Castor oil has been used as a traditional remedy for thousands of years: it was mentioned in an Egyptian medical text, castor beans were found in the Great Pyramids, and it even earned the name‘Palma Christi’ meaning ‘palm of Christ’ in ancient Rome – no doubt a literal observation of the shape of the castor plant’s leaves, but also surely an endorsement of its healing capabilities (the oil is sometimes still referred to by that name today).
Its popularity as a remedy given to reluctant children by the spoonful has waned nowadays (much to the relief of younger generations). Its popularity as a fantastic nourishing oil with healing properties to boot thankfully has not!
Let’s have a closer look at what the properties of castor oil are and why is it so good for us.
BENEFICIAL ESSENTIAL FATTY ACIDS
Essential fatty acids help us regulate inflammation, even help us with our mood – we need them for our bodies to function properly, but we can’t make them ourselves. What to do? We can absorb them through food, or through the skin to benefit from a more localised action of the fatty acids.
Castor oil is approximately 90% ricinoleic acid (one of the essential fatty acids): this particular fatty acid has marvellous and potent anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties. It combines with a few other fatty acids making castor oil not only very nourishing, but suited to a multitude of uses that call for a little (or a lot of) soothing.
You should look for a cold-pressed (if possible organic) castor oil: cold-pressing ensures maximum nutrients are kept in the oil and not degraded by heat during the extraction process.
And rest easy: castor oil is considered perfectly safe to use externally (we do not recommend taking it internally as it could act as a powerful laxative). It is the castor plant that contains ricin, a toxic protein (poisonous to humans and animals). When the oil is extracted from the castor beans, the ricin remains in the watery pulp that is discarded – the oil does not contain any ricin.
Castor oil is a nourishing, safe, widely popular ingredient in many cosmetics including skin creams, masks and lipsticks.
Castor oil has a very light molecular structure which allows it to penetrate deep within the skin, delivering its anti-inflammatory and nourishing properties to tissues and even organs.
HOW TO USE CASTOR OIL
Castor oil can be used pure to nourish the face. A few drops under your usual moisturiser provide a wonderful soothing treatment, which will make your skin glow all day. You can also add a little more and just skip the moisturiser altogether.
Castor oil works just as well as a body moisturiser, to apply liberally after a bath or shower (if you are concerned about feeling greasy, apply it while your skin is still wet and towel off – use an old towel to do this as the castor oil may stain).
Castor oil is also one of the traditional ingredients in the oil-cleansing method. This method is advocated for acne-sufferers or people with problem skin and involves using a blend of olive and castor oil to cleanse the face. The reasoning behind this is that attacking problem skin with harsh chemicals only serves to strip it – encouraging it to produce more oil. Cleansing the skin with oil attempts to break this cycle and help reestablish balance.
Of course, castor oil packs put its anti-inflammatory properties to very good use. Packs help increase blood and lymph circulation, with cascading positive effects on the body and the metabolism. We have written detailed instructions on how to prepare and apply a castor oil pack, but you can also read ‘The Oil that Heals‘ to find out more about castor oil.
Whatever you wish to use it for, castor oil will be a helping hand. Reference to the shape of the plant’s leaves intended!