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.
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.
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.
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.
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.