Castor Oil Packs: What is it, how to use it, and what are the benefits

There’s a reason your grandmother used castor oil as a remedy for everything. It has been said to cure every ailment from skin break outs to heart-wrenching break ups. Well, maybe not the latter, but it is a product you might want to consider adding to your beauty arsenal.

What is castor oil?

Castor oil has been used for health purposes for a long time, much longer than your grandmother’s lifetime. It is one of my favorite recommendations for constipation, skin health, and arthritis pain.

Castor oil comes from castor bean, which is considered one of the oldest cultivated crops. Native to India, it consists of ricinoleic, linoleic, oleic, stearic, and linolenic fatty acids. Because of its high ricinoleic acid content, castor oil is less prone to oxidation and has a longer shelf life than other oils. The ricinoleic acid is also said to be the reason for its wonderful health benefits.

The Many Health Benefits of Castor Oil

Castor Oil for Constipation and Lymphatic Drainage

Castor oil is known to be a strong laxative. Using a castor oil pack on the abdomen can aid in bowel movements because it increases intestinal motility. In addition, it can also help to move the lymphatic system, which is the system that helps rid the body of waste. We need this system to function properly otherwise the build up of waste could make us sick.

Castor Oil for Skin

Castor oil is great for hair and scalp health. It is rich in Vitamin E and has anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties. It is said to improve circulation and promote hair growth. I like to mix castor oil with jojoba oil and massage it into my scalp, brush it through and then leave it in for about half an hour before showering. You may have to shampoo your hair a few times or rinse it with diluted apple cider vinegar to help break down the oil. You can do this hair treatment once or twice a week and you may notice that your hair feels more luxurious!

Other Uses of Castor Oil

Castor oil packs aid in the cleansing of the liver, which is why they can be very beneficial while following a cleanse. Helping the liver function properly means hormones will be metabolized more efficiently (yay!). It can increase circulation (thereby helping menstrual abnormalities), relieve pain, and improve digestion. Due to its anti-inflammatory properties, castor oil packs may ease the pain of arthritis when placed on the affected area with a hot water bottle for 20-45 minutes. It can also be used on the scalp and as a hair mask to promote circulation and encourage hair growth.

I must, however, offer a disclaimer. While many believe in the benefits of ingesting castor oil, I would caution against using it internally due to its possible gastrointestinal side effects and instead recommend castor oil packs, which are used externally. Using castor oil externally can be very beneficial because it can enter the body through the skin. Making your own castor oil pack is easy peasy!

How to Make Castor Oil Packs

You can make your own castor oil packs at home with a few materials. You will need:

How to:

  1. Open your flannel. Depending on how big it is, you may wish to fold it once. Pour 1 tablespoon of castor oil to approximately half the flannel length. Fold your flannel in half over the oil and place over the abdomen.
  2. Because castor oil is very sticky, you may want to lay on top of an old towel in case of spillage, or you can bind the flannel to your abdomen with saran wrap to keep it in place.
  3. Place your hot water bottle on top of the flannel on your stomach.
  4. Relax with your castor oil pack for 20-60 minutes. You can read, listen to gentle music, nap, meditate, or escape to your mental oasis!
  5. Remove and wipe excess oil off of the skin. Store your flannel (no need to wash) in a glass jar in the refrigerator. You can re-use your pack several times before replacing (the odor will tell you when it’s time!). Just add more oil before each use.

As a precaution, do not use castor oil packs if cancerous tumors, ulcers, and/or uterine growths are present. It is also not recommended for pregnant or nursing women or use during menstruation.

I’d love to hear what you use castor oil for! Let me know in the comments below!




Arslan CG, Eser I. An examination of the effect of castor oil packs on constipation in the elderly. Complemental Therapies in Clinical Practice. 2011;17(1):58-62. doi: 10.1016/j.ctcp.2010.04.004.

Dr. Mercola. Castor oil may help relieve arthritis, sciatica and back pain. 2012. Accessed December 2, 2016.

Patel VR, Dumancas GG, Kasi Viswanath LC, Maples R, Subong BJJ. Castor Oil: Properties, Uses, and Optimization of Processing Parameters in Commercial Production. Lipid insights. 2016;9:1-12. doi:10.4137/LPI.S40233.

Medhi B, Kishore K, Singh U, Seth SD. Comparative clinical trial of castor oil and diclofenac sodium in patients with osteoarthritis. Psychotherapy Research. 2009;23(10):1469-73. doi: 10.1002/ptr.2804.

Tunaru S, Althoff TF, Nüsing RM, Diener M, Offermanns S. Castor oil induces laxation and uterus contraction via ricinoleic acid activating prostaglandin EP3 receptors. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 2012;109(23):9179-9184. doi:10.1073/pnas.1201627109.

Showing 2 comments
  • Rebecca

    Thank you for this very informative article– I hope to get castor oil packets very soon and look forward to the benefits!!!

  • Katie Dwaileebe

    Let me know how it works out for you!

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