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Castor oil packs: how and why you’ll want to try them

 

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Most people know castor oil as a way to induce labour – taken internally it will cause intense diarrhea that will in turn cause irritation and contractions of the uterus – not the most gentle way to induce labour, but a popular folk remedy nonetheless. I generally stay away from internal castor oil for inductions, using more gentle herbal and acupuncture treatments with my doula clients to soften the cervix and prepare the body for labour. However, I do love using castor oil packs topically for myself and for my patients at the Terra Life Naturopathic Clinic in New Westminster.

What is castor oil?

Castor oil comes from the castor seed (Ricinis communis), which is very high in ricinoleic acid. Used topically in the form of a castor oil pack, it works to stimulate the lymphatic system and decrease pain and inflammation.

What could I use it for?

My favourite uses for castor oil packs include:

  • On the right side of the abdomen or the whole abdomen, to help support liver detox and digestive function (including pain, bloating and constipation)
  • On sore or injured joints or muscles (to decrease inflammation and speed healing)
  • On the lower abdomen to help with menstrual pain

How do I make my own castor oil pack?

  1. Consult your naturopathic doctor to see if this treatment is appropriate for you
  2. Fold a piece of flannel three layers thick, large enough to cover the entire area being treated
  3. Soak the flannel with castor oil until the cloth is saturated.
  4. Optional: add a few drops of essential oils to your flannel – I love frankincense (Boswellia serrata) with is a great anti-inflammatory
  5. Place the cloth over the area to be treated
  6. Cover the castor oil-soaked cloth with another washcloth or plastic wrap to prevent soiling of your clothes or sheets (I prefer to avoid plastic when possible, so I opt for the second cloth)
  7. Place a hot water bottle on top
  8. Leave pack in place for 30-60 minutes
  9. After treatment, either rub the oil into you skin or wipe it off
  10. Store the soaked flannel in a glass container in the refrigerator (apply more castor oil to the flannel each time as needed)
  11. Repeat as needed – a muscle injury may need daily castor oil packs, whereas digestive or menstrual complaints may just be as needed – talk to your ND about how frequently you would benefit from castor oil packs

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