Castor Oil: What It’s For & How to Use It

Updated in March 2022

Castor oil is extracted from the castor plan, a medicinal plant that is commonly used to treat various health problems like arthritis, dandruff, constipation and hair or skin dryiness. 

It is scientifically known as Ricinus communis and can be purchased a natural health stores, some supermarkets, online or at compound pharmacies.

Castor oil may cause gastrointestinal symptoms and is contraindicated for people with a history of certain health conditions, and therefore it should only be used under medical supervision. 

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What is it used for

Castor oil contains analgesic, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antimicrobial and laxative proeprties. It is also rich in linoleic acid, vitamin E, fatty acids, and minerals. It has a potent cleansing and hydrating effect on the hair and skin as well. 

The health benefits of castor oil include:

  1. Skin hydration: It makes the skin appear softer by removing free radicals and stimulating production of elastin and collagen. It also delays the appears of wrinkles.
  2. Hair hydration, and it also helps to treat hair loss 
  3. Intestinal regulation, due to its laxative properties. It can be used to treat constipation. 
  4. Infection prevention and treatment, due to its antimicrobial properties. 
  5. Fighting dandruff and lice 
  6. Decrease pain and discomfort associated with arthritis, arthrosis, and gout, due to its analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties 

Castor oil can also be used to relive pruritus and treat acne or wounds on the skin. 

At this time, castor oil is mainly used to improve hair health, but promoting hair growth and keeping it hydrated. Although it is associated with hair growth, there are no studies that support the effect of castor oil on hair. However, it is believed to help with hair growth as it is a potent moisturizer. 

How to use it

Castor oil is extracted from castor plant leaves and seeds. Its use will depend on what you are aiming to achieve: 

  • To hydrate your hair: Apply the oil directly to the scalp, or add it to a hair mask 
  • To hydrate your skin: You can massage it directly into the skin
  • To treat constipation: Take one tablespoon of it per day 

Castor oil can also be used for the treatment of gallbladder stones, although you should consult your gastroenterologist or a healthcare professional with experience in medicinal plants before using it. Learn more about how gallstones are treated.

Possible side effects 

The overuse of castor oil can cause intense abdominal cramping, nausea, vomiting and dehydration. Large quantities applied to the skin or scalp can cause irritation and lead to rashes, especially if you apply it and are exposed to the sun for long periods. 

Castor plant leaves and seeds and toxic, and should only be used under medical supervision. 


Castor oil is contraindicated for small children, people with a history of irritable bowel or bowel obstructions, and for pregnant or breastfeeding women. Castor oil may induce delivery.