The use of castor oil packs has a rich historical background dating back to ancient civilizations as far back as the 16th century BC. Castor oil’s unique composition primarily consisting of ricinoleic acid, has been associated with powerful benefits such as pain reduction, anti-inflammatory effects, and healing properties demonstrated through an abundance of anecdotal evidence and limited scientific research. Explore the long-standing tradition and emerging scientific evidence surrounding castor oil packs to unlock their therapeutic medicinal benefits across different health conditions and promote overall well-being.


There are countless anecdotal testimonies to its beneficial nature, and of course thousands of years usage to back it up. Unfortunately, there is dearth of scientific evidence to support the use of castor oil packs at this stage.

For centuries, castor oil packs have been used for:

  • promoting detoxification
  • pain reduction/ alleviation in bone and muscle (including arthritis)
  • alleviate/ reduce muscle spasms and cramping
  • promoting healthy circulation
  • increasing lymphatic movement (also helping lymphoedema)
  • cleansing the liver and intestines
  • gastrointestinal conditions (constipation, diarrhoea, bloating, indigestion, IBS, colitis and Crohn’s disease)
  • Hormonal imbalances (perimenopause, PCOS, menopause, oestrogen dominance, ovarian cysts)
  • Period regulation, trying to conceive, uterine fibroids, fibrocystic breasts, menstrual irregularity, pelvic pain,
  • endometriosis- reducing back and pelvic pain through it’s anti-inflammatory effects. The increase in circulation and softening of masses aids addressing adhesions and blockages
  • perimenopause by balancing hormones via liver detoxification, increased circulation, and increased lymph movement
  • reducing oestrogen excess via liver clearance
  • skin improvements in moisturising and removing stretch marks
  • induction of childbirth labour
  • relaxation to support healing, manage stress, depression and anxiety
  • Thyroid regulation

The research available demonstrates pain reduction, anti-inflammatory, and constipation benefits., as discussed next. The most common usage of castor oil packs is for constipation.

Pain reduction

A study by Mein et al (2005) discovered that topical application of castor oil effectively decreases pain levels. In research involving sixty patients with the painful conditions tendinosis calcarean of the shoulder, radiohumeral epicondylitis, or plantar heel spur, each participant underwent thirty treatments – ten with castor oil, ten with ultrasonographic gel, and ten with petroleum jelly. The treatments were administered without informing the patients about the substance used. Remarkably, pain levels were significantly diminished in the castor oil group across all three conditions.


In a series of experiments, Viera et al (2000, 2001) explored the anti-inflammatory properties of ricinoleic acid found in castor oil compared to capsaicin, using mice and guinea pigs. The study revealed that ricinoleic acid, unlike capsaicin, did not cause skin irritation yet demonstrated potent pain-relieving effects. Both substances were effective in reducing Substance P, a pain-inducing agent involved in neurogenic inflammation. The findings suggest that castor oil containing ricinoleic acid could serve as a useful treatment for various cutaneous disorders, including diabetic neuropathy, post-herpetic neuralgia, and other neuropathic conditions.


In a study conducted by Arslen and Eser (2011), thirty-five nursing home residents with a seven-year history of chronic constipation were treated with castor oil packs applied to their abdomens for three consecutive days. The researchers observed that the use of these packs led to improved faecal consistency, easier evacuation, and reduced straining within just three days of application. While the initial results were promising, it is recommended that further research be conducted over a longer period to scientifically ascertain the efficacy of castor oil packs for treating constipation over a longer time.

What is a castor oil pack?

A castor oil pack is a compress created by saturating a cloth with castor oil and covering it to prevent spillage, typically applied to the body part in need of healing or detoxification. It is often applied to the abdomen encompassing the liver, intestines, and pelvic organs. The castor oil gets absorbed into the body tissues, exerting its therapeutic effects. To enhance the absorption and relaxation benefits, a heating pad can be placed over the pack.

How to make a castor oil pack

Castor oil packs are reasonably easy to assemble and use at home, but they require proper preparation to avoid messiness. Simply place a castor oil pack over the area you wish to address, such as your abdomen, liver or pelvic area to target issues like detoxification, abdominal concerns such as constipation, PMS, perimenopause or endometriosis. It is recommended to rest and relax while using the pack to maximize its benefits.


  • Bottle of organic, hexane-free castor oil (from your health food store or chemist)
  • 50cm x 25cm piece of towel, terry-towelling nappy squares, or other dye-free, unbleached cotton and wool. Reuse up to 30 times.
  • Large piece of towelling to wrap right around. You can use cling wrap but I avoid plastics.
  • Wheat pack, or hot water bottle
  • Glass container with lid to store the oil-soaked towelling between uses
  • Old towel to lay on so there are no accidents- castor oil stains!


  1. Cut the 50cm x 25cm piece of terry towelling and fold into thirds to make a piece 15cm x25cm once folded. You can adapt the size depending on your size and where you will be placing it on your body.
  2. Soak this folded piece with castor oil. Place it in a baking dish and pour castor oil on top to soak it. Check each 20 minutes and add more until it is suitably soaked, but not dripping. You can reuse this up to 30 times!
  3. Lay on your back on top of the old towel, place the castor oil soaked cloth on the desired body part.
  4. Cover it with the large piece of towelling and then place the wheat bag/ hot water bottle on top.
  5. Elevate your feet and relax for 60 minutes with the castor oil pack insitu.
  6. Practice deep breathing, meditation, read or pray whilst you are doing this. Make sure you are relaxing.
  7. Once you are finished, place the castor oil pack into the glass container and store in a pantry or fridge if you live in a hot climate. Mine is just in a cupboard in Victoria.
  8. Massage any remaining castor oil into your skin, as it has wonderful skin healing, moisturising and softening effects.
  9. Make sure to drink plenty of high-quality water to flush the toxins from your body.

Precautions and contraindications

Whilst castor oil packs are very safe most of the time, please avoid using them if the following is applicable to you:

  • pregnant or breastfeeding
  • currently menstruating (increases blood flow. Light periods should be fine).
  • allergic to castor oil
  • open wound/ skin infection
  • acute inflammation or fevers
  • take anticoagulants or have a bleeding disorder
  • are currently having chemotherapy or radiation therapy
  • have ever had liver or kidney disease or cancer
  • have ever had appendicitis or intestinal obstruction

Avoid applying castor oil packs over sensitive regions like genitals, eyes, nose, or mouth, as it can cause irritation. Refrain from ingesting castor oil unless directed by a knowledgeable healthcare provider.

Historical aspects

The historical roots of utilising castor oil packs can be traced back to the ancient civilizations Egypt, Greece, and India, dating back to the 16th century BC. Despite its long-standing history, the modern resurgence of interest in castor oil packs has brought new attention to their potential benefits across various health conditions in over fifty countries worldwide.

The castor oil plant is indigenous to India and Africa but can now be found in all States and Territories of Australia. Despite the toxicity of its seeds, the oil extracted from them does not contain the deadly poison ricin. Ricinoleic acid makes up the majority, around 80-90%, of the oil’s fatty acids, alongside oleic acid and linoleic acid.

The unique composition of castor oil, primarily the ricinoleic acid, has been associated with anecdotal testimonies and promising research on pain reduction, anti-inflammatory effects, and other therapeutic applications, as discussed above.

Castor oil packs have been utilised for centuries with great effectiveness. It can be a simple addition to your health routine a few times weekly. For individuals dealing with endometriosis or perimenopause, integrating this practice can bring significant relief. Those following a Nutritional Balancing program may experience accelerated liver detoxification and healing by incorporating castor oil packs. Give it a try and notice the positive impact on your well-being.

In conclusion, the historical and anecdotal evidence surrounding the use of castor oil packs for a variety of health concerns is compelling. While scientific research on their efficacy is limited, countless individuals have reported benefits such as pain reduction, anti-inflammatory effects, and relief from conditions like constipation, liver congestion, endometriosis, and perimenopause. The simple procedure of applying a castor oil pack, when done correctly and with precaution, may offer potential therapeutic benefits worth exploring for those seeking natural remedies for their health concerns. Remember to always consult with a healthcare provider before incorporating any new treatment into your routine.


Arslen and Eser (2011) An examination of the effect of castor oil packs on constipation in the elderly. Complement Ther Clin Pract. 2011: 17:58-62

Mein et al (2005) Transdermal absorption of castor oil. Evidence-based integrative medicine. 2005: 2:239-244

Viera et all (2000) Effect of ricinoleic acid in acute and sub chronic experimental models of inflammation. Mediator Inflammation. 9:223-8.

Viera et al (2000) Antinociceptive activity of ricinoleic acid, a capsaicin-like compound devoid of pungent properties. Eur J Pharmacol. 2000: 407:109-116.

Viera et al (2001) Pro- and anti-inflammatory actions of ricinoleic acid: similarities and differences with capsaicin. Nauryn Schmiedebergs Arch Pharmacol. 2001: 364:87-95

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