Moving on to more “exotic” techniques to increase immune system efficiency, we come to castor oil. I can remember my dad telling me time after time about his mother’s devotion to castor oil when he was growing up. At the first sign of any illness in one child, she would immediately give all the children a quick oral dose of castor oil.
There’s no doubt it provided a quick solution for constipation, and from what I can tell, it must have a positive effect on memory too. My dad can vividly remember the taste and effects of castor oil to this very day.
In many ways, castor oil is a very unique substance. While most of us are familiar with its use as a remedy for constipation, folk healers in this country and around the world have used castor oil to treat a wide variety of conditions. Its effectiveness is probably due in part to its peculiar chemical composition.
Castor oil is a triglyceride of fatty acids. Almost 90 percent of its fatty acid content consists of ricinoleic acid. To my knowledge, ricinoleic acid is not found in any other substance except castor oil. Such a high concentration of this unusual, unsaturated fatty acid is thought to be responsible for castor oil’s remarkable healing abilities.
Ricinoleic acid has been shown to be effective in preventing the growth of numerous species of viruses, bacteria, yeasts and molds. (J Am Oil Chem Soc 61;37.323-325.) This would explain the high degree of success in the topical use of the oil for treating such ailments as ringworm, keratoses (non-cancerous, wart-like skin growths), skin inflammation, abrasions, fungal-infected finger- and toenails, acne and chronic pruritus (itching).
Generally, for these conditions the area involved is simply wrapped in cloth soaked with castor oil each night, or if the area is small enough, a castor oil soaked Band-Aid can be used. (For persistent infections and those finger- and toenails that have discolored and hardened, a good 10 to 20 minute soak in Epsom salts, prior to applying the castor oil, usually speeds up the healing process.)
Castor oil’s antimicrobial activity, while very impressive, comprises only a small part of the story concerning this mysterious oil. While castor oil has been thoroughly investigated for its industrial uses, only a minimal amount of research effort has been directed toward its medicinal benefits.
In Russia the oil is known as “Kastorka.” The stem of the plant is used in the textile industry. The extracted oil has a very consistent viscosity and won’t freeze even in Russia’s severe climate. This makes it an ideal lubricating oil in industrial equipment. Medicinally, the oil is added to products to restore hair (one part oil to 10 parts of grain alcohol), treat constipation, skin ulcers, some infectious gynecological conditions and eye irritations.
The castor bean plant is actually native to India, where it is called “Erand.” There we found it being used extensively for all types of gastrointestinal problems like constipation, dysentery and inflammatory bowel disease. It was also used to treat bladder and vaginal infections and asthma. We were told the seed kernels or hulls (without the actual seed) could be boiled in milk and water and taken internally to relieve arthritis and lower back pain accompanied by sciatica.
We also found early reports of nursing mothers in the Canary Islands using poultices made from the leaves of the castor bean. They applied the poultice to their breasts to increase milk secretion and relieve inflammation and milk stagnation in the mammary glands. Applying the poultice to the abdominal area promoted normal menstruation.
While I find all of these uses of castor oil very interesting, the most exciting use deals with ways to increase topical absorption through the use of castor oil packs or poultices.
Much of the current use of castor oil packs, in the U.S. anyway, can be attributed to the late healing psychic, Edgar Cayce. Time after time he recommended their use. Based on his reports, I began to use them in my practice over 12 years ago. But even though I, and numerous other doctors, have continued to experience remarkable results, the technique is still practically unknown and shunned by most health care professionals today.
This is probably due to two reasons. First, it’s just too simple. It’s hard for most people to imagine that something as simple as castor oil packs could have a profound effect on any health problem. Secondly, in our present health care system, positive results alone do not constitute the critical factor in determining whether a treatment will be accepted by the medical establishment. [Everybody (except probably the poor patient) now seems to be more concerned about how something is supposed to work, than whether it actually works at all.] Recent research data presented by longtime follower of Edgar Cayce, Dr. William McGarey of Phoenix, Arizona, might help shed some light on how castor oil works.