Castor oil use dates back to ancient times, when records indicate that Egyptians used the oil from the castor seeds as a fuel for lamps. The American Cancer Society indicates that over the years, people commonly relied on castor oil as a folk remedy for a variety of ailments, from attempting to heal the lymphatic tissues to curing skin cancer. Attempting to use castor oil as a nutritional supplement is an unwise choice, as the oil is a very strong stimulant laxative that offers you no nutritional benefits.
Castorl oil originates from the castorbean plant. The plant -- Ricinus communis -- thrives in Africa and other warm-weather regions of the world. Do not eat the seeds or any other parts of the plant, as a publication from the University of Wisconsin indicates that those parts of the plant contain the poisonous toxins ricin and ricinine. Ricin ingestion can be fatal. Castor oil is a clear, thick liquid that you can purchase in discount stores, grocery stores and health food stores in either bottle or capsule form.
The oily component and stimulant nature of castor oil makes it a traditional remedy for constipation, according to the Drugs.com website. Castor oil, occasionally included in nonprescription weight loss supplements, serves only as a laxative and has no benefits to weight loss. Using castor oil as an external ointment on your abdomen may help you obtain temporary relief from pain and bloating. Medical professionals use castor oil as a delivery system for chemotherapy drugs.
Calories and Nutrients
Castor oil, like all other vegetable-based oils, contains about 120 calories per tablespoon. All of the calories in castor oil come from fat, and the oil has no fiber, protein or carbohydrates. The oil in castor oil has large amounts of ricinoleic acid, according to Frank Gunstone, author of "The Chemistry of Oils and Fats." Manufacturers of cosmetics use a hydrogenated castor oil in some of their products, as do manufacturers of industrial greases. You should not use the oil for cooking or as an addition to foods.
Do not consume castor oil unless recommended by your doctor. Avoid castor oil if you are pregnant, as the natural laxative properties of the oil can cause painful cramping and contractions that can lead to premature labor. If your doctor has diagnosed you with an intestinal blockage or if you have unidentified pain in your abdomen, do not take castor oil. The American Cancer Society indicates that some people may be allergic to castor oil.
- University of Wisconsin-Extension; Castorbeans; E.S. Oplinger, et al.; December 1997
- Houston Department of Health and Human Services: Ricin
- Drugs.com: Castor Oil
- American Cancer Society; Castor Oil; March 2011
- Federal Trade Commission; Consumer Perceptions of Heart-Health Claims for Cooking Oils and Vegetable Oil Spreads; R. Dennis Murphy, et al.; April 2007