Topical Use of Castor Oil


Todd A. Born, ND

For many centuries, folklore medicine has recommended the use of castor oil, either orally or transdermally, for a wide range of complaints. Naturopathic doctors and other practitioners continue to utilize its therapeutic potential in the management of the health of their patients and clients.

When confronted with the recommendation for topical application by their healthcare provider, many people will baulk and wonder why they should cover parts of their torso with the sticky oil. In medical school we learn this as one of our basic fundamental treatments for any gastrointestinal complaint or painful musculoskeletal malady. I have prescribed topical castor oil to well over 500 patients and have seen it work miraculously. Being both a scientist and a medical individual, I wanted to see if modern science could prove how and why the age-old wisdom of castor oil works. Thus, I dove into the literature to see what was currently understood about its purported mechanisms of action and how we might translate that alongside our therapeutic considerations.


Castor oil has many potential uses but the most common reasons for considering its application are:

  1. Pain
  2. Inflammation
  3. Swelling
  4. Gas and bloating
  5. Constipation
  6. Detoxification
  7. Fibrocystic breasts
  8. Skin tonification

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