by Yoojin Lee-Sedera, N.D., O.M.D.
Over the years, the way I practice as a naturopath in Las Vegas has evolved as I become more experienced with the clinical application of natural medicine. There is one thing in particular that has become my favorite and the most popular recommendation I give to almost all of my patients - topical application of castor oil.
Castor oil is extracted from the plant Ricinus communis (castor bean) and it’s thick and translucent. It has been used in a traditional folklore medicine for many centuries, since ancient Egyptian times. I do run into some patients somewhat familiar with castor oil, but it’s mostly internal use as laxative and to induce labor. Personally I don’t recommend anyone to use it internally as it may cause unpleasant side effects such as nausea, cramps, diarrhea, and dizziness due to its toxicity. However, when used topically (over unbroken skin), there are many potential benefits and the most common reasons for considering its application.
Reduces musculoskeletal pain
Reduces gas and bloating
Eases menstrual cramps
Fibrocystic breast treatment
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Typically, castor oil has been applied as a pack on the abdomen and there are many instructions that can be easily found online. In my practice, I have found doing a pack in a traditional way may be too cumbersome or too messy for many people so I have used the modified instruction to make it easier to implement. If you have not done it before and would like to try, here is a simple instruction.
Bath towel, cotton cloth, or wool cloth
Hot water bottle or heating pad
Make yourself comfortable in sitting or supine position (lying on your back).
Pour 1 teaspoonful of oil on your palm or directly on the skin of abdominal area.
Rub the oil on the skin and spread it over the abdominal area, including the lower rib cage, especially on the right side.
If you choose to massage the oil on the abdomen, be sure to massage in clockwise direction for a few minutes or as long as you desire.
Wrap the towel or any cloth over the abdomen. You may just wear a ragged shirt to cover the area.
If using heat, apply hot water bottle or heating pad (on medium setting) over the treatment area.
Rest. You may sleep, do deep breathing exercise, use visualization or meditation at this time.
You may leave the oil on the skin over night without having to wash off.
The main component of castor oil is ricinoleic acid (RA), which exerts analgesic and anti-inflammatory effect, but the precise mechanisms of action of castor oil is not completely understood yet. However, it has shown to stimulate the circulation of the lymphatic system, modulate the immune function, help the wound healing and aid the elimination and detoxification process in the body.
Keep in mind that castor oil may stain the clothes or towels you put on top of it or the bedsheet if it drips. However, if you have massaged your abdomen with the oil, the oil is already spread out thin on the skin, so it’s less likely to drip on the bedsheet. Do not use heat if you are on period or pregnant, and make sure to use a timer if you are using the electric heating pad.
As a naturopath in Las Vegas, my goal is to help you live a more balanced and healthy life. If you have questions about treatments, we offer phone consults to answer any questions you may have.
You can contact us at (702) 708-2207 to schedule a consult or an appointment.