Castor oil is obtained from the beans or the seeds of the castor oil plant or Ricinus communis. It is a thick, colorless or pale yellow-colored oil. This oil has been in use for centuries in many parts of the world like India, China and Egypt for alleviating a number of health conditions. It is a triglyceride of fatty acids, out of which ricinoleic acid, oleic acid and linoleic acid are the main components, which account for most of the medicinal properties of this oil. Here is a brief account of the health benefits and other uses of castor oil.
- One of the well-known and most important castor oil benefits is that it can relieve constipation. It is a well-known laxative and hence can be effective in alleviating constipation and bleeding piles. It can promote regular bowel movement and due to its anti-inflammatory properties, can provide relief in inflammatory bowel disorders. It has been approved by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) and is sold as a laxative and can be purchased without a prescription.
- Traditionally, castor oil has several uses. It is used for skin burns, sunburns, minor cuts or abrasions and skin disorders.
- Ricinoleic acid found in castor oil is a very powerful agent and can inhibit the growth of bacteria, yeast and virus. It can relieve the pain and inflammation associated with infections.
- The fatty acids, i.e. ricinoleic acid, oleic and linoleic acid found in castor oil can provide relief in rheumatism, arthritis and gout. People suffering from osteoarthritis and joint pain can benefit from castor oil. Rubbing the oil over stiff and sore joints is known to provide relief.
- It is also effective in the treatment of warts. Applying castor oil daily on the affected area and then gently messaging for a few minutes can help remove warts.
- Castor oil is suitable for hair care, especially in case of excessive hair loss. It protects the scalp and hair from fungal and microbial infections. A regular head massage with the oil prevents hair damage, conditions the scalp, and results in shiny hair.
- This smooth oil is readily absorbed by the skin and hence can alleviate dry skin conditions. It can be used for skin ulcers, finger and toenail infections.
- Castor oil is also used in facial oil cleansing therapy. Because of its high viscosity, it is diluted with another carrier oil and used to massage the face. This procedure helps to get rid of acne, skin blemishes, and pigmentation.
- For women, it has added health benefits, as it can be used for menstrual disorders like delayed and painful menstruation. Though usually not used in modern times, castor oil was also used for inducing labor in pregnant women.
- Castor oil and its derivatives are an essential ingredient in many drugs like miconazole, paclitaxel, tacrolimus, saperconazole, and nelfinavir mesylate. Miconazole is used as an antifungal agent, while tacrolimus and cyclosporine are used for suppressing the immune system. Paclitaxel is mainly used in chemotherapy and nelfinavir mesylate is used as an HIV protease inhibitor.
- In countries like India, castor oil is widely used to preserve grains and pulses from pests.
- Castor oil has its applications in the food industry as well, and is used to inhibit the growth of mold on food products and even as an additive.
- It is widely used as a lubricating agent in the manufacturing of a range of industrial products such as soaps, paints, dyes, lubricants, hydraulics and brake fluids, waxes and polishes, nylon, perfumes and cold-resistant plastics.
- It is also increasingly being used in the cosmetic industry in the manufacturing of shampoo, lipsticks and lip balms.