Side effects of using Castor oil and its health benefits


Castor oil is derived from the bean of the castor plant of the Euphorbiaceae family. Castor Oil health benefits include laxative and anti-microbial properties & induce labor, it’s also a potent insect repellent. Castor oil side effects are toxin, allergy, infertility, organ failure if used in excess. Control use is beneficial.

Castor oil is extracted by milling, boiling, pressing or solvent extraction and also known as Oleum Palmae Christi. This oil is a viscous, pale yellow in color, inexpensive, environmentally friendly and non-drying oil with a bland taste (1). The use of castor seed oil has been documented since 2000 BC in India for the use in lamps and in local medicine as a laxative, purgative, and cathartic in Unani, Ayurvedic and other ethnomedical systems (2). 

Geographic Distribution

Castor oil major producing countries are India, Mozambique, China, the United States, and Brazil, produce over 95 % of castor bean in the world (3). It is originated in Africa and then got distributed to ancient Egypt, India, China, Iran, Africa,  Greece, and Rome. 

Constituents of Castor oil

Castor oil is a rich source of ricinoleic acid 94.59%, followed by palmitic 0.31%, linoleic 1.84%, oleic 2.05%, stearic 0.45% and eicosenoic acid 0.53% dihydrostearic acid (1%) and trace amounts of other fatty acyls (4).

Interesting Facts

Castor oil is classified by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as generally recognized as safe and effective for use as a stimulant laxative. The Joint Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)/World Health Organization (WHO) Expert Committee on Food Additives established an acceptable daily castor oil intake (for man) of 0 to 0.7 mg/kg body weight.

Castor oil health benefits

1. Antimicrobial and Anticancer properties of Castor oil

It contain-thujone, 1,8-cineole, α-pinene, Camphor and camphene which inhibit the growth of various bacteria such as Bacillus subtilis, Staphylococcus aureus, and Enterobacter cloacae.

This oil also contains cytotoxic and apoptotic properties and inhibit the growth of cancer cells thus castor oil may be useful as a natural remedy for the topical treatment of infectious diseases (5). Furthermore, polyethylated castor oil-based standard paclitaxel also plays an important role in the treatment of metastatic breast cancer (MBC) (6).

2. Castor oil is used as an insect repellents

Castor oil and cashew nutshell liquid surfactants mixture possess natural larvicidal properties which show toxic against Aedes aegypti by changes in reproductive performance and embryonic and fetal development. Thus this oil fights against mosquitos which act as vectors for dengue fever, chikungunya fever and Zika virus (7).

3. Laxative properties

Castor oil shows wonderful effect in the treatment of constipation by decreasing feces consistency, straining during defecation and feeling of complete evacuation after a bowel movement. Thus, castor oil metabolite ricinoleic acid activates intestinal and uterine smooth-muscle cells and relive from constipation (8).

4. Wound healing properties of Castor oil

Application of the oil on the wound is very beneficial because this oil treat ulcer by shorter treatment time and time to heal and a potential reduction in treatment-related nursing labor costs (9). Moreover, ricinoleic acid found in castor oil is effective to permeate through the skin and act as an anti-inflammatory agent for wound healing application (10).

5. Anti-inflammatory properties of Castor oil

Contain a large amount of ricinoleic acid which is beneficial to reducing edema formation. Thus the application of castor oil act as a non-pungent anti-inflammatory agent which may reduce established edema and suitable for peripheral application (11).

6. Increase lactation

A research study suggested that castor oil (30 g FA/kg) is helpful to increase milk fat and modified the milk fatty acid composition by increasing the hydroxy- and oxo-fatty acid in sheep (12).

7. Induce labor

Intake of castor oil (60 mL) in warm water (200 mL) may induce labor within 24 hours and women delivered vaginally with little to no maternal or fetal complications as compared to women who receive no treatment (13). Therefore, 91% of women who consumed the castor oil may safe non-pharmacological method in post-date pregnancies (14).

8. Treat knee osteoarthritis

Castor oil contains 90% of ricinoleic acid which attenuates the signs and symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, reduces inflammation. Thus castor oil capsule 0.9 mL thrice daily for 4 weeks may use in the treatment of knee osteoarthritis (15).

9. Boost immunity

Castor oil show a beneficial effect on the lymphatic system enhancing immunologic function. Thus castor oil acts as immunomodulator agents who increase the production of lymphocyte and improve the health of spleen and thymus (16).  

Side effects of Castor oil

1. Presence of toxin

Castor oil is inedible because it contains toxic compounds like ricin (protein),  ricinine (alkaloid)  and certain allergens in which ricin is more toxic than ricinine (17). Thus, precaution should be needed before consumption (18).

2. Risk of allergy

Castor oil is commonly used for radiological and colonoscopy examinations, to obtain an accurate diagnosis but after taste and oily texture of this oil are intolerable by most patients and cause adverse effects such as abdominal cramping, vomiting, nausea, abdominal fullness, fainting and insomnia, patient feel discomforts (19).

3. Risk of infertility

Castor oil exposure at early gestation, particularly when reproductive organs are being differentiated, might lead to infertility in both male and female. This oil decreases testis weight, body weight, sperm count, motility and normal morphology. Thus castor oil decrease testosterone levels and contain endocrine-disrupting capabilities (20).

4. Risk of infant death

As we know that castor bean contains small amounts of the toxin ricin however purification of the oil eliminates these toxins but a small amount of the active ricinoleic acid is thought to be absorbed from the intestine by consumption.

In Indian culture, castor oil is reportedly applied to the breasts to stimulate lactation and given to infants during the first 2 to 3 days of life to clear the intestine of meconium.  No scientifically valid clinical trials reported and may be toxic to the infant who causes paralytic ileus, aspiration pneumonia and severe hypoalbuminemia resulting in diarrhea and malnutrition. Therefore, administration of castor oil to newborns is dangerous and should be avoided (21).

5. Risk of organ failure

Large volume intake (500 ml) of castor oil through subcutaneous injection results in multiple organ damage Thus precaution should be needed before this type of unapproved methods of cosmetic enhancement (22).

6. Risk of hair falling

A research study suggested that the use of castor oil may result in hair fall Thus this oil leads to a sudden psychological breakdown in the patient and the family (23).

7. Risk of angioedema

Castor oil application may cause allergic contact dermatitis with symptoms like facial swelling and urticated lesions (24). Is is also results from sulfonated castor oil hair spray. Therefore, precaution should be needed before application and handling of castor oil bean (25).

Castor oil Uses

1. Castor oil and mineral oil nanoemulsion

The combination of castor oil and mineral oil nanoemulsion may be used as a soft contact lens because it is non-irritant with no adverse effect and prove best for ocular application (26).

2. Maintain Denture hygiene

Castor oil solution (2% in 20 mins) for 7 days show the wonderful effect on denture hygiene, removing denture biofilm which involved in oral infections and systemic diseases (27).

In another study suggested that castor oil solution (10 %) with sodium hypochlorite exhibit antimicrobial action, completely eliminate various microorganisms such as Staphylococcus aureus, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Candida albicans, Bacillus subtilis, Escherichia coli, Streptococcus mutans, Enterococcus faecalis and Candida glabrata (28).

3. Manage pain

Castor oil is one of the vital ingredients in oil therapy and oil retention enemas help to replenish the depleted body constituents. Thus oil therapy plays an important role in the management of rheumatoid arthritis (Aamavata) (29).

4. Bone implant material

The researcher discovered that Implantation of castor oil polymer after reaming of the tibial medullary canal resulted in the formation of new bone in contact with the implanted material. At 90 days a postimplantation, thick layer of bone tissue rich in osteocytes is formed and at 120 days, rapid maturation of the bone tissue and organization of collagen fibers was evident, and at 150 days, a complete repair was observed (30).

5. Cosmetic Product

Castor oil contains ricinoleic acid, along with certain of its salts and esters function may use as skin-conditioning agents, emulsion stabilizers, and surfactants, Castor oil (81% concentration) is safe and may use in lipstick (31). Soaps, waxes, greases, lubricants, hydraulic, brake fluids, fertilizers and coatings, and paints material also use castor oil (32).

Edited By: Dr. Asha Jyoti Bharati




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