CASTOR OIL PACKS: GREAT FOR PMS, CRAMPS, DETOX, AND INFLAMMATION
Maybe you've put castor oil on your lashes to help them grow but I bet you didn't know just HOW amazing and beneficial castor oil can be for the whole body!
Castor oil packs are recommended by naturopaths, Ayurvedic and other holistic health practitioners for many disorders like:
irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD) such as Crohn’s and colitis
a weakened immune system
and basically any condition other than pregnancy
Castor oil has been used in medicine since the beginning of time. There's mention of it in ancient Ayurvedic, Chinese, and Egyptian texts, heck, even Jesus Christ used it as an anointing oil.
Castor oil packs are one of the easiest and most economical ways to improve your health. It sets the foundation of healing making all your other health practices and efforts more successful and efficient.
WHAT IS castor oil?
Castor oil is derived from a bean/seed that contains essential fatty acids, (ricinoleic acid being a main active ingredient) that is anti-inflammatory, increases blood flow, lymphatic movement and therefore detoxification. It also has a history of being used orally to help with constipation although I don't have any experience with it so will not be recommending it in this blog. For these intents and purposes we will be discussing the topical use.
who can castor oil packs help?
Not to sound cliché but just about everyone.
If you're looking to...
Improve PCOS and Endometriosis Symptoms
Reduce PMS/Period Cramps
Help with Nausea
Then you should be packin'!
In a 2011 study conducted in 2 nursing homes, they examined the effects of castor oil packs on elderly patients with chronic constipation. Those who used the packs saw a notable decrease in symptoms of constipation, without any of the uncomfortable side effects of traditional laxatives, such as cramping or inability to hold stools.
After 2 months of consistent castor pack use, my super gnarly endo cramps went from their usual 8/10 to a 2/10. I was able to function without getting random gut punches by a velociraptor's claw every 20 minutes.
If you're in search of an easy, inexpensive way to improve your health, you should definitely give Castor Packs a try. They're virtually side-effect free, super relaxing and can accelerate your healing!
how does the 'pack' work?
In general -- an ample amount of castor oil is applied to the abdomen or on a piece of cloth (organic, unbleached wool or cotton flannel) which is then externally placed on the body, such as over the liver, intestines, breasts or even joints and muscles. Many people like to add heat for added benefit.
At Flora Fauna, we do the work for you so you can rest and relax with the nourishing needles and calming castor pack for 40 minutes under the heat lamp (+$35) or you can do "just the pack" as a standalone treatment without the acupuncture ($45).
When applied topically to the abdomen, the castor oil is absorbed through the skin into the tissues below. Applying heat helps to open up the pores, dilate the blood vessels and absorb the castor oil in deeper layers.
Castor oil can penetrate through the stratum corneum, the upper layer of the skin, unlike many other oils. In order to have a deep, systemic effect, the castor oil must permeate into the dermis to reach the blood vessels and lymphatic connections, which allows the flow of castor oil into the visceral or organs of the body.
This is why just putting castor oil on your abdomen alone doesn't work. It needs the compression to keep in the body's natural warmth, open up the pores and allow for greater and deeper absorption. With out a 'pack', castor oil will not penetrate as deeply and would act much more like a simple skin moisturizer instead of providing the body-wide benefits we're boasting in this blog.
Castor oil increases lymphocyte production and the circulation of the lymphatic system.
The lymphatic system is like the waste management system of the body. Toxins, bacteria, heavy metals, dead cells and other debris are collected from all over the body by the lymphatic system before being brought to the liver for filtering and then out the colon for elimination.
The castor oil packs help increase blood and lymph flow around these organs and help the body improve it's detox and waste management.
Can you imagine what would happen if the garbage truck drivers went on strike for week? When our lymphatic system gets backed up, waste and toxins accumulate, leading to a weakened immune system, irregular or incomplete bowel movements, food sensitivities, inflammation and eventually illness. When things get stagnant, disease occurs.
Castor packs have a relaxing effect on the nervous system and help to stimulate a parasympathetic (rest and digest) response. The first time I put it on I immediately experienced a sensation that was somewhat foreign at the time: Relaxation. I was so sympathetic-dominant that I had no idea how to relax or what 'relaxation' felt like it my body. It's like someone is giving you a warm, cozy hug or mom just kissed your booboo to make it better.
Our goal with acupuncture and many self-care treatments is to get our body out of the fight-or-flight that we so often operate in our busy, jam packed lives and into a state of rest where our bodies feel safe to heal and repair and castor packs are just another tool in our toolbelt to do so.
DIY OR IN THE OFFICE?
Many people do castor oil packs at home... and we highly encourage it! To see the best results you'll do the packs at home daily or weekly for best results.
Doing it in the office is a great way to see how it's done and learn tips and tricks to make the DIY process much more smooth and mess-free.
It's also a really nice treat to bask under the heat lamps in a quiet, peaceful room with no distractions, kids, or phone to disrupt our zen.
We recommend using them at least a few times a week if you feel inflamed or backed up or to focus on doing them daily the week before your period if you have PMS, cramps, etc. It's one of those things you can't really OVERDO so the more you can do it the better. Some suggest to avoid it during your period which in my opinion is to ensure there's not too much blood loss if you have a heavier flow. Proceed with your own caution and wisdom of your own body.
DIY OPTION 1: Old School
Doing it the OG way, you can purchase organic cotton flannel for about $12 online (get organic + unbleached to avoid leaching of dyes/chemicals) to DIY at home. You apply the castor oil to the flannel and then put it on your abdomen covering the liver, intestines, or over the uterus/ovaries, based on where your areas of concern are.
Next, you'll wrap your abdomen with plastic wrap to prevent mess and help it stay on (castor oil is very sticky and hard to remove). Be sure to lay down a towel or sheet underneath you when applying and to wear an old shirt or something you don't care about on top of it.
Leave it on for an hour and when it's time to take it off, you can use soap or a little water and baking soda for easier removal. (I just get in the shower and use Dr Bronner's soap to get most of it off). You can fold up your flannel and put it in a woven or plastic bag to reuse. Toss it once it becomes too saturated or visibly dirty!
DIY OPTION 2: Mess-Less
There are now some companies that make castor oil packs in a convenient wrap to more easily incorporate this beneficial tool into your daily routine. The packs have straps with buttons to wrap around your body and keep the pack in place while you go about your business. The cloth is double-sided with the interior side that touches your skin being a soft, organic cotton and the outer side is made of a liquid resistant material to help protect your clothes and keep the oil in the pack.
With these types of packs I recommend putting the oil on your skin first and then placing the cloth on top to avoid over-saturating the pack. While they are able to be washed it can be a messy process.
If you are only applying the goldilocks-style "right" amount of oil (not too much but not too little), you won't need to wash it for approx 8 uses. After about 3 months of consistent use I recommend putting the 'ol pack to rest and purchasing a new one.
We personally use LuLu Naturals at home as well as sell them in the office for you to 'Keep Calm and Castor Pack On' yourself at home.
A few important things to note
Choose organic, unrefined castor oil that comes in a dark, glass bottle (not plastic) and organic, unbleached cotton. We're trying to get those toxins OUT of you so it's best to use non-toxic tools.
Pregnant women should not use castor oil packs unless trying to induce labor (which is outside the scope of this post).
Do not use castor oil packs if you have a copper IUD.
Castor oil packs can be done daily and consistency is key if you want to see if you want to see results!
Don’t want to deal with the mess or still not sure how it works?
Come see us at Flora Fauna Wellness! It's a super relaxing treatment and gives acupuncture treatments a super-boost. It's easy-peasy to book online.
Let us know if you have questions about castor oil packs!