Castor Oil

What is Castor oil and why does your acupuncturist recommend it?

What is a castor oil pack and why does your acupuncturist recommend it for fertility, menstrual or liver health?

You may have heard of castor oil as something women used to take to bring on labour. Luckily, you don’t have to drink castor oil to gain its benefits. It is applied to the skin, and the natural compounds in the oil help it to be absorbed through the layers of the skin. This is thought to promote blood and lymph circulation, reduce scar tissue, improve digestion and reduce inflammation.

Why would you use a castor oil pack?

There are many symptoms that might benefit from a regular castor oil pack practice. Menstrual issues such as painful periods, irregular periods, heavy periods, clots or PMS may all benefit. And menstrual difficulties are often present when there are fertility issues. Castor oil on its own probably won’t improve your fertility, but in conjunction with other lifestyle changes, it may help balance your hormones and reduce stress. You can also use castor oil to help improve digestive issues such as constipation, diarrhoea or IBS, or to improve insomnia, reduce the appearance of scars, or reduce inflammation. In this part of the world, there is a lack of ceremony around having a hysterectomy - a castor oil pack can be a way to heal from the physical or emotional impact of that journey.

What equipment will you need?

How to do a castor oil pack

  1. You will need to set aside about an hour - I do mine before bedtime
  2. Put the kettle on
  3. Get your old pyjamas on and maybe some warm socks
  4. Place the flannel in a pan and soak it with the oil so that it is soaked but not dripping
  5. You don’t want to put cold oil onto your body, so gently warm it in the pan, but remember, it is oil, so it will only need a few seconds
  6. Fill your hot water bottle
  7. Place your soaked flannel into the container that you will be using to store in the fridge in between applications
  8. Take your soaked flannel in its container, kitchen towel, hottie and old towel and get comfortable on the bed or sofa or wherever you can get some peace for an hour
  9. If you are experiencing menstrual difficulties then place the flannel over your womb area - just above the pubic bone (it sits just behind your bladder)
  10. If you are using it for liver health, sleep or digestive issues then place it over the liver - on the right-hand side of your torso towards where the ribs end
  11. Place your old towel over the flannel. Don’t be tempted to use cling film as you don’t want any plastic to also leach into your body
  12. Place the hot water bottle over the towel. Warm is better than hot.
  13. If possible, leave your phone out of reach and get your Zen on. You will get more out of it if you aren’t replying to emails or mindlessly scrolling. Maybe some music will help if you have an anxious mind but probably stay away from real-life murder mystery podcasts.
  14. When it is time to finish - an hour would be great but half an hour is better than nothing - remove the towel and flannel. Use your kitchen towel to wipe any excess oil from your abdomen. Pop the flannel in its container and store it in the fridge (this can be used again and again until it begins to smell, just add a little more oil for each application).

A word to the wise - I put my castor oil-stained (it doesn’t wash out) old towel in the airing cupboard with my sheets and ended up staining some sheets, so store your old towel away from anything it might touch.

Sounds like a hassle right?

I first heard about castor oil packs decades ago, but I thought that it sounded too complicated and a right faff. Once I did my first pack I realised that I could do all of the preparation in the time it takes me to boil the kettle. And it is well worth any effort. How often you do it is up to you, you will have to do it regularly enough to make a difference, but not so much that it becomes a chore. Once a week would be amazing.

When not to use a castor oil pack

As with anything you read on the internet, this is not to replace medical advice. If you have a health concern or symptoms that are persistent then go and see your GP.

If you are trying to conceive then only use the pack during your follicular phase (from your period until ovulation).

If you are on an IVF protocol then do not use a castor oil pack - it can improve your body’s ability to detoxify, and you want those drugs to stay in your body, and no research has been done on castor oil in conjunction with IVF.

Applying a castor oil pack is another tool for you to use to show your body that it doesn’t have to be a doing machine. There is value in resting - even if that value lies in filling your tank so you have more resources to be of service to others. And if you are of the age where you have a daughter who has started her menstrual cycle, then you can model the power of rest, or you can show her how to honour her cyclical nature with a castor oil pack all of her own.

Alison is a registered acupuncturist and co-owner of Blossom Natural Health in Chelmsford. She has been specialising in fertility and women’s health for the last 20 years and is the fertility acupuncturist for Bourn Hall fertility clinic in Wickford. She loves combining Acupuncture, Cranio-Sacral Therapy and Somato-Emotional Release to help her clients with stress, digestive issue and pain relief.

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