Have you heard of castor oil packs before?
If you haven’t, I’m happy to let you in on one of my favorite holistic therapies. Easy to implement, I’ve found that castor oil packs are one of the hidden keys to bringing harmony to the body, whether that’s during a cleanse, amidst acute or chronic illness, or in my case, in times of lots of travel, physical and mental stress, and let’s just say, riding life’s crazy roller coaster.
You’ve most likely heard the name castor oil from its ability to evacuate the bowels, but we are going to be using it externally, not internally. When used externally, castor oil packs are one of the most versatile ways to relieve pain, promote rejuvenation of the organs, and to restore energy to the body. The best part is that castor oil packs feel amazing, and you get to relax while doing them. They are a life saver if you suffer from menstrual cramps, are essential for relieving side effects from cleansing programs, and can even tackle stubborn skin ailments and promote wellness from chronic conditions too. They are a safe way to strengthen the body and immunity, without eliciting a full blown detoxification, making it an excellent therapy for those who are more sensitive, such as children or those who are health compromised. So let’s get down to the details of their benefits, how to use them, and their instructions to get you started.
Castor oil, also known as the “palm of Christ,” is an oil that has been historically revered for its healing capabilities. It is said that the Egyptians chewed the seeds for constipation, the Chinese used the oil to induce childbirth, and the Aztecs healed skin lesions and hemorrhoids. This is just a few of the numerous historical accounts of its benefits, and its potential for bringing relief to the body.
The external use of castor oil was made popular by Edgar Cayce, an important figure in the development of holistic medicine in the modern era. Through his work he found that castor oil could be applied externally in the form of castor oil packs as a therapeutic treatment. Castor oil packs are simply the application of castor oil onto layered flannel cloth, which is then applied to the target site. Heat is then applied over the flannel to encourage the penetration of the oil into the skin. He suggested that the oil is absorbed through the skin, strengthening the immune system and promoting lymphatic health. Following in Cayce’s footsteps was Dr. William McGarey. McGarey wrote the book “The Oil that Heals,” confirming the treatment’s ability to heal through his own clinical experience. Castor oil packs are now commonly utilized in alternative and holistic practices for innumerable functions.
The Chemical Breakdown:
Castor oil comes from the castor seed called Ricinus communis. Castor oil is composed of unique fatty acids called ricinoleic acid. Unlike other seed oils, castor oil is 90% ricinoleic acid, which is where it gets its healing capabilities from. Ricinoleic acid is known to have anti-inflammatory effects, and to be an analgesic – an agent that brings relief from pain. When used in the form of castor oil packs, the oil has the ability to nourish the cells and to promote well being.
Castor Oil Pack Uses:
- Pain relief
- Lymphatic drainage
- Bowel regulation
- Immune support
- Supports elimination
- Strengthens gallbladder, liver, kidney and colon
- Restore energy and vitality
- PMS, menstrual cramps relief
- Neck and back pain relief
- Athletic injury
- Skin disorders (psoriasis, eczema)
- Gallstone and kidney stone cleansing
- Parasite cleansing (worms, ameoba, flukes)
- Muscle cramps
Cayce and McGarey claimed that castor oil, once absorbed through the skin, strengthens the immune system by increasing the T-cells, and helps to rebuild and increase the effectiveness of the lymphatic system. They hypothesized that through these mechanisms, the cleansing of waste products through the lymph (lymphatic drainage) is increased, and that the liver, gallbladder and other eliminatory organs like the colon are strengthened.
What we do know is that ricinoleic acid (the active component in castor oil) was proven in this study to offer pain relief and to lower inflammation. It concluded that RA may be seen as a new capsaicin-like, anti-inflammatory agent, which can offer relief to a wide range of conditions such as arthritis, athletic injuries, carpal tunnel syndrome, digestive disorders, eczema, fibromyalgia, neuropathy, and psoriasis. Castor oil packs were also found in this study to lessen symptoms of constipation, and in this study to be an effective therapy in primary knee osteoarthritis. What we don’t see in scientific research is its ability to directly influence lymph and immune cells, but this does not mean that it is not doing so.
There are innumerable clinical accounts of castor oil improving countless conditions, and providing pain relief. In my own practice, and in the practice of colleagues, I have found that castor oil packs are without a doubt a beneficial treatment. The most profound results I have seen are in reducing pain and inflammation (especially in skin disorders), aiding in the clearance of gallstones during a liver/gallbladder flush, greatly reducing liver, gallbladder and kidney pain, restoring energy during periods of exhaustion, detoxification or illness, aiding in the clearance of parasites, and offering profound pain relief for PMS/menstrual cramps (life saver!!). While these uses are not proven by research studies, the clinical evidence is strong enough for me and my colleagues to use them regularly. So whether you are looking to boost a cleanse program, regain some sanity in your way-too-busy life, to find salvation during those dreaded days that come every month, or have an ongoing condition, give castor oil packs a try… you won’t be sorry, promise.
What’s the Best Castor Oil:
Once again, quality is king, and therefore it’s vital that you purchase a high quality castor oil. It’s common for castor seeds to be heavily sprayed with pesticides, so purchasing high quality ensures pesticide-free. The low quality oils are then solvent-extracted (hexane – a toxic solvent – is commonly used), deodorized, and chemically processed. This exposes you to toxins, which is clearly the opposite of what we are aiming to do here. In addition, this processing damages the oil’s phytonutrients, which are the active healing component of the oil… not worth your money or your time. Only purchase cold-pressed, unbleached, undeodorized, nitrogen-flushed (ensures freshness) castor oil (stored in a dark bottle is best). I personally use practitioner grade Premier Research Labs’ Castor Oil. You will also want to purchase organic, unbleached cotton flannel for the same reasons. Believe me, you’ve made it this far, no point in skimping out and not reaping the true benefits.
Castor Oil Pack Instructions:
1 bottle castor oil
1 package organic cotton flannel
1 heating pad (infrared heating pad is best)
1 roll of plastic wrap (Press’n Seal is best)
scissors (for cutting flannel)
Prepare 2 layers of cotton flannel. Fold or cut the cloth creating a 2-layer pad (on average, about 6”x 8” per sheet) to cover the area to be treated. For example, to use a castor oil pack over the abdominal area, the size of the flannel cloth would be 8 inches long by 8 inches wide (2 sheets thick) – the width of the abdomen, hip to hip. The packs can be smaller or slightly larger (up to 12”x 10”) depending on the area being treated.
Cut plastic wrap. Cut plastic wrap (Press’n Seal is best) a little larger than the flannel cloth. The plastic is used to protect the heating pad from getting oily. I highly suggest using the Press’n Seal form of plastic wrap because it sticks to your body and seals in the flannel. This way the oil does not drip out and soil your clothing. In addition, once it is sealed against the skin, it is easy to move around to where you will be seated for the treatment.
Saturate cloth with castor oil. Place the flannel cloth on top of the plastic sheet. Then saturate it with castor oil (pour the oil over the cloth in a back and forth motion, then fold in half and smooth over the surface of the cloth making sure to spread the oil evenly.) The cloth should be wet, but not dripping. The saturated cloth should then be placed directly on the area you are going to pack with the plastic sheet on top of it. Your plastic sheet should cover the entire exterior of the flannel (plus a little more), since castor oil is likely to stain any fabric it touches. If you are using Press’n Seal, seal the plastic wrap to your skin.
Place heating pad over plastic sheet. Then, place a heating pad over the top of the plastic sheet on a medium setting, or higher if it is comfortable. The heat will promote absorption, increase circulation, and help the body to relax. This is generally left in place for approximately 30-60 minutes (up to 1 ½ hours.) You may place a bath towel over the top of the heating pad to help hold in the heat and an elastic bandage or belt to hold the heating pad in place. Now sit back and relax. Watch your favorite TV show, read in bed, or simply lie back and rest.
* To take the treatment to the next level, consider using an infrared heating pad. This will help to penetrate the tissue at a deeper level.
Caution: Heat should not be used in conditions where it is normally contraindicated, such as over the abdomen during pregnancy.
Wash Off Area. After using the castor oil pack, cleanse the skin using a wash cloth and non toxic soap. Throw away the cotton flannel. The flannel may absorb toxins, do not reuse.
Frequency of Use
For general use over a specific problem area such as a sore, psoriasis, eczema, aching muscle, etc., use the castor oil packs at least 4 times per week over the targeted area, for 30 -60 minutes (up to 2 hours).
Where to put the castor oil pack
I recommend using the castor oil packs on specific organ site such as the kidneys, liver, or abdomen (colon). Target the related organ to the issue at hand. For example, constipation -> colon, detox symptoms -> liver, gallstones -> gallbladder. If you are looking for an overall rejuvenation and energy restoration experience, choose the kidneys one day and the liver the other day. If cleansing, it is best to do a pack over the various detox organs (liver/gallbladder, colon, kidney). You can rotate focusing on each organ everyday while on the cleanse, and then 2 times per week for a few more weeks to follow.
If you are treating a specific injury site, such as a cramped muscle or tense neck, or a patch of psoriasis or eczema, apply the castor oil pack directly over the site. Make sure that heat is not contraindicated for your specific condition before applying.
For general, whole-body detoxification you want to pack the three key detox organs following this sequence:
- Day 1 – kidneys (located on the lower back) * see diagram
- Day 2 – liver/gallbladder (located right below the right nipple) * see diagram
- Day 3 – abdomen (located right below the navel, in between hips) * see diagram
Instructions for Those With Long-term Chronic Illness or Chronic Conditions
Talk to your physician before starting to ensure there are no contraindications. If you have been chronically ill for a long time, or are quite toxic, start with only 15 minutes of treatment at a time. As the general condition of the body improves, you may increase the duration of the packs.
Castor oil packs are extremely useful in cleansing protocols. They can help nourish the organs while the body is promoting toxin clearance, and they also can help to target the immune system to specific areas of the body (for instance, in the clearance of parasite). Castor oil packs can also help restore energy and minimize detoxification side effects as well. Here are a few protocols that they can be very useful in.
Liver/Gallbladder Flush (used over the liver/gallbladder area)
Kidney Cleanse (used over the kidneys)
Parasite Cleanse (used either over the liver/gallbladder or the colon)
Juice Fasting (best used in a rotation of the liver/gallbladder, colon and kidneys)
Intestinal Cleanse (used over the colon)
Adding Essential Oils
Adding essential oils to the castor oil packs is another way to deepen the treatment. Essential oils have the ability to permeate the skin, aiding in the cleansing, rejuvenation and revitalization of the tissue. They can also help to open up meridian pathways, stimulate blood and lymphatic flow, and reduce pain and inflammation. Simply add a few drops of the chosen essential oil to the castor oil prior to applying to the skin. Here are a few suggestions:
Gallbladder –> Oil of Orange (limonene), Fennel
Lungs –> Eucalyptus, Oregano, Cypress, Peppermint, White fir
Colon –> Clove (for parasites), Peppermint (indigestion), Ginger (nausea)
Kidneys –> Cilantro, Juniper Berry
Adrenals –> Cinnamon, Lemongrass, Wintergreen, Geranium
Heart –> Lavender, Black Pepper, Marjoram
Muscles (achy, sore) –> Basil, Eucalyptus, Rosemary, White fir, Wintergreen
Muscles (tension, stress) –> Juniper Berry, Lavender
Skin –> Tea tree, Bergamont, Myrrh
Uterus (menstrual cramps, hormone balance) –> Clary Sage, Fennel, Ylang Ylang
Skin (stretch marks, scars) –> Frankincense, Sandalwood
Liver –> Geranium
Energy Stimulation –> Lime, Lemon, White fir
Calming, Restorative, Meditative –> Patchouli, Myrrh, Sandalwood, Vetiver, Ylang Ylang
Inflammation –> Chamomile, Basil
Circulation –> Vetiver
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