Edible Castor Oil Benefits: 8 Evidence-Based Therapeutic and Medicinal Uses

Edible Castor Oil Benefits: 8 Evidence-Based Therapeutic and Medicinal Uses

Edible castor oil is known for its medicinal properties and has been used in Ayurveda and ancient medicine for thousands of years. But what is little known is the fact that castor oil has a broad spectrum of uses. Not only is it used to cure constipation but also for improving eye health, detoxification, arthritis and even improved skin and scalp health. 

Here is all that you would like to know about this amazing oil: 

What is Edible Castor Oil?
How is Edible Castor Oil Made?
8  Evidence-Based Therapeutic and Medicinal Uses of Edible Castor Oil
  1. Powerful Laxative
  2. Induces Labour in Pregnant Women
  3. Builds Immunity
  4. Promotes Cell Hydration and Treats Skin Infections
  5. Promotes Scalp Health
  6. Reduces Pain Sensation
  7. May Ease Arthritis Pain
  8. Supports Eye Health


What is Edible Castor Oil? 

Edible castor oil is a vegetable oil that is derived from the seeds of castor bean plant known as Ricinus Communis. This plant is a member of the Euphorbiaceae family native to Eastern Africa, Mediterranean Basin and Asian countries. Known by various names, castor oil is called Vilaakenni in Tamil, Arandi Tel in Hindi and Amudamu in Telegu.

It is a translucent liquid having a pale-yellow colour with a unique taste and odour. 

One of the main components of castor oil - ricinoleic acid which is a monounsaturated fatty acid, constitutes to about 90% of the total oil composition of the oil. This makes it unique as compared to other vegetable oils. Ricinoleic acid is an omega 9 fatty acid that is known to possess anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. Studies show that this fatty acid reduces swelling and pain caused by inflammation. It also has bioactive active compounds such as vitamin E component (tocopherols or tocotrienols), phospholipids, phenolics among others making it suitable for many health applications.

How is Edible Castor Oil Made?

Edible castor oil is extracted from castor beans by employing either of the two extraction methods-

I. Solvent-Extracted Castor Oil

More than 90% of castor oil available in the market is obtained by using solvent extraction technique. Refined castor oil is produced by using solvents such as hexane or ethanol to induce higher yeilds of oil production. This process also requires application of high temperatures and multiple chemical washing and cleaning steps to obtain castor oils suitable for human consumption.  

II. Cold Pressed Castor Oil

Cold Pressing of castor beans produces high quality castor oil. In this method the oil is extracted by mechanical pressing of castor seeds below 50 degrees celsius without using any heat solvents. In this method the seeds are crushed and adjusted to low moisture content. Then the crushed seeds are loaded into a hydraulic press and pressed mechanically to extract the oil.

The highest quality of edible castor oil is produced using the traditional wooden chekku that maintains temperatures below 45-50 degrees celsius and removes the oil only once from the seed (without pressing them again and again). The oil thus produced is a pale yellow, thick, translucent oil extracted without adding any heat solvents. It is pure, toxin-free, chemical-free and hexane-free making it suitable for safe oral and topical applications. 

Read more about cold pressing vs refined oil extraction process here. 

Medicinal Uses of Edible Castor Oil

The medicinal uses of castor oil dates back to centuries. History documents the use of castor oil as a medicine in Egypt, India, China, Iran, Africa, Greece and Rome. 

Here are 8 powerful and evidence-based medicinal uses of edible castor oil - 


1. Powerful Laxative

Castor Oil is approved by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) as a powerful laxative as it helps in clearing the bowels by increasing the bowel muscle movement helping waste push through the intestines.

Research indicates that when castor oil is consumed orally it gets broken down in the small intestine. Intestinal lipases break it down to ricinoleic acid which activates EP3 and EP4 receptors that help create propulsion in the intestine. This creates the laxative effect experienced by us.

Castor oil is thus used to cure constipation and is even used by doctors to clear the bowels of the patients before conducting medical procedures. However, studies show that castor oil should be consumed in small quantities as consuming large quantities may lead to abdominal cramping, nausea, vomiting or even diarrhea.

Edible Castor Oil Helps Induce Labour in Pregnant Women

2. Helps Induce Labour in Pregnant Women

During ancient times castor oil was recommended to pregnant women to speed up the contraction of uterus. This may be due to the fact that the EP3 prostanoid receptor, same receptors that are present in the intestine, are also present in the uterus. Studies indicate that these are activated when the castor oil breaks down to ricinoleic acid and thus may help induce labour among pregnant women.

Strong evidence shows that castor oil can safely be used as a natural alternative to labor induction. However, in the same study, less that 7% of patients reported incidence of nausea, vomiting, or extreme diarrhea. Thus, one must always consult a doctor before adopting this method.

edible castor oil Builds Immunity

3. Builds Immunity

Research indicates that castor oil directly impacts the production of lymphocytes in our bloodstream. Lymphocytes are a type of white blood cell in the immune system. They include nature killer cells, T cells and even B cells which play an important role in our immune system, and helps our body fight against fungus, bacteria, virus, toxins and infections and help strengthen our immunity.

A study published in Journal of Naturopathic Medicine found that castor oil packs, used for short durations such as 2 hours to 7 hours, helped increase the production of T11 cells, T4 cells, T8 cells, and B cells contributing to the overall increase in lymphocytes. Another study included in the same journal evaluated the long term application of castor oil packs from 2 weeks to 5 weeks and found that total lymphocyte counts normalized and even reduced at the end of treatment vs baseline, indicating reduced inflammation.


edible castor oil Helps in Cell Hydration and Treats Skin Infections

4. Helps in Cell Hydration and Treats Skin Infections

Castor oil is rich in ricinoleic acid, a type of monosaturated fatty acid. This fatty acids act as a skin barrier avoiding any kind of moisture loss from the epidermis i.e. the outer layer of the skin. This moisture locking property of castor oil helps in keeping the skin cells hydrated. 

Castor oil can also be used to synthesise estolides that are essential for water retention in the upper layers of the skin thereby increasing moisturization of the skin and lips. 

Evidence also suggests that castor oil has anti-bacterial and anti-microbial properties and prevents growth of bacteria, viruses, molds and yeasts. Thus castor oil, when used topically on the skin, may be effective in reducing the development of acne, and even treating skin infections such as candida and yeast formations.


edible castor oil Promotes Scalp Health

5. Promotes Scalp Health

Castor oil has been useful for centuries in boosting hair growth and improving scalp health.  It is rich in Omega 9 - one of the main mono-unsaturated fatty acids (MUFA) found in plant and animal sources; Omega 6 and Omega 7. Oils that are rich in fatty acids are well known to have benefits for the hair: linoleic acid (omega-6) minimises water loss from the hair with softening and nutritional qualities, and oleic acid (omega-9) has nourishing properties, making the hair softer, supple and more radiant.

The ricinoleic acid (omega 9) promotes blood circulation when massaged on the scalp. This not only treats dry, flaky itchy scalp by hydrating it but also promotes hair growth. Even the anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties of castor oil, due to presence of omega 6, helps in treating dandruff and scalp infections.


edible castor oil Reduces Pain Sensation 
6. Reduces Pain Sensation

In another blind study conducted on humans, it was found that castor oil significantly reduces pain. In this study, researchers found that the experience of pain during extracorporeal treatment is due to the formation of cavitations in the skin. Due to the viscous nature of castor oil, it did not lead to the formation of cavitations in the skin helping in the reduction of pain sensations experienced by the patients.


edible castor oil May Ease Arthritis Pain

7. May Ease Arthritis Pain

Studies indicate that castor oil has strong anti-inflammatory properties. Observations showed that the ricinoleic acid exerts remarkable analgesic and anti-inflammatory effects, when applied to the skin via topical treatments. This may help reduce swelling caused by inflammation and reduce arthritis symptoms effectively. More studies are needed to confirm this effect in humans.

Another study showed that treatment with castor oil was also an effective treatment for knee osteoarthritis without any adverse effects reported. In the study, patients with symptoms of knee osteoarthritis were given a castor oil capsule daily for 4 weeks and the findings reported a significant relief experienced by the subjects confirming it as an effective and safe treatment of knee osteoarthritis. 


edible castor oil Supports Eye Health

8. Supports Eye Health

Castor oil has anti-bacterial, anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory properties. Non-toxic and pure or sterile castor oil is used as a vehicle for delivering drugs as well. In Ayurveda, castor oil has been used to promote eye health for centuries. Castor oil is used to treat dry eyes, minimise eye infections, decrease irritation and redness of eyes and even increase lubrication in the eye. 

In western medicine, castor oil is used as one of the main ingredients in several over-the-counter eye drops that are used to improve dry eyes. Researchers have found that eye drops with castor oil reduced tear evaporation, thereby reducing dry eyes and increasing comfort. Treating dry eyes also helps prevent eye infections. 

Studies also reveal that topical application of castor oil near ocular surface and eyelids can increase tear film lipid layer thickness, and even help manage symptoms of blepharitis eye condition.

Due to the presence of omega-3, anti-oxidants and anti-inflammatory properties, castor oil improves hydration around the eye and helps reduce dark circles and wrinkles under the eyes. 


Thus, there is no doubt that castor oil is quite valuable with significant uses. However, to ensure safe and non adverse results, it is best to use chemical-free, pure, non-toxic and hexane-free products to treat your ailment. And edible grade castor oils are usually safe for the above applications. However, check with the manufacturers and read the labels clearly before using your oil. Also, consult your doctor before you use the oil for any medical application or natural remedies at home. 

Edible Castor Oil Benefits: 8 Evidence-Based Therapeutic and Medicinal Uses


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