Castor Oil Packs
Ooooh castor oil… the mysterious golden elixir that has been used for centuries to help with everything from relieving pain and inflammation to supporting fertility and reproductive health. In our office I am forever recommending castor oil packs and am always surprised that most of my clients have never heard of them, so I am fulfilling my promise to write about it!
To start, castor oil comes from the seed of Ricinus communis, a plant that is common on the other side of the world. The cold pressed oil it produces contains many components, but the star of the show is the Ricinoleic acid. This unique fatty acid is known for its anti-inflammatory properties… and we know great things happen when we reduce inflammation! In Chinese medicine, we use castor oil packs as a warming therapy to encourage an abundant flow of healthy fresh blood into the regions we are targeting.
The bonus for having castor oil in your self-help tool box is that it’s one of the easiest therapies to use alongside your acupuncture treatments to make great changes in your body. Here are some of the ways castor oil works!
- Castor oil reduces muscle and joint pain: Back to the Ricinoleic acid, this magical fatty acid is a natural anti-inflammatory. Inflammation is the big elephant in the closet in most dysfunction and pain in our body, so reducing local inflammation can help alleviate joint pain, arthritis, and aching muscles. While many pop an ibuprofen to relieve pain, using castor oil packs can stop the pain without the added side effects of over the counter oral pain relievers.
- Castor oil reduces Liver and Gallbladder pain and congestion: The moving properties of the oil stimulates the lymphatic system to promote detoxification, giving a little boost to the removal of waste products like toxins and excess hormones. When the Liver is flowing free it is able to focus on converting our food into vitamins, minerals, and other components we need to nourish our body. Congested Gallbladder? The warm oil relaxes the muscles and reduces inflammation to alleviate that gnawing and sharp pain. When working on the Gallbladder and Liver the castor oil pack is placed on the upper right side of the abdomen.
- Castor oil for fertility support: The invigorating effects of castor oil allow for freshly oxygenated blood to flow effortlessly through the ovaries, fallopian tubes, and uterus, supporting healthy eggs and uterine lining. We use it to eliminate pelvic stagnation so that the new uterine lining begins on a fresh clean base and grows into the perfect environment for that little egg to implant. Stimulating blood flow in reproductive organs enhances the delivery of nutrients (as well as hormones and endorphins!) Creating a happy and healthy environment for all the tissues in the reproductive region.
- Castor oil reduces menstrual pain: A healthy uterine lining sheds easily with no discomfort or clotting. In fact, the goal in my office is for my clients to be truly surprised when their cycle starts without a physical or emotional warning. Menstrual pain can be a hint that there is some inflammatory congestion in the reproductive system. This magical oil can help break up the stagnation of ovarian cysts, fibroids, endometriosis, and relaxes muscles for effortless menstruation.
- Breaks down scar tissue and adhesions: Whether we are talking about an old shoulder injury or a C-section scar, castor oil penetrates deep into the skin to break down and soften scar tissue and adhesions that might add to pain and dysfunction.
- Stress reduction: Relaxing with a castor oil pack is a great time for meditation or reading something you enjoy. Giving you a moment for the stress of the day to unwind.
How to Make + Use a Castor Oil Pack
- Cold-pressed, hexane-free castor oil.
- Heating pad or hot water bottle.
- Wool or cotton flannel large enough to cover the area of use.
- Plastic wrap (or parchment paper), larger than the size of the fabric.
- An old towel to lay on … oh and make sure you have old comfy clothes on that you don’t mind getting messy.
Now you are ready to apply:
- First, lay an old towel down where you are going to be resting. Choose this location wisely as the castor oil can stain fabric.
- Pour a small amount of castor oil to saturate the flannel. The key here is that the flannel is soaked but not dripping.
- Place it over the location you are treating and cover with plastic wrap. This barrier is to protect your heating pad from the oil. Top with a heating pad or hot water bottle. Kick your legs up and rest for 45 minutes.
- After you are finished, store the pack in a large zip-lock bag. The pack can be re-used about 20 times. Replace the pack after it begins to change color or look dirty.
- At the next use, add more oil as needed to keep the pack saturated and lay it on the heating pad or hot water bottle to warm before placing on your body.
No time for the full treatment? Put on your old pjs and rub a thin amount of castor oil in the treatment area, then go to bed. Your body will absorb the oil while you sleep. While the oil may not penetrate as deep without the heat, something is better than nothing.
Disposable castor oil packs: Some clients like to use puppy wee-wee pads, the cost is much greater to the earth and your pocketbook but they like the easy clean up.
When to use:
- When trying to conceive naturally: Use castor oil on your lower abdomen during your follicular phase 3-4 times a week, after your period is over, and before ovulation. For most women, this phase falls around cycle days 5 –14. Do not use castor oil during your luteal phase if you think you could be pregnant.
- During IVF, IUI and medicated cycle: Use castor oil on your lower abdomen 3-4 times a week before you begin preparing for your retrieval, transfer or IUI. It is ok to continue if you are only taking birth control, but stop the castor oil once you add in transdermal, oral or injectable fertility medications of any kind.
- Castor oil for scars: Use 3-4 times a week, but treatment timing can be less since the depth of the tissue you are wanting to connect with is less.
- For pain and all other conditions: Use as needed or 3-4 times a week to the local region of pain.
Just like every healing tool there are times when it should not be used. Do not use castor oil packs if you:
…are pregnant or breastfeeding
…are sick or have a fever
…in your luteal phase of your menstrual cycle if you’re trying to get conceive
…are menstruating or having abnormal uterine bleeding
…have an IUD
…are taking fertility medications
…over open wounds or unhealed scars.
As always, if you have any questions, reach out to the office! Give us a call at 616-466-4175 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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If you are in Grand Rapids or West Michigan we are here for you. If you are located outside our area and looking for a great acupuncturist, the National Certification Commission of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine is the ideal resource for trained acupuncturists.