Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Castor oil: between torture and radiant health

 There are some tasks in life that we avoid. At least there is one that I do, and that is to take the monthly 3 teaspoons of castor oil in the morning. Through the years I have tried to reinvent a way to take it in a way that is less unpleasant; however, I must admit that I have failed. There are ways to alleviated the strong taste of castor oil, like taking it with lemon juice and jaggery (cane sugar), or just imagine that you are in a bar and you take it in one chug. All I know is that after the intake of this
glutinous substance the body has a great sense of relief. Also, it is helpful to know why you are doing it and to know the amazing health benefits of this castor bean.

Why we do it?
Apart from the obvious reason, which is to expel deep waste from the colon, we can learn much more about castor oil. According to Michael Tierra, one of my favorite herbalists, castor oil is also used in cases of epilepsy, paralysis, nervous disorders, liver disorders, warts and cysts. When it is applied externally it reduces inflammation with bruises, injuries and stiffness. It also reduces benign masses like breast and ovarian cysts and it promotes childbirth when given to a woman in labor.

Get a closer look
The evergreen castor plant is native to tropical Africa and India, where it may grow to be a 40-foot tree. The beans contain an extremely deadly toxin which must be removed by special processing before the oil is usable.

Ayurveda categorizes castor oil as heating, pungent and sweet, which makes it good for Vatta dosha. It can increase Pitta and Kapha. It works in the tissues of liver, spleen, nerves and digestion. The action of castor oil or Erand, as it is called in Ayurveda, is cathartic, demulcent, analgesic and nervine.

Uses of castor oil
Castor oil is the main treatment for Vatta dosha. Tierra uses it for all Vatta imbalances including pains, constipation and arthritis. Castor oil supports joint, muscle, connective tissue and skin health. Castor oil is the “arnica of Ayurveda” since its astringent effects helps to stabilize hypermobile joints and to reduce swellings and benign masses in breast, ovaries, varicose veins, swollen lymph glands, enlarged liver or spleen and lipomas. Long-term use of castor oil can make a great impact on fibromyalgia. Other uses can be to treat hemorrhoids, anal irritation, strains, bruises, sciatica and even hiccups.

Uses in Women’s Health and Beauty
Castor oil is a wonderful friend of women. Here are a few of it uses:
                Improves the production of milk in lactating mothers. Do a gentle warm castor oil massage to   the breasts.
                Apply warm castor oil on the belly when menstrual pain is present.
                Castor oil is useful when it comes to skin problems like sunburn, acne, dry skin, yeast infection, skin discoloration and stretch marks.

For skin care follow these simple steps:
                Take a cotton ball and dip it in castor oil.
                Apply it directly to the affected skin area and leave it on for an hour and then wash it off after an hour.
                Repeat this in the morning and night for faster results.
                If the affected area is small, soak a Band-Aid in castor oil, apply it on the affected area and cover it with a clean one.
If the affected area is large, soak a cloth in castor oil and place on the affected area for an hour before washing off.

Castor oil when applied to the skin goes deep and stimulates the production of collagen and elastin. It works wonders for wrinkles and face fine lines. For best results apply every day for 15 days in the evening after washing your face. Rotate the application every 20 days or so as the oil is thick and you don’t want to use too much of it. It can clog the pores, leading to skin irritation or breakouts.

Castor oil works well for darkening the hair. The humectant properties (to help retain water) of the oil, combined with its nutrients, helps lock moisture in the hair. The result is that it makes the hair appear darker. Apply over the hair as well as in the scalp; it will prevent scalp infections, itchiness and bald patches. Frequent application of the oil will increase hair growth.

Castor oil helps prevent tissue tearing. When I was ready to give birth to my first child, I applied it daily for 3 weeks to my genitals to prevent tearing of the tissues at the moment of birth. I am happy to report that it really worked. I delivered my beautiful baby and my organs did not suffer from the postpartum trauma.

Children and Castor Oil
My Doctor in India, Dr. Sapna, suggests for young children suffering from constipation to put castor oil on top of the head, on the belly and just on the outside of their rectum. She said that this should be enough to produce an effect. If the children aren’t responding to that treatment then they are ready to take it internally. In Ayurveda there is a children’s version of castor oil call Bala, to give internally. In case of constipation dissolve 2 drops of castor oil in warm milk. If you can not purchase the children castor oil, you can use regular oil. After 7 years of age you can give a child ½ tsp. of castor oil.

How to purify with castor oil.
Purification of the intestines with castor oil is safe, quick and nourishing to the digestive system. There are different degrees of purification in Ayurveda using castor oil. With panchakarma therapies it is often used with herbs for purgation, in vasti (enemas) and local external treatments.
For monthly purifications at home you can use 6 tsps. of castor oil. Take the oil early in the morning, around 4 a.m. and by 7 a.m. you should have some bowel movements that may last a couple of hours. Drink sips of warm water during the day and don’t ingest any food until you have no further bowel movements. Rest, stay at home to prevent any “Accidents” and at the end of the day eat only soupy oatmeal. Your ayurvedic practitioner may suggest some purgation herbs to complement the treatment.
For a simple laxative use you can add 1-2 tbsps. (15-30 ml) of Castor Oil in warm milk and take it at bedtime. I find the castor oil preparation in India for internal uses is much more “palatable and gentle”.  Ayurveda combines castor oil with a castor root decoction to make it carminative and to prevent irritations.

Health tips and how to use castor oil externally
Castor oil is messy but there are ways to benefit from this gift of earth.

For compresses: Apply warm castor oil in the desired area. Massage until all the oil is absorbed; castor oil penetrates deep so help it with a good gentle massage. After it is absorbed put a thick coat of warm castor oil and cover it with plastic and keep it for a few hours or overnight. Repeat the compress daily for a few days until symptoms disappear. As well, there are commercially available castor oil packs that you can use. I do however, prefer to use the traditional way. 

Cracked heels, rough skin and hyper pigmentation: Massage gently with warm castor oil.

Irritation in eyes due to dust: Put 2-3 drops of castor oil in the eyes to clear the dust.

Chronic stomach pain: Take lukewarm water, add 2 Tbsps. of castor oil, lemon juice and drink. Regular use cures chronic stomach pain. For pain due to gastric trouble mix castor oil with butter and massage on the stomach.

Sciatica pain and backache: Grind castor kernel in milk and drink to relieve sciatic pain and backache.

Chronic Constipation and Bleeding from the gums: Take 1 tsp of castor oil with milk at bed time.

Breast cancer: For breast cancer in the initial stages do the following:
1.         Massage breast with castor oil.
2.         Take 5 grams of castor plant leaves and cook in 200 liters of water and when water reduces to 50 litres, filter and drink. Take this twice a day and use regularly.
3.         Boil leaves of castor plant and apply this to the affected area.
Central Obesity: Take 20 grams of the roots of castor and make it into powder and cook in 400 ml water. When it reduces to 100 ml mix it with 2 tbsps. of castor oil and drink two times a day.
Swelling in vagina: Take cotton and soak in castor oil and apply to vagina.

Ayurvedic Properties and Action on Body
For medicinal purpose the leaves and dried mature roots of plant are used. Below are the Ayurvedic properties and action of fresh leaves and dried roots of castor.
Fresh leaves:
  1. Rasa (Taste): Katu (pungent), Kashaya/Astringent, Madhura/Sweet
  2. Guna (Characteristics): Sukshma, Snigdha/Unctuous, Tikshna/Sharp
  3. Virya (Potency): Ushna/Hot
  4. Vipaka (Post Digestive Effect): Madhura/Sweet
  5. Effects on Tridoshas (Humor): Pacifies Vata and Kapha.
Dried, mature roots:
  1. Rasa (Taste): Madhura/Sweet
  2. Guna (Characteristics): Guru/Heavy, Snigdha/Unctuous
  3. Virya (Potency): Ushna/Hot
  4. Vipaka (Post Digestive Effect): Madhura/Sweet

1.              Do not use castor oil in intestinal obstruction or for abdominal pain of unknown origin, appendicitis, inflammatory bowel disease (IBS).
2.              Do not consume for more than 8–10 days.
3.              Do not consume castor oil frequently as it can cause electrolyte losses, gastric irritation and allergic skin reactions. It should not be given to children frequently.
4.              Castor seed contains very toxic components, about 3% of whole seed, which is highly poisonous for human beings and animals. Intake of a single seed for children, and about 3-20 seeds for adults, can kill. Use only commercial available castor oil or ayurvedic preparations.
5.              Castor oil is used to induce labour so don’t take it while pregnant. If it is  taken in excess it causes serious side-effects such as abdominal pain, loose bowels, disease of the stomach, nausea and vomiting

Castor Plant in the Garden
Castor plant is a very attractive plant in any garden. The plant bears oval, glossy brown and beautiful seeds. These seeds look very attractive but are highly poisonous in nature due to the presence of ricin. Castor seeds are lethal to every animal. It is said about 2.5–3.0 seed can kill a man (chewing a single seed may be fatal to a child), 4 to kill a rabbit, 5 for sheep, 6 for ox, 6 for horse, 7 for pig, 11 for dog and 80 seeds for a duck.
So don’t think you can use castor seeds at home for therapeutic use. Use however, the plant to honour their gift and to connect at the energetic level if you are using their energy for a specific healing or for preparation of medicines. I like to place my castor plant near other exotic tropical plants, like cannas and palms. Castor plant likes full sun and is easy to grow since it likes rough soil.
Let’s understand now why castor seeds are highly toxic and castor oil is safe to use. The answer is, the toxic protein, Ricin, which is present in the hull of the seed and in oil processing of hulled seeds. The hulled seeds are cleaned, cooked and dried before oil extraction. Cooking ensures proper oil extraction and Ricin, which remains stable at normal conditions, gets inactivated by heat. Moreover ricin is water-soluble and not oil soluble. Extracted oil contains no trace of Ricin. The pulp or cake, which is obtained after oil extraction, is used as manure.
May you be gentle and wise in using this earth gift. May you and your family be well, be happy and enjoy radiant health.

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