Ricinus communis seed oil, or castor oil, is made from castor plant seeds whose outer shell has been removed, as the shell contains a deadly poison called ricin. Castor oil has been used in traditional folk medicine all over the world for hundreds of years. Although it has a variety of recorded medicinal uses, the effectiveness of castor oil has not been proven for any health problem or condition. Therefore, first talk to your doctor before using castor oil for medical reasons.
Identification and Dosing
Ricinus communis is also known as castor oil plant, African coffee tree, castor bean, castor seed, palma christi, ricin, Mexico weed and wonder tree. The ripe seeds of the plant are pressed to make castor oil. Doses of castor oil used in clinical studies range from 5 milliliters to 120 milliliters given as a one-time dose, says Drugs.com.
Castor oil is more commonly used as a laxative. It is also used to induce labor and stimulate lactation, reports Drugs.com. Additionally, castor oil is applied to the skin for softening calluses, removing growths and warts, and for alleviating symptoms of arthritis, says the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database or NMCD. Some use castor oil as a contraceptive when applied inside the vagina. Castor oil is also used on the eye to soothe irritation.
According to NMCD, castor oil is considered to be possibly effective as a laxative for treating constipation. It is also rated as possibly effective for inducing full-term labor in pregnant women. However, more information is needed from clinical studies to determine the effectiveness of castor oil for these and other medicinal uses.
Castor oil can cause allergic reactions and contact dermatitis, reports Drugs.com. It should not be used in the presence of intestinal ailments such as blockage, stomach pain, bile duct problems or gall bladder disease, warns NMCD. Also, castor oil should be avoided in women who are not a full term pregnancy as it may induce labor and a miscarriage, adds NMCD.