From cosmetics to constipation, castor oil has been labelled as a cure-all for just about everything. This once-forgotten remedy is making a comeback as a natural solution for many modern health concerns.
Registered dietitian Kindness Nkuna from Durban highlights that castor oil has been widely used to treat several kinds of diseases owing to its anti-inflammatory properties.
“Castor products have been applied to treat minor issues like menstrual pain, gastrointestinal infection, athlete’s foot, sunburns, and induction of labour pain in most African countries. In South Africa, it is commonly used as a laxative to treat construction due to its bioactive compounds,” she says.
A wonder for hair
Ziyanda Myeni from Utrecht in KwaZulu-Natal says she’s been using castor oil as a laxative, but now mostly for her hair. She is aware of the benefits it has had for her, regardless of the harsh smell it tends to have.
“I’ve been using the oil for my hair by applying it to my scalp for over a year now, about two to three times a week. It has really helped my scalp from dryness and prevented my hair from breaking.”
Bridgette Ngwenya from Mpumalanga, who uses castor oil on her hair and face, says people should not underestimate its work of wonders.
“I use it to base my scalp since I’m growing an afro. I also apply it twice a week to my face to keep it soft, even on my lips, because I have dry lips. Ever since I’ve made it a norm to apply it as a base on my scalp, it has increased the volume of my afro and made my skin soft and clear with no side effects.”
Nkuna says what makes castor oil diverse in many aspects, including constipation, hair, and skin, is its high nutritional value.
“Castor oil has a high nutritional value due to its high amount of monounsaturated fatty acids and bioactive compounds such as vitamin E, phospholipids, phenolics, etc. This also accounts for castor oil’s stability and flavour, making it suitable for many purposes.”
She further suggests other beneficial ways in which it can be used:
- It can be used as an immune system booster. Taking castor oil can help improve blood flow, encouraging the creation of the lymphocyte white blood cells that fight bacteria, and enhancing the health of the thymus gland, which produces T cells for the immune system.
- It can help with insomnia, and the consumption or topical application of castor oil may help with relaxation, and improving sleep.
- Castor oil could relieve the symptoms of migraines and severe headaches.
“Consuming a small amount can incorporate the oil’s anti-inflammatory benefits,” Nkuna adds.
Just beware of these factors
Despite the benefits of this versatile oil, Nkuna alerts people to certain contra-indications or precautions they should consider before using it.
- It is important to use castor oil under medical supervision. If unsure about doses, consult a doctor or pharmacist.
- People with hypersensitivity, GI obstruction or perforation, severe impaction, symptoms of appendicitis or acute surgical abdomen, ulcerative colitis, and rectal fissures should refrain from using it.
- Avoid high doses over long periods of time, as overdosing can cause severe diarrhoea.
- If experiencing stomach cramping, nausea, vomiting, and dizziness stop taking it immediately.
- Pregnant women should avoid castor oil as it is used to induce labour and could cause premature labour.
- Do not use over long periods of time, long-term use of castor oil for constipation can cause electrolyte problems and dehydration.
“Castor oil is an old folk remedy that may have significant benefits for a number of different conditions. It is worth saying that castor oil is the sole oil with such a high amount of fatty acid, which makes it unique from other vegetable oils,” says Nkuna.
Get the Health For Mzansi newsletter: Your bi-weekly dose of kasi health, wellness and self-care inspiration.