Home   >   Articles   >   Caribbean Naturals – Five Reasons To Love Castor Oil Like Our Grannies

Caribbean Naturals – Five Reasons To Love Castor Oil Like Our Grannies

by Lou-Ann Jordan Sep 18, 2023

Share this

Now you may be questioning our title with this one. Is castor oil really natural, and should it fall under the classification “Caribbean”? Well, we believe it does. Moreover, it has earned its place among our group because of its popularity with our grannies. 

Growing up, many of us may have encountered the oil as a laxative. Like the aloe vera plant discussed in our last edition of Caribbean Naturals, and many of the other raw materials we’ll cover in this series, castor oil has been a part of our old folks’ toolkit for a long time.

But what does science have to say about this oil? Also, before we delve into that, aren’t you somewhat curious about its origins? Well, let’s begin with the latter first.

Castor oil is a vegetable oil extracted from the Ricinus communis or castor bean plant. Indigenous to the Ethiopian region of East Africa as well as India, the plant has become naturalised in other tropical countries. The fast-growing shrub has earned the description of being highly invasive and weedy.

Did you know that it harbours some toxicity? The seeds of the plant and its leaves are poisonous, as both contain ricin. However, its bean-like seeds have a higher concentration of the toxic protein. Furthermore, according to Colorado State University’s Guide to Poisonous Plants, the effects of digested ricin appear within hours and tend to be fatal.

Still, don’t toss your bottle of the good stuff.  Castor oil is quite safe, as the ricin is removed during the oil extraction process. Besides, as our grandparents and parents believed, castor oil offers notable benefits. Of course, the most well-known one is as a laxative.  For some of us, it was part of the ritual of returning to school after the holidays.  Our days spent eating an assortment of fruits and salty or sweet snacks came to an end with a good castor oil ‘clean out’. Yes, castor oil is a powerfully effective laxative.

Castor oil plant with red prickly fruits and colorful leaves. Ornamental plant in the flowerbed

But there are other uses for this oil. Let’s take a look:

Helps heal wounds. Did you know that when castor oil is applied to wounds, it acts as a sealant? The oil shields the wound from infection, even reducing dryness. Healthline further states that it diminishes the occurrence of dead skin cells, which can delay healing. Next time you’ve got a cut or bruise, try applying an ointment that contains castor oil. It’s likely to heal faster.

Aids in fighting inflammation. If you have psoriasis or rheumatoid arthritis and haven’t thought of using castor oil, you may want to pick up a bottle. The fatty acids in this wonder oil have anti-inflammatory properties. Ricinoleic acid, not to be confused with ricin, is the fatty acid that makes castor oil effective in reducing swelling and relieving pain.

Promotes dental health. The antifungal properties in castor oil may help with gum and root canal infections and plaque overgrowth. These dental issues generally result from a fungus called Candida albicans. However, a 2012 study showed that applying castor oil eliminated the fungus.

Improves hair health. The benefits of castor oil on our hair may be something with which we’re quite familiar. Who doesn’t love their Jamaican black castor oil? But do you know why it’s useful? As a long-chain fatty acid, castor oil contains properties that nourish hair follicles. In addition to being an excellent lubricant for your hair shaft, it adds moisture to a dry scalp and prompts hair growth.

Fights acne. Undoubtedly, this benefit may have caught your attention, as we don’t necessarily think of castor oil as an acne-busting treatment. Once again, the ricinoleic acid found in castor oil makes this oil effective in treating pimples. Its anti-inflammatory property helps reduce redness and swelling.  Additionally, it moisturises the skin while fighting bacteria.

Castor oil is a natural oil deeply rooted in our practices handed down by our grandmothers or elders. Yet, while they knew of and taught us its purgative uses, it offers so much more.

Of course, practice caution when using because, although generally safe, it can also produce adverse side effects for some.

We’ve now looked at the aloe vera plant and castor oil, but there are many other plants, seeds, or fruits that were part of our grannies’ arsenal. In our next issue, we’ll take a look at the widely popular cocoa butter.

Stay tuned.

Sources: Healthline, CAB International, Colorado State University, Elle and Fine Gardening.