Castor oil is an oil from which the plant takes its name, probably coming from its use as a replacement for castoreum, a perfume base made from the sebaceous glands of the castor (castor in Latin). It is obtained by pressing the seeds.

Castor Oil – What is it

Castor oil is a colorless to very pale yellow liquid with a distinct taste and smell. Its boiling point is 313 ° C (595 ° F) and its density is 961 kg / m3. It is a triglyceride in which approximately 90 percent of the fatty acid chains are ricinoleates. Oleate and linoleates are other important components.

Castor oil and its derivatives are used in the manufacture of soaps, lubricants, hydraulic and brake fluids, paints, dyes, coatings, inks, cold-resistant plastics, waxes and polishes, nylon, pharmaceuticals, and perfumes.

Castor Oil – Composition

Among fatty acids, ricinoleic acid is unusual, causing ricinoleic acid (and castor oil) to be more polar than most fats. The chemical reactivity of the alcohol group also allows for chemical derivatization that is not possible with most other seed oils. Due to its ricinoleic acid content, castor oil is a valuable chemical in raw materials, costing more than other seed oils.

Castor Oil – Benefits

Castor oil is a multipurpose vegetable oil that people have used for thousands of years. It is made by extracting oil from the seeds of the Ricinus communis plant.

These seeds, which are known as castor bean, contain a toxic enzyme called ricin. However, the heating process that castor oil undergoes deactivates it, allowing the oil to be used safely.

Castor oil has a number of medicinal, industrial, and pharmaceutical uses. It is commonly used as an additive in food, medicine, and skin care products, as well as in industrial lubricants and biodiesel fuel components.

In ancient Egypt, castor oil was burned as fuel in lamps, was used as a natural remedy to treat ailments such as eye irritation, and was even given to pregnant women to stimulate labor.

Today, castor oil remains a popular natural treatment for the most common conditions, such as constipation and skin ailments.

1. A powerful laxative

It is classified as a stimulant laxative, which means that it increases the movement of the muscles that push material through the intestines, helping to clear the intestines.

Stimulant laxatives work quickly. When consumed by mouth, castor oil breaks down in the small intestine, releasing ricinoleic acid, the main fatty acid in castor oil. Ricinoleic acid is then absorbed by the intestine, stimulating a strong laxative effect.

In fact, several studies have shown that castor oil can relieve constipation. For example, one study found that when older people took castor oil, they experienced decreased symptoms of constipation, including less straining during bowel movements and fewer sensations of incomplete bowel movements.

While castor oil is considered safe in small doses, larger amounts can cause abdominal cramps, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Although it can be used to relieve occasional constipation, castor oil is not recommended as a treatment for long-term problems.

2. A natural moisturizer

Castor oil is rich in ricinoleic acid, a monounsaturated fatty acid. These types of fats act as humectants and can be used to moisturize the skin. Moisturizers lock in moisture by preventing water loss through the outer layer of the skin.

Many popular moisturizing products found in stores contain potentially harmful ingredients like preservatives, perfumes, and colorants, which can irritate the skin and harm overall health.

Swapping these products for castor oil can help reduce your exposure to these additives. Also, castor oil is cheap and can be used on the face and body.

Castor oil is thick, so it’s often mixed with other skin-friendly oils like almond, olive, and coconut oil to make an ultra-hydrating moisturizer. Although applying castor oil to the skin is considered safe for most, it can cause an allergic reaction in some people.

3. Promotes wound healing

Applying castor oil to wounds creates a moist environment that promotes healing and prevents ulcers from drying out. Castor oil stimulates tissue growth so that a barrier is formed between the wound and the environment, reducing the risk of infection. It also reduces dryness and cornification, the accumulation of dead skin cells that can delay wound healing.

Studies have found that ointments containing castor oil can be especially helpful in healing pressure ulcers, a type of wound that develops from prolonged pressure on the skin.

Castor Oil – Uses


In the food industry, castor oil (food grade) is used in food additives, flavorings, sweets (eg, polyglycerol polyricinoleate or PGPR in chocolate), as a mold inhibitor and in packaging. Polyoxyethylated castor oil (eg Kolliphor EL) is also used in food industries.

In India, Pakistan and Nepal cereals are preserved by applying castor oil. Prevents rice, wheat and legumes from rotting.


Although castor oil is widely used to induce labor in pregnant women, there is not enough research to date to show whether it is effective in ripening the cervix or inducing labor.

Alternative medicinal use

In naturopathy, castor oil has been promoted as a treatment for a variety of human health conditions, including cysts. Applying it to the skin has been claimed to help cure cancer.

Skin and hair care

Castor oil has been used in cosmetic products included in creams and as a moisturizer. It has also been used to improve hair conditioning in other products and for purported anti-dandruff properties.


Castor oil is used as a bio-based polyol in the polyurethane industry. The average functionality (number of hydroxyl groups per triglyceride molecule) of castor oil is 2.7, so it is widely used as a rigid polyol and coating.

It is not a drying oil, which means that it has a low reactivity with air compared to oils such as linseed oil and tung oil. Dehydration of castor oil produces linoleic acids, which do have drying properties.

Precursor of industrial chemicals

Castor oil can be broken down into other chemical compounds that have numerous applications. Transesterification followed by steam cracking gives undecylenic acid, a precursor to the specialized nylon 11 polymer and heptanal, a fragrance component.

Samantha Robson
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Dr. Samantha Robson ( CRN: 0510146-5) is a nutritionist and website content reviewer related to her area of ​​expertise. With a postgraduate degree in Nutrition from The University of Arizona, she is a specialist in Sports Nutrition from Oxford University and is also a member of the International Society of Sports Nutrition.

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