Last week at my association meeting, two of my association buddies, the most experienced in the room, got to talking about the use of castor oil packs for inflammation and detoxification. This was particularly for endometriosis and fibroids, as one of them specialises in women's and children's health. I had no idea what they were, how to use them or what they were for, because we have never learnt anything about them or many other more hands-on therapies at college. Mostly we learn nutritional, herbal and lifestyle medicine, with herbal medicine almost always being liquid-extract formulas or creams.
Of course I wanted to research these outside of our meeting. Castor oil packs were popularised by Edgar Cayce, and then later researched by the physician William McGarey, author of The Oil That Heals. He wrote that when used correctly, castor oil packs can improve the function of the immune system, specifically, in two separate studies, patients saw significant increases in lymphocyte production (a category of immune cell) compared to those using placebo packs. This was repeated in a 1999 animal study, where the average number of T-11 lymphocytes significantly increased over seven hours after a two-hour treatment with castor oil packs. Increased lymphocyte levels speed the removal of toxins and cellular garbage from tissues, which also promotes healing. In one study on rats, the main compound in castor oil was more effective in relieving and preventing inflammation than the capsaicin in chilli, with inflammation peaking earlier and then later falling to lower levels than both capsaicin and control. On day eight, the inflammation had gone in both capsaicin and castor oil. When testing a subchronic model of inflammation (I would say this is very relevant to the real world), the lowest levels of inflammation during all weeks in both tests were found in the group treated with castor oil. In a study on humans with knee osteoarthritis, the 50 patients given just 0.9mL of castor oil, three times daily for 4 weeks, while the other 50 were prescribed 50mg of diclofenac sodium three times daily for 4 weeks. After being evaluated by clinical, radiographic and laboratory tests, it was found that both treatments were effective, but castor oil had no negative side effects whereas the drug had a high rate of adverse effects.
Besides castor oil packs, you can simply rub the oil in to wherever the affected area is or apply it to a Band-Aid. Basically a castor oil pack involves soaking a large enough (often folded, depending on the size) piece of cloth, preferably flannel, in room-temperature castor oil; covering this over with a sheet of plastic and then placing a heat pack or heating pad on top. This is meant to be left on for 45-60 minutes, and it is recommended to wash your skin with soap afterwards and wash the cloth separately. For best results it is said you should apply castor oil packs for four consecutive days a week, for one month. However, the brand of castor oil is very important as much of what is currently commercially available has been sprayed with pesticide and chemically treated. (since my bob style first appeared in 1923, can it take me back to that year so I can shop chemical-free much easier? :-D ) Unless you want a powerful laxative, I don't recommend you use castor oil orally either, just topically, and, only if you know you are not allergic to the oil. Fortunately, the highly toxic ricin found in castor beans is not present in the oil, but still don't go overboard. Castor oil may also have anticancer and contraceptive effects, but these need more research before any conclusions can be drawn.