The term castor oil may trigger an intense aversion associating it with use as a laxative or labor inducer. I was introduced to castor oil in a completely different guise however.
I had a bad case of pain, stiffness and swelling due to inflammation, and my naturopath Dr. Kelly Upcott had suggested I approach the problem with a castor oil pack.
If I hadn't felt so desperate I might not have tried it. But I'd had flareups for 20 years, and each time they'd steal six weeks of my life. I'd spend a month and a half in my housecoat, crippled and in pain.
Sometimes it would be an arm, sometimes a leg. Occasionally the main area of inflammation was a hand or a foot. The area of inflammation would determine how hampered I'd be for the next weeks.
Lower extremity -- no walking other than hobbling to the bathroom for the first week. Upper extremity -- I'd learned how to type with my left hand when my right was affected.
So despite the obscurity of castor oil, and no frame of reference for its use, I took a deep breath and poured. There are a few different ways of administering a castor oil pack, partly dependent on what you have at hand, and partly depending on the area of the body it's meant for.
Recently I had a flareup in my left arm, which affected me within hours from neck to finger tips. I drenched a hand towel with castor oil, and laid it on my arm, covering the gooey mess with two more towels to minimize transference to my sheet and pillowcase. I watched TV or read for an hour in bed during the afternoon, soaking, and then again before bed.
Improvement showed up the next morning. Just enough to encourage me to do it again. For four days, I followed this regimen and now feel lucky to have a sore gimpy arm, rather than a swollen immobilized one, which normally would be the case.
You can use castor oil on your skin, wrapped in cellophane to prevent staining. You can apply heat for half an hour to an hour.
An article on Wisegeek.com cautioned that castor oil should not be applied to rashes or to skin that is broken. It should not be used by pregnant women. They recommended consulting a doctor before use.
The castor oil plant is Ricinus communis, which may have originated in Africa or India, and is now found in Mediterranean countries.
The leaves and seeds are toxic and should be avoided. Castor oil, however, is pressed from castor beans and is used for a number of medicinal treatments.
What Are the Medical Uses of Castor Oil Packs?
Reviewed January 9, 2012
by Michele Blacksberg RN