although castor oil is safe for internal use, castor seeds are highly toxic and can be fatal when ingested. The seed is only toxic if the outer shell is broken or chewed open. Seeds swallowed intact usually pass without incident. One seed, when chewed, can be fatal for a child. Do not allow children or pets access to this plant.
 
*Note: Turpentine is the yellow to brown semifluid oleoresin exuded from the sapwood of pines, firs, and other conifers. It is made up of two principal components, an essential oil and a type of resin that is called rosin. The essential oil (oil of turpentine) can be separated from the rosin by steam distillation. Commercial turpentine, or turps, is this oil of turpentine. When pure, it is a colorless, transparent, oily liquid with a penetrating odor and a characteristic taste. It contains a large proportion of pinene, a compound from which camphor is manufactured.
    
     
References:    

Garry D, Figueroa R, Guillaume J, Cucco V. 2000. Use of castor oil in pregnancies at term. Altern Ther Health Med. 2000 Jan; 6(1): 77-9.
 
Leonardo MR, da Silva LA, Filho MT, Bonifacio KC, Ito IY. 2001. In vitro evaluation of the antimicrobial activity of a castor oil-based irrigant. J Endod 2001 Dec; 27(12): 717-9.
 
McKeon TA, Chen GQ, Lin JT. 2000. Biochemical aspects of castor oil biosynthesis. Biochem Soc Trans. 2000 Dec; 28(6): 972-4.
 
McKeon TA, Lin JT, Stafford AE. 1999. Biosynthesis of ricinoleate in castor oil. Adv Exp Med Biol. 1999; 464: 37-47. Review.
 
Vieira C, Fetzer S, Sauer SK, Evangelista S, Averbeck B, Kress M, Reeh PW, Cirillo R, Lippi A, Maggi CA, Manzini S. 2001. Pro- and anti-inflammatory actions of ricinoleic acid: similarities and differences with capsaicin. Naunyn Schmiedebergs Arch Pharmacol. 2001 Aug; 364(2): 87-95.