Castor oil—have you reaped the benefits yet? If you’ve been quick off the mark and already slather it on your hair, brows, eyelashes and more, kudos. If not, you’re in for a vitamin-rich treat. While we’ve long been touting the wide-ranging benefits of coconut oil, argan oil, rosehip and more, good-old castor oil and its long list of uses has, until now, been left out of the healthy oil buzz. Well, we’re here to change all that.
Pressed from the castor seed (found in the tropical ricinus communis plant), castor oil is thicker and gloopier than, say, argan or coconut oil, but as its texture suggests, it’s also far richer in vitamin E and the fatty acids than most plant oils, too, making it an especially effective replenisher for skin and hair. But the story doesn’t end there—the medicinal properties of castor oil are thought to have been harnessed as far back as ancient Egyptian times when the oil was regarded by many as an immunity-boosting elixir. In fact, it’s still a mainstay of Ayurvedic medicine today.
Intrigued? Keep scrolling for six of the best uses of castor oil and its brilliant benefits for the hair, skin and body.
We all know that truly radiant skin starts on the inside, and according to Katie Pande, medical herbalist and senior herbal advisor at Pukka Herbs, applying castor oil topically (that’s right, no need to ingest it) can reap rewards here.
“It’s easy to give yourself glowing skin with castor oil by using it to help support your liver,” she says. “Apply the oil to a flannel, and then place it on your skin over the liver region (under your right breast). Try to leave it there for a minimum of an hour (wrapping it in cling film can help)—overnight would work wonders.”
While the exact biochemical process behind why this method works is still being researched, the leading scientific theory is that castor oil’s properties boost the body’s lymphatic drainage system, by increasing activity among some white blood cells; the result being more effective elimination of waste and toxins from the body, and glowing skin for all of us.
Get ready for something groundbreaking—castor oil could be your answer to fighting signs of ageing without super-strength serums or injectables. “Castor oil penetrates the skin and helps to stimulate the body’s own production of collagen and elastin, which can soften and hydrate the skin,” explains Pande.
As we’re sure you know by now, it’s these reserves of collagen and elastin, which deplete as we age, that keep skin looking plump—especially in delicate areas such as around the eyes, mouth and forehead, which tend to show fine lines first. “Dip a small cotton ball into castor oil and apply to your skin before going to bed,” suggests Pande.
*Note: Doctors often advise against using castor oil during pregnancy, so please check with your doctor or GP before trying any of these tips if you’re expecting.
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The one you’ve been waiting for—yes, castor oil is believed to help speed up hair growth, making it a favourite for homemade brow and lash serums.
There are two theories behind how this works, the first being that ricinoleic acid works to inhibit the hormones associated with hair loss and baldness. The second theory follows on from the hydrating and healing properties of castor oil—using it to massage the roots and scalp will help to replenish the skin (essential for hair growth) and stimulate circulation.
“For longer lashes, replace your eye makeup remover with castor oil and wipe away the day’s mascara, whilst allowing the castor oil to delicately coat your lashes, lengthening and protecting them,” says Pande.
As if boosting collagen and speeding up hair growth wasn’t enough, castor oil is also well-known for its healing properties—think eczema, dermatitis, rosacea, psoriasis or keratosis pilaris.
So how does it work? Being especially rich in naturally antibacterial and anti-inflammatory ricinoleic acid, castor oil has the advantage of a dual-action approach, in that it both hydrates skin and fights bacteria at the same time, helping to end the cyclical nature of itching and irritation.
“Inflamed skin is crying out for castor oil,” says Pande, who recommends dabbing a little oil on affected areas morning and night.
Packed with replenishing omega-6 fatty acids, repairing amino acids, and enriching vitamin E, castor oil is a great one for helping to keep hair strong and healthy, delaying the arrival of those dreaded split ends.
“When it comes to sneaky split-ends put a 50p-size drop of castor oil in the palm of your hand and warm together with your other hand, before smoothing through the ends of your hair,” advises Pande. “For the ultimate restorative hair mask, blend with coconut oil and leave it on overnight to work its magic on your mane.”
We’ll get straight into it—if you’re prone to sluggish digestion or constipation, castor oil is your friend. Thanks again to that high concentration of ricinoleic acid, castor oil has long been used as a natural laxative to help get things moving again.
“When someone swallows castor oil, ricinoleic acid latches onto EP3 molecules in smooth muscle cells on the walls of the small intestine and causes contractions,” explains Science Mag. Although this does come with a warning*: Castor oil can have the same contracting effect in the uterus, meaning that’s best to steer clear if you’re pregnant.
A good rule of thumb is to consult a GP or pharmacist for guidelines on how to take castor oil for constipation, though some product labels suggest beginning with a 15ml dose before adjusting as you need, never exceeding 60ml.