I was reminded the other day how many people don’t know about all of the cheap and easy old-timey remedies that people used to rely on, like castor oil. Many of these remedies have been used for centuries, simply because they work. Castor oil is one such helpful substance that really does fix just about everything as well today as it did in it’s first recorded use 3000 years ago. Really, if it’s been working for 3000 years, chances are it’s going to keep working.
There are internal uses for castor oil, but I wouldn’t necessarily suggest them simply because this isn’t a gentle plant – it’s a kick in the pants (literally). Castor oil taken internally is a laxative strong enough not only to induce bowel cramping and diarrhea, but even to induce labor contractions in pregnant women. I actually used it to induce labor for myself recently and I can honestly say the castor-oil cramps were almost as bad as the labor pains. Eek! Not a lot of fun, but if you’re impatiently waiting for a baby it does work. The reaction is so strong that castor oil is even reputed to have been used by fascist mobs in Italy in the 1920s as a form of intimidation (I would be intimidated). Essentially these mobs would force feed their victims castor oil and turn them lose to have an agonizing and embarrassing bout of violent diarrhea. This, I suppose, made the victims then comply with whatever it was the fascist mob wanted in the first place. Ummm… Yeah. So don’t use it like that please.
While I’m obviously not a big fan of internal use in all but the most dire circumstances, topical use of castor oil is a miracle strong enough to make it a necessary part of every medicine cabinet. The uses for topical castor oil are threefold:
- Digestive – Castor oil over the liver and abdomen helps to treat constipation, inflammatory bowel, liver congestion, gall bladder disease, bowel adhesions, lymphatic congestion, hepatitis, liver cirrhosis and even infections in pelvic organs such as bladder and vaginal tract. For anyone looking to cleanse the liver or eliminate gallbladder sludge, this is a necessary.
- Skin – Topically castor oil can help with bacterial or fungal skin infections, rashes, acne, boils, abscesses, age spots, sebaceous cysts, warts, preventing stretch marks, ringworm, skin keratosis, swollen lymph nodes and eczema. It takes redness out of rashes through a strong anti-inflammatory action and softens even the most resistant skin, so it’s also a great natural beauty tool.
- Pain – Topical castor oil can also be used to mitigate or relieve internal pain and inflammation from many causes. This includes uterine cramping and abdominal pain related to the menses, joint pain and inflammation from arthritis, bursitis or tendinitis, muscle and ligament sprains, pain due to fluid retention in extremities, painful lymph nodes, even pain from appendicitis (although you still need to get to the ER post haste)
So – let me say this a different way. TOPICAL castor oil can help with:
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Abdominal pain and inflammation
- Adhesions after surgery
- Lymphatic congestion
- Liver detox
- Gallbladder sludge
- Pelvic infections
- Menstrual cramps or pain
- Fungal infections
- Age spots
- Stretch mark prevention
- Joint pain and inflammation
- Muscle and ligament sprains and strains
- Painful lymph nodes
The reason for it’s dramatic success in so many areas is simply the size of the primary molecule, ricinoleic acid, which comprises about 90% of the oil’s volume. Ricinoleic acid is strongly anti-inflammatory and is a small enough molecule to penetrate into the deepest layers of the skin as well as into the lymphatic channels. This penetration and effect is even better if you use heat on the area being treated. I recently had to have a C-section to deliver my little girl (the same one that was induced with castor oil – as it turns out her head was bigger than my body could handle). Castor oil topically over the C-section scar has helped it to soften and heal and really helped with the initial post-labor pain.
The best news is that 8oz of organic castor oil will run between $5 and $10 depending on how fancy a store you like to shop in. That 8oz will last most of your natural life because there’s really only so much you can use at once. Stay tuned for instructions on how to do an at home castor oil pack – both the conventional instructions, and my own much lazier method. 🙂
The castor bean plant, also called Palma Christi, or Palm of Christ. Possibly because of its hand-shaped leaves, possibly because castor oil is as close to a miracle as I’ve ever seen.
Oil cleansing is one of those things I’d heard people talking about for years before I actually worked up the nerve to try it. Let’s face it, smearing oil on your skin to clean it just seems counter-intuitive. Several years ago, in a fit of boredom, I decided to give it a whirl and I’ve never looked back. After oil cleansing my skin literally felt softer than it has ever felt. Soft and smooth and it looked kind of dewy – you can’t buy that. It was an amazing transformation after oil cleansing just once so for all you skeptics out there who have used every product imaginable and are utterly jaded on the whole “miraculous difference” thing – just wait until you’re having a bored day, and slather up!
Why Does Oil Cleansing Work?
The basic idea behind oil cleansing is that oil is natural to your skin, where soap isn’t. Oil naturally travels deep into your pores, because it’s pretty much what is meant to be in there, where water stays outside because oil and water don’t mix, and they’re already filled with oil. So if your pores are filled with oil (which seems bad) but then you’re adding it on topically (supposed to be good) then what is the real story? Essentially we’re pulling out the gross, dirty oil from your pores and replacing it with oils that are beneficial to your skin and clean so that your skin can stay smooth and soft and lovely. This is great for acne-prone skin, dry skin or combination skin and it’s amazing for anti-aging because it keeps your skin hydrated and nourished.
What Oil Should I Use?
This is where it gets fun because you get to play kitchen chemist. First, let’s start with the base:
Oil Cleansing Base:50% Castor Oil
This base has the anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties of the castor oil as well as the stability of jojoba oil. It also penetrates deeply into pores because the castor oils ha very small molecules and the jojoba is the most molecularly similar to your skin’s natural sebum. This base by itself is a great mixture and if you’re just starting out and not sure you’ll like it, it’s a great place to start. You can always add things to the mix later on.
Great add-ins for Dry Skin
Kukui nut oil – high in essential fatty acids, readily absorbed into the skin to nourish the deeper layers.
Argan oil – rare, high in vitamin E which absorbs quickly and adds a level of luxury.
Baobab oil – light, rich in vitamins A, E and F which absorbs quickly and is specifically used for hydrating and protecting dry skin.
Sea Buckthorn OIl – exceptionally rich and healing for deeply dry, chapped skin. A small amount goes a long way.
Add-ins for Oily or Blemished Skin
Meadowfoam Seed OIl – healing and nourishing and high in natural salycilates, which reduce inflammation.Hazelnut Oil – highly suited for oily skin because it has astringent properties and helps to reduce excessive oil production.
Great additions for Anti-Aging
Pomegranate Seed Oil – it isn’t hard to imagine that this is highly prized for skin care and nourishes the skin while it provides antioxidant benefits. Promotes skin regeneration.
Rosehip Seed Oil – one of my favorites this is the predominant oil for wrinkled and aging skin.Black Seed Oil – highly nutritive and restoring to the skin. A little goes a long way.
So How Do I Oil Cleanse?
This is the best part:
- Get a headband to pull your hair back because stray hair gets oily really quickly.
- Put a dime sized amount of your oil mix in your palm and use the fingertips of your other hand to gently massage it into your face – don’t forget your lips, under your jaw line and your decollete, those are highly visible areas that often have the same problems as your facial skin, and your lips will just love the moisture. Use gentle upward strokes or light taps to encourage collagen production because god knows we all want more collagen.
- Leave the oil on your skin for five to ten minutes if you have some time, or you can skip straight to washing it off if you’re in a hurry.
- Run a washcloth under super hot water and wring it out then put it over your whole face and use the heat to dissolve and liquify the oil. Don’t scrub, just use the heat to almost steam the oil off your face and wipe up what is left with the still hot washcloth.
- Marvel at the beauty of your newly lovely skin. Seriously, it’s amazing.
- Use a tiny amount of an oil based moisturizer – I love MiraCell Skin Relief and Support (for a premade product) but you can also make a lighter skin oil and use a few drops as a moisturizer. We’ll talk about that in a separate post.
The only part about this that I don’t absolutely love is the washcloths – simply because it’s hard to get the oil out of them. The best trick I’ve found is soaking them in a bowl with baking soda in the water to dissolve the oil before you put them in the washing machine. In general it shortens the lives of wash cloths, but so spectacularly worth it for such lovely skin.
This is a totally different approach to skin care that has entirely changed the way I view soaps, and not for the better. I source all of my carrier oils from Mountain Rose Herbs and keep them in the fridge to prolong their shelf life. I mix up small batches (usually just an ounce at a time) of the facial cleansing oil, and then also end up using it as an after-shower moisturizer because it feels amazing. Typically I use about 80-90% carrier oil, almost always a larger portion of rosehip oil because I’m pretty sure it’s addictive, and then experiment here and there. I love changing it up a little bit and am always trying new combinations. I have added essential oils before, but I honestly like the simple oils better by themselves. I hope you love oil cleansing as much as I do – let me know what you think!