Castor oil packs have been used for centuries to treat a wide variety of health conditions, including promoting hormone balance. Castor oil is extracted from the seeds of the Ricinus communis plant and is known for its potent anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties. It is also believed to have a detoxifying effect on the liver, which is important for maintaining healthy hormone levels. Taken orally, castor oil is a very strong laxative which may have health risks, especially for pregnancy, however applied topically caster oil provides gentle and effective lymphatic cleansing.
The lymphatic system is responsible for maintaining fluid levels in the body and removing cellular waste and other toxins. Castor oil contains ricinoleic acid which is a unique fatty acid that has the ability to penetrate deep into the second layer of the skin (dermis), meaning it can access the lymphatic system and can also help push beneficial plant compounds deep into different organ system like the liver and uterus. Because castor oil works primarily on the lymph system, theoretically it can be used to help to reduce pain, swelling and inflammation in a number of affected areas like the breast, uterus, thyroid and any muscle/joint injuries.
Based on my assessment of the research, there is limited evidence on the effectiveness of topical castor oil packs, however like many herbal or natural remedies that lack adequate proof, topical castor oil application has been used for thousands of years by different cultures with gentle healing effects. Due to the lack of quality research, much of the information (including some of that I am providing) online is based on theoretical deductions on the effects of caster oil based on knowledge of different human systems, so please keep in mind that there is little proof of the benefits of castor oil outside of tradition and knowledge that has been passed down.
Castor oil may potentially increase levels of glutathione in the liver. Glutathione is a powerful antioxidant needed for phase 2 liver detoxification of estrogens and other toxins. When applied over the liver it can help enhance estrogen clearance. This becomes even important for women in menopause/menopause as a loss of estrogen causes a loss of liver function which then contributes to high cholesterol, metabolic syndrome and gall bladder problems. Topical caster oil may effectively help lower cholesterol from the liver and improve liver enzymes. (Read my article on liver changes in peri-menopause here )
Castor oil is also powerful for relieving constipation and promoting regular and effortless bowel movements. Caster oil has the unique ability to stimulate the smooth muscles in the intestines, promoting movement of the bowels. This is important as constipation is a known driver of estrogen dominance. Castor oil has been shown to breakdown bacterial biofilm and help reduce overgrowth of unwanted bacteria in the mouth. Based on this research is it also theorised that topical application of castor oil over the abdomen/gut may help to breakdown the biofilm in the intestines. This may reduce overgrowth of unwanted bacteria that contribute to dysbiosis. It is unknown if this actually occurs, however the simple action of relieving constipation (assisted by topical castor oil packs) can help to drastically improve gut dysbiosis.
Period pain relief, endometriosis, ovarian cysts, fibroids:
When placed over the uterus, castor oil helps increase circulation and lymphatic drainage to the area. This can help break up stagnation and move blood in the female reproductive area, soften masses such as fibroids and cysts and prevent the build up of excess endometrial tissue. Castor oil packs are generally not advised during the menstrual bleed as it can increase heavy flow but can be used safely at other parts of the month to help prevent discomfort.
Cyclical breast pain is common in women and usually occurs in the second half of the cycle just prior to the arrival of the next period but can also occur around ovulation. Hormonal changes throughout the menstrual cycle can cause the breast and milk ducts to become enlarged. Water retention in the breasts may also occur leading to a feeling of more full, denser breasts which can often be accompanied by pain. In the case of low progesterone or estrogen dominance, breast pain becomes intensified. Topical application of castor oil over the breasts can help increase circulation to the breast and enhance lymphatic drainage from the breast which can improve pain. Castor oil may also be beneficial in reducing cysts, lumps and fibrocystic breasts but currently results are anecdotal.
Environmental toxins including viruses and bacteria have now been understood to be a huge contributor to thyroid disorders. Placing a caster oil pack over the thyroid may help reduce some of the toxins affecting the thyroid gland while also lowering inflammation around the thyroid. In time this may improve thyroid function and reduce thyroid cysts and goiters. The liver is responsible for turning the majority of inactive T4 thyroid hormone into its active T3 form. Placing a castor oil pack over the liver can help improve liver function which may in turn help the thyroid.
Where to buy a caster oil pack:
One of the biggest set backs for people in using caster oil, is the mess it creates. Castor oil is a thick sticky oil that can leave an annoying residue. This is where caster oil packs come in. Castor oil packs help to minimise mess and make application more convenient. The action of using a pack increases its healing benefits due to the action of compressive touch. Gentle compression through touch is beneficial in activating the parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest) and increasing feel good neurotransmitters dopamine and oxytocin. I use a caster oil pack from Queen of Thrones. You can purchase your own here: https://shop.queenofthethrones.com/talida-voinea
If you live in Australia, the pack can only be shipped to you without the caster oil for the time being. You can easily find caster oil in a pharmacy, just make sure it is purchased in a glass bottle and is 100% caster oil. I got mine from Chemist Warehouse.
How to properly do a castor oil pack:
To properly do a castor oil pack, you will need the following:
High-quality, cold-pressed castor oil from a glass bottle
A piece of flannel or cotton cloth or pack from Queen of Thrones
Here are the steps to follow:
Use 1-2 TBSP of castor oil and place in the centre of the cloth pack.
Place the cloth over the affected area, usually the liver.
Optionally apply heat to the affected area using a heating pad or hot water bottle. This will help to increase blood flow to the area and enhance the detoxification process.
Leave the castor oil pack in place for 30-60 minutes or overnight. Use 3-4 times a week except when on period or if trying to conceive or pregnant. Can use daily if post-menopausal.
Pack does not need to be washed if the oil is kept to the centre of the pack but should ideally be replaced every 3 months. If packs must be washed, hand washing is ideal.
Purchase your caster oil pack here: https://shop.queenofthethrones.com/talida-voinea
** please note: castor oil should not be used during pregnancy or when trying to conceive as the actions on smooth muscle can initiate early labour or miscarriage. Castor oil should also be avoided during menstruation as it may make period flow heavier.
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