While normal bowel movements differ from person to person, if you are not having at least three bowel movements per week then you are constipated. Constipation is characterized as having dry, hard stool that is difficult to pass and irregular bowel movements. The cause of constipation may be linked to dietary sources, such as not eating enough fiber, or a side effect from medications. The National Digestive Diaeases Information Clearinghouse reports over 4 million adults in the United States suffer from frequent constipation and the laxative industry earn $725 million per year. The use of castor oil and olive oil for constipation relief is steeped in folk medicine; however, scientific evidence may help you decide which is more effective.
The primary compound within olive oil is oleic acid, which comprises 72 percent of the oil and is known as a monounsaturated fatty acid, or MUFAs. MayoClinic.com reports the fats found in olive oil may have health benefits, such as lowering total cholesterol and reducing your risk of developing heart disease. Other bioactive ingredients include polar phenols, lignans, flavonoids, squalene, phenolic acids, triterpene acids and triterpene alcohols. The use of olive oil for constipation relief is rich in folk medicine. James Henry Cook states in the journal "The Homeopathic World" olive oil may be used to prevent constipation. While the effectiveness of olive oil for constipation is currently being investigated by the scientific community, due to its high nutrient content it may indirectly help alleviate constipation.
The use of castor oil for medicinal purposes dates back to the time of Ancient Egyptians, and it is derived from the castor plant. Traditional uses of castor oil include heartburn, reducing menstrual cramps and treating bruises, sunburns and abscesses. One of the primary medicinal uses of castor oil in modern day times is to relieve constipation as it acts as a stimulant laxative. The Pruistat Digestive Wellness Center reports castor oil works by stimulating the walls of the large and small intestines, which help promote the movement of impacted stool as well as hindering the absorption of moisture by the intestines to keep fecal matter from becoming dry. Once ingested, castor oil may begin relieving impacted fecal matter within five hours.
Health 911 suggests consuming 1 tbsp. of olive oil in the morning and then taking 1 tbsp. of olive oil one hour after eating dinner. Consume 15 mL of castor oil with 8 oz. of water to help relieve constipation. While these are suggested dosage, discuss the use of olive oil or castor oil with your physician to determine its safety and recommended dosage.
The use of castor oil may be more effective at relieving constipation as it is used by medical professionals to evacuate fecal matter from the intestines for surgical procedures but this may not mean it is ideal for you. Olive oil may work in a more gentle manner, yet it may not be as effective as relieving constipation. Do not take olive oil or castor oil for constipation relief without the direct consent of your physician, and be extremely cautious if you are currently taking any medications.
- National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse; Constipation; July 2007
- Mayo Clinic; If Olive Oil is High in Fat, Why is it Considered Healthy; Donal Hensrud, M.D.; March 2011
- “The Homeopathic World” Journal; Olive Oil as a Medicine; James Henry Cook; August 1934
- Health911: Constipation
- Aristotle University of Thessaloniki School of Chemistry; Health Properties of Olive Oil Minor Constituents; Dimitrios Boskou
- “Alternative Medicine Review” Journal; Active Components and Clinical Applications of Olive Oil; Emily Waterman, et al.; December 2007