Rub Your Aches Away with Castor Oil

Rub Your Aches Away with Castor Oil

Castor oil is widely used to get the bowels moving smoothly, but did you know that this golden-yellow, sticky oil can do wonders for body’s aches and pains?

This native to India wonder oil is made by cold pressing the castor plant seeds to extract the medicinal oil.  The active ingredient in the oil is called ricinoleic acid and it has amazing healing abilities such as reducing pain and swelling.(1)  Ricinoleic acid is rarely found in plants with the exception of castor plant, which is unique because it contains 90% of the healing substance compared to other sources.(2)  The mash waste that remains after extracting the oil contains toxic substance called ricin and can kill an adult with just ½ milligram when ingested!(3)  The good news is that ricin is water-soluble and does not remain in the oil.   To err on side of caution, the best rule to go by is don’t drink it, apply it.

How Does it Work?

Although the exact mechanism of how castor oil works on musculoskeletal system is uncertain, historically castor oil has been used to reduce muscle tension, sprains and pain.  A study out of India looked at the effectiveness of castor oil massage with hot application to the knee as pain management.  Approximately a tablespoon of oil was rubbed on the knee joint for 5 minutes.  A hot water bag was placed on top for 5-10 minutes. At the end of 2 weeks, the inflammation associated with osteoarthritis was reported to be significantly less. (4)

Other Uses

Other topical uses of castor oil include reducing menstrual cramps, liver detoxification, skin infections and digestive complaints.  Just apply the oil where it hurts!  To prevent making a mess, after rubbing the oil on the affected area cover it with an old cloth.  You can also apply warmth by using a heating pad over the cloth to help the oil penetrate the skin.

Purchasing Castor Oil

When selecting castor oil for topical use, make sure that it is cold pressed, 100% pure and of cosmetic grade.  You can find it in health food stores for around $15 for 32 oz.

It is important to consult your healthcare provider if symptoms don’t resolve to rule out any underlying conditions.   Castor oil is not recommended for internal use, especially for pregnant and lactating women, intestinal blockage issues, acute inflammatory intestinal disease, appendicitis or abdominal pain.


  1. Boddua SHS, Alsaaba H, Umarb S, Bonama SP, Guptaa H, Ahmed Anti-inflammatory effects of a novel ricinoleic acid poloxamer gel system for transdermal delivery. International Journal of Pharmaceuticals. Vol 479, Issue 1, 207–211, 2015.
  2. Nagaraj Oilseeds: Properties, Processing, Products and Procedures. New India Publishing Agency. Pitam Pura New Delhi, 2009.
  3. CDC Ricin.
  4. MA SS, Missiriya S. Effectiveness of castor oil massage with hot application on knee joint pain among women. Education. Sep;25(40):50, 2015.