What is Castor Oil?
Natural Oils (NO) are oleic extracts gotten from a wide range of environmental sources. Most of them are obtained from plants and can be extracted from their leaves, seeds or roods depending of the compound we want to get.
In general, NO exert amazing properties, they show a positive impact on human health, are versatile and have no, scientifically described, side effects.
The current available medicine is based in natural remedies. In fact, most of the time, the pharmacological industry just extracts the bioactive compound from the natural source, purifies it and then adjusts its concentration for medical purposes. Also, some of the newest treatments have been designed following chemical structures seen in nature.
Castor Oil (CO) also known as Oleum Palmae Christi, is one of these examples. It has shown a great repertory of benefits in many areas, including: cosmetology and dermatology. It is extracted from the seeds of the Ricinus communis plant and is used for preparing oral and topical remedies.
A lot have been discussed about the origin of the CO plant. Egyptians were the first population in mentioning its existence in the Ebers papyrus 4000 years ago. Then, the plant spread through the continent reaching Greece, India and China. Nowadays, the plant is in nearly all continents and grows in almost any type of climate.
India is considered the world leader in the production of castor oil and seeds. It leads the global trade of this product dominating the 90% of the market. Contrarywise, The United States, the European Union and China are the major importers with a total of 84% of all imports.
Gujarat, a western state from India, accounts the 86% of the total production of CO seeds from all country. This success in production was reached in 1980 due to a good strategy in breeding and cultivation. Also, it was opened to a large number of national and international markets.
Castor Oil Chemical Composition
CO leaves are particularly rich in potassium nitrate and have small amounts of ricin. On the other hand, CO seeds are rich in enzymes, proteins, lipids and vitamins. Lipid composition is mainly composed by glycerides of oleic, linoleic and Ricinoleic Acid (RA). The last represents 80-90 % from the total composition.
Medical Uses of Castor Oil
Around the world, CO has been widely used as a therapeutic agent. The type of extract, from leaves or seeds, changes depending of affected organ or system. Below are described the multiple uses of CO, classifying them according to the organ or biological system of interest.
This is one of the apparatus where the CO exerts most of its medical properties. Its preparation varies depending on the intended use. It includes: Infusion of roots or leaves, pulverazion of dried flowers, mastication of roots or leaves and directly ingestion of the extracted oil.
CO has been used in a great variety of affections, including: caries, odontalgia, vomiting, gastralgia, intestinal colic, peritonitis and prolapse of the rectum. It also shows excellent properties as a purgative and laxative, exerting strong anthelmintic effects.
Laxative and purgative properties are product of the direct release of RA by pancreatic enzymes. RA acts inside the intestine promoting an exacerbated gastrointestinal motility.
CO is used to treat very common respiratory affections like rhinitis, angina or chest inflammation. Leaves or seed latex are directly applied over the area close to the affected organ. Also, CO shows antimicrobial activity, especially against Mycobacterium tuberculosis, helping in the treatment of many types of pneumonia.
Infusion of the roots has shown diuretic properties. Also, it helps to reduce pain and inflammation due to urinary calculus. In males, the oil exerts spermatopoietic effects while in woman it is very effective against vaginal diseases.
Most of the effects exerted in eyes are due to the anti-inflammatory properties of CO. In countries such as India or Pakistan, the oil is directly applied into the eye in cases of conjunctivitis. In other places, leaves are directly putted over the eye in case of reddening or inflammation.
The presence of ricinine in CO has shown important properties in lowering the blood pressure. Because of the last, it is used in cases of apoplexy, cerebral congestion and many forms of lymphangitis.
Muscles, bones and articulations:
The direct application of the leaves over the contusion helps in lowering inflammation. Also, it has important anti-rheumatic properties due to its combination of ricinine and potassium nitrate. In countries such as India and Pakistan, the roots are used in decoction with potassium carbonate. The recommendations are to directly apply the product, leaves or oil, and to massage the affected area. In many cases it is also recommended to drink an infusion of leaves and roots.
The leaves are used locally in cases of cephalalgia. The pure oil is used in massages, mainly, in cases of paralysis. It seems that these properties are mediate trough potassium nitrate which helps to repolarize the nerves involved in the lesion. Also, CO supplies a wide range of amino acids that helps in tissue repairing.
In the ancient Greece, the CO was used for treatment of some types of cancers and tumors, especially, mammary tumors. It is though that this action is mediated trough its effects on vasodilation and the toxic effects of ricin.
Gynecology and Obstetrics:
Pulverized roots have antimicrobial properties. In many places it is directly applied on hymen surface in case of hemorrhage. Infusion is used in cases of amenorrhea because CO leaves promotes menstrual flux.
The Ricinus communis plant has particular properties during and after labor. During labor it participates in uterus contraction because RA induces the release of molecules named prostaglandins which directly act on the uterus musculature and contract it. This effect helps in the process of childbirth mesmerizing the effects of the hormone oxytocin. After childbirth, CO helps to control inflammation and metritis, restoring the uterus to normal function in less time.
In some places like India and Pakistan, the use of CO has been associated with anticonception properties at least by nine moths after the childbirth.
Castor Oil uses in Dermatology and Cosmetology
Skin affections are one of the most common in all the population. Both, the skin and scalp are in constant contact with the sunlight and its harmful effects. Also, the skin is in contact with environmental agents that can be deleterious, among them are: chemicals, microorganisms and physical agents.
The application products of CO over skin are very versatile. Any of the derivative products, leaves, roots or pure oil, can be used. The applications can be divided in: skin applications and hair applications.
As it was said, CO is rich in vitamin E, minerals and lipids that actively participates in healing and cicatrizing. Also, due to its antimicrobial activity, it is effective against many infectious diseases of skin like furuncles and pustules.
CO helps to remove warts. The treatment consists in applying the oil three times per day and massaging them constantly. This treatment is also applied to skin spots no matter the size.
Finally, it is perfect in burning because it reduces the pain in the lesion and promotes the cicatrize of the burned tissue.
A lot has been said about the properties of CO in hair treatment. Many of them are true while others are not that much.
The truth is that CO, mainly has anti-seborrheic properties. Seborrhea has multiple causal agents and most of them are infectious. So, due to its antimicrobial activities it is very effective with this.
The evidence about the promotion of hair growth is not conclusive. Some reports suggest this is true but, some others conclude that, rather than promoting hair growth, it protects hair from sunlight. The evidence that supports the hair-growing hypothesis, are based in some evidence that CO inhibits prostaglandins and these are related with baldness. This have to be deeply studied because as it was said, CO induces in many cases the release of prostaglandins rather than inhibit them.
This principle is also applied in eyebrows/eyelashes grown. Most of the information available is not based in scientific evidence and it is necessary to be better studied. Some empirical reports suggest that CO promotes an increase of the volume of eyebrows and eyelashes.
Castor Oil is an excellent alternative in homeopathic medicine. Its amazing properties have position it at the top ten of the most versatile Natural Oils used in medical treatment and cosmetology. If you are interested in using it contact your doctor. Yes, natural remedies are a good choice but it is really necessary to know if they are enough for our needs.
Natural Oils are an excellent choice! Give them a try and enjoy the wellness of nature!