Not all seed oils are bad! Castor oil, a vegetable oil, comes from the seeds of the castor plant (Ricinus communis) and contains a high amount of ricinoleic acid, an unsaturated omega-9 fatty acid and a hydroxy acid. It has a rich history dating back to ancient Egypt, and while it's mostly known for its laxative effects, it has also been used to treat eye infections, liver problems, and certain STDs.
The girlies on TikTok aren't really using it for these purposes, though – they're reporting its other supposed benefits, but it doesn't seem like science has caught up with it yet, considering the lack of studies on the things they're using it for. Still, we shouldn't immediately discount their findings, so let's go over why castor oil is so popular right now.
Castor Oil and Skin Health
Some believe castor oil can penetrate deep into the dermis, which helps improve and heal your skin. The comment section of one TikTok video discussing this has stunning claims that make castor oil sound too good to be true: "I've been using the castor oil compress for just 2 weeks and noticed the scar tissue in my abdomen is getting smaller!! As well as a lump in my thigh!" writes @kathykrumfisher.
@dogcrazymom adds, "I've been applying to some skin tags once a day, and they are disappearing."
Another TikToker, @glam.by.illy, echoed these conclusions and even shared an impressive before-and-after on the platform. She used castor oil on her face for two weeks, and the results are exactly what all of us are looking for: a bright, smooth, and even complexion!
"This is amazing," she said, "I freaking love this [castor oil] stuff."
So why does this work so well on our skin? According to MedicinalNewsToday, castor oil and ricinoleic appear to have anti-inflammatory properties that are helpful for treating irritated skin. It also contains triglycerides, which can help maintain moisture. But, as with any product, it may cause more breakouts, especially for those with acne-prone skin.
Morgan Rabach, MD, the co-founder of LM Medical NYC, says, "Castor oil is a moisturizer for the skin, hair, and nails, and can be used alone or with other products. I would not recommend it for people with acne-prone skin, because oils go into the pores and clog them, exacerbating acne. The moisturizing effects are beneficial for chapped lips and super dry hands and feet in winter. There are some reports that it may have some anti-inflammatory properties, although it has not been well tested or established."
Castor Oil and Labor
One survey from 1999 found that 93% of U.S. midwives purportedly used castor oil to induce labor. Another research review discovered that the oral administration of castor oil to pregnant women helped with "cervical ripening and labor induction." At the same time, castor oil has the possibility of causing uterine contractions and cause irritation. Use at your own risk!
Castor Oil Helps with Period Cramps and Joint Pain
Drop the Pamprin and the Midols: Research shows that ricinoleic acid can alleviate pain, and studies have also found its potential use in relieving osteoarthritis-related symptoms. It can relieve joint pain and menstrual cramps when applied to the skin. Dr. Daniel Schilling, founder of holistic health clinic Secoya Health, explains that castor oil is "perfect" for someone suffering from period cramps. "Any woman who's ever had menstrual cramps typically will find benefit from warmth and increasing the blood flow there; it will decrease the pain."
He added, "It should have a very dramatic impact on decreasing the severity and or the length, so the intensity and the length of the symptoms." Type in "castor oil cramps" on TikTok's search bar for yourself, and you'll be surprised at the growing number of women using it to help ease the pain. Most use a homemade castor oil pack, a compress or cloth soaked in the oil, which they apply to their abdomen.
Castor Oil As an Eyelash Serum
Those eyelash serums aren’t worth it sometimes. They’re expensive and can cause sunken or hollow eyes. Castor oil could be the best alternative to this – many girls on the platform have shared photos of their long lashes after rubbing the oil on their lids for weeks.
There aren’t studies to back this up, but other people have tried it and claimed they got the same results.
The theory on why this works so well for hair growth is because the ricinoleic acid in the oil may activate a receptor that boosts the natural production of prostaglandin, a hormone-like substance that our body produces. There aren't studies to back these claims yet, but several articles have concluded that castor oil can help make the lashes appear thicker and glossier.
Castor Oil as a Laxative
It's hard keeping up with fiber sometimes, so try castor oil next time you feel constipated. Castor oil is a natural laxative that can assist your bowel movements by causing your intestines to contract forcefully, releasing the stool in your body. As with any laxative, of course, using it for extended periods of time can lead to horrible symptoms ranging from rectal bleeding to sudden and excruciating stomach pains – so definitely avoid that.
Castor oil's popularity is evident on social media, but it's important to remember that many of these claims are anecdotal. This isn't necessarily bad, but this product may not be for everyone. At the same time, its historical background and existing studies pointing to its anti-inflammatory properties may support many of these claims. There's really only one way to find out if any of them are true, and regardless of the skepticism shown by numerous professionals, I'm willing to be its guinea pig!
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