Cristi DeMarco’s Wellness Weblog

Health Info You Should Know.

Castor Oil Packs

Castor oil comes from the bean of the Palma Christi plant, ricinis communis. The active ingredient in castor oil is ricinoleic acid. Ricinoleic acid effective is in preventing the growth of numerous species of viruses, bacteria, yeasts, and molds so is known to be effective when applied topically for skin conditions. Taken internally, it is a strong cathartic, meaning that it will accelerate bowel movements, but is not currently recommended because drinking castor oil is a particularly harsh way of relieving constipation. Ricinoleic acid is unique because it is only found in nature in castor oil.

As a pack placed over the skin with heat applied, the castor oil is absorbed into the lymphatic circulation and is suggested for conditions that can benefit from enhanced circulation, enhanced immunity, and detoxification. Some of the suggested uses are for chronic urinary tract infections and cystitis, liver disorders, constipation, gallbladder inflammation or stones, night time urinary frequency and inflamed joints.

My familiarity with castor oil packs is related primarily to women’s medicine used as part of a treatment protocol for non-cancerous uterine fibroids and ovarian cysts, menstrual cramps, irregular menstrual cycles, and non-cancerous breast pain. The packs are not to be used during times of heavy bleeding or during pregnancy.

Making a castor oil pack

Cold-pressed castor oil warmed in a pot on the stove – Home Health is a good and easy to find brand
Old cotton terry face cloth or flannel square
Hot water bottle or a heating pad with a low setting
Plastic bag or food wrap large enough to cover the flannel cloth completely

1. Soak the cloth in the warmed castor oil and wring so it is not dripping, or soak the cloth with the castor oil and heat it in a microwave for 1-1½ minutes. Test the cloth on the inside of your arm for temperature and then place it on the affected area.
2. Cover the cloth completely with the plastic, then place the hot water bottle or the heating pad set on low over the pack and cover with a towel. Castor oil stains so you probably want to lay on a thick towel and wear old clothing.
3. Rest for one hour with the pack in place. Be careful not to fall asleep with an electric heating pad on – the heat from the oil may burn you when you are asleep. This time could be used to listen to soft music or a meditation tape. A good time to use the packs is as part of a bedtime ritual. It is best to be able to rest when you are finished.
4. Clean skin with 2T baking soda in one quart of water after removing the pack to effectively remove oil.
5. Store the pack in a covered glass container or zip lock bag in the refrigerator to reuse. Add more oil only as needed to keep the pack saturated. Replace the pack if it begins to change color.

A typical course of treatment for fibroids and benign ovarian cysts is 5-7 times/week for 6 weeks. For menstrual cramps, irregular cycles, and breast pain, use the packs 3 times per week until the symptoms subside. For preventative maintenance of these conditions, continue to use the packs once per week.

The castor oil packs can be effective on their own but are usually used as part of a treatment program. In my practice the program could include acupuncture, craniosacral therapy, herbs, or dietary changes. For some gynecological issues, I will refer patients to Maya abdominal massage as an adjunctive treatment. To learn more and to find a practitioner go to Please consult your healthcare practitioner about incorporating castor oil packs into your treatment and refer to the cautions/contraindications below.

Safety precautions/contraindications

1. DO NOT USE DURING PREGNANCY, MENSTRUATION, OTHER IRREGULAR OR HEAVY BLEEDING, OR FOR CANCER CONDITIONS.  Castor oil packs are used to treat irregular menstrual cycles, fibroids (which are benign) and to treat benign ovarian cysts but you do not use the packs while you are bleeding heavily, so you would stop while  menstruating or bleeding heavily and then resume when the bleeding stops.
2. Stop the packs and call your practitioner if you experience unusual bleeding
3. Castor oil should not be taken internally.
4. Do not fall asleep with an electric heating pad on – the heated oil could burn you while you sleep
5. This is intended to be informational. For specific treatment recommendations, consult your health care practitioner.
Northrup, Christiane, 1995, Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom
Hudson, N.D., Tori, 1999, Women’s Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine
The Arvigo Techniques of Maya Abdominal Massage


July 31, 2008 Posted by | health info you should know, self-care | , | Leave a comment