Sit Down, Oil Up, and Heal Your Body: The Wonder of Castor Oil Packs

By Amy Bader, ND
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As most of my patients will tell you, I have a little saying at the end of my office visits: “If you don’t do anything else I told you today, do the castor oil pack.” Right now you are probably wondering what a castor oil pack is and what it does. If you are one of my patients, you are probably thinking, “I should probably be doing a castor oil pack right now while I’m sitting here surfing the Net.”

To give you an idea about what a castor oil pack does, let me share a story about one of my patients. I once had a patient who I’ll call Sally. Now, Sally was a young woman from Texas. (Please imagine a Texan accent.) Although Sally was a spunky woman, she came to my office complaining of extreme fatigue. She had been to conventional practitioners who had prescribed medications, but she still felt horrible. During our first visit, I prescribed a number of natural medicines, some dietary changes, and these castor oil packs. I told Sally to go home, put some castor oil on a piece of cotton flannel, and put it on her belly for ten minutes. Flash forward to the next day—when I got a call from Sally. (Remember the accent.)

“Oh…my…gosh. What did you do to me?” she said half-jokingly. “I was on the toilet for hours last night.”

I was perplexed. I thought my prescriptions were appropriate, so I inquired further. “Tell me what you did,” I said.

Sally drawled, “I did that castor oil pack for three hours.”

“What?!” I gasped. “I told you ten minutes!”

“I know,” said Sally. “But I’m from Texas, and we’re tough. I didn’t think it was going to do anything.”

Boy, was Sally wrong. She had learned the hard way just how effective castor oil packs can be. (She also told me her new nickname for me was “Dr. Colon Blow,” and now the rest of her family wanted to come see me but were scared.) Over the next few days she continued to detoxify, and even had the return of old side effects from medications she took years before, as they cleared out of her system.

Now I’m not trying to scare you, but merely attempting to illustrate a point. What is normally a soothing external application of castor oil to the abdomen can be a powerful addition to any holistic treatment plan. The castor bean (Oleum ricini), also known as “palma Christi” due to its large palmate leaves and healing properties, is a strong laxative when taken orally. However, its gentler use is in the form of a pack placed over the abdomen for a few minutes a day. The oil is absorbed into the skin and it stimulates lymphatic circulation. It is a cleansing treatment that enhances immune function, balances hormones and heals internal organs.

The castor oil pack is good for just about anything: uterine fibroids, ovarian cysts, headaches, liver disorders, constipation, diarrhea, intestinal disorders, gallbladder inflammation or stones, nighttime urinary frequency, inflamed joints, and general detoxification. Some cautions—extremely sensitive patients may experience an increase in their symptoms. If this happens, reduce the length of the castor oil pack application. For the ladies: it is to be used with care during menstruation, as it may create heavier bleeding. Skip it during pregnancy and breastfeeding.

You can pick up castor oil and the cotton flannel at many health food stores or online. Instructions for the pack are indicated on the bottle, but in short, you saturate the flannel with the oil, put it on your abdomen, and relax. You can put a hot water bottle or heating pad over it if you would like. Start with 10â€"15 minutes the first few times you use it, and gradually work up to 45 minutes per day. At first, daily use is recommended for best results. After a month or two, cut back to applying once or twice a week.

This should help you get off to a radiant start for spring. To a healthy, happy and invigorating spring season!

Take care of your (whole) self—

Amy Bader, ND