Castor oil packs have been used for centuries for their medicinal and therapeutic benefits as a home remedy and they are still used all over the world today.
One wonders how folk remedies begin, especially ones that go back in time for thousands of years and run throughout so many civilizations, from Asia, Africa, Greece, the Netherlands, India and to the Americas. This is true with castor oil packs.
One of the reasons I think this is the case is because they work.
Castor oil packs are able to:
- Ease pain
- Decreases inflammation
- Nudges the lymphatics
- Increases blood flow
- Helps clear your body of impurities.
All of us at, some time or another will probably benefit from the use of this effective remedy.
Today it is used for intestinal discomfort, gallbladder, liver detox, lung congestion, joint pain and inflammation, to improve lymphatic circulation and as a beauty and hair product, among other things. The purpose of the lymphatic system is ultimately to transport impurities out of the body.
One of the goals of using a castor oil pack is as an aid to enliven and enhance that process, thus helping not only a specific area, but our bodies as a whole.
Castor oil is an unsaturated fatty acid which gives it the ability to penetrate into the skin and then into organs. It assists the lymphatic system in detoxifying and drawing out impurities in the areas where you have applied the oil.
The lymphatic system is part of the circulatory system and a vital part of the immune system, so castor oil packs support and invigorates the functional level of our bodies. The oil is antiviral, antibacterial and antifungal.
So you can see how these packs can have a positive effect on our body’s ability to fight disease. Further it works directly to bring healing, or at least relief, without the use of potentially harmful drugs.
At the turn of the 20th century and well into the 1950’s many mothers gave this oil to their children by mouth as a daily routine. They gave it as a tonic or for “whatever ails you”. NOT a very good practice. It is an aggressive purgative.
Meaning those kids spent a lot of time in the bathroom, if they could make it there fast enough! It was harsh treatment and is no longer widely used internally, as the castor bean from which the oil is extracted can be toxic when used in that way.
Castor oil packs can be applied to even the smallest painful area like a tennis elbow, an arthritic knee or an inflamed single joint. The pain of rheumatoid arthritis can be severe but merely rubbing castor oil into the painful area can offer some degree of relief.
Packs are frequently used on the abdomen for intestinal issues or over the liver as a detoxification process. Caution: If you have a new pain or new injury, first visit a doctor to get a diagnosis and possible treatment.
There are a variety of methods used in the application of oil packs, all intended to reach the same goal. In this article I am offering the method that I have been successfully using for a long time. Do what works for you.
Although castor oil is no longer recommended for internal use, as an external treatment it excels.
Since we are entering the winter season I thought it would be helpful to focus on lung congestion. A castor oil pack can be useful for either acute or chronic lung conditions. I will go over step by step instructions, with photos, a bit later.
First, acute conditions like tight chest colds, croup, bronchitis and even whooping cough can be effectively treated by castor oil packs over the lung area, to relieve symptoms and restore easier breathing quickly. Of course you would want to see your healthcare professional for an assessment, but usually there are no contraindications against using castor oil packs on adults or children.
Always stay with a child to make sure the heating pad stays on the low setting and the cord is tucked safely where it belongs and doesn’t get wrapped around the neck or an extremity. Keeping the pack on for about an hour should be sufficient. By that time the child (or adult) may have stopped coughing and then drifted off to sleep.
If they are sleeping don’t worry about removing the pack immediately. You can leave it in place for two hours or so. Sleep is an excellent restorative!
Chronic conditions like COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease), chronic bronchitis, and frequent pneumonia can have their symptoms decreased with the use of castor oil packs because they draw down inflammation and loosen phlegm which can then be more easily expectorated.
Packs can make these chronic diseases a little easier to live with and I have found that treating with packs early in an illness may even decrease the need to make yet another trip to see the doctor. Some people apply packs on a schedule like 3 days on, then 4 days off.
Others do every day or every other day whenever the lungs have increased congested. You will figure out what is best for your particular situation.
I have used this treatment, as well as several other natural remedies, on my husband and his doctor finally asked me, “What are you doing? Your husband should not be doing this well!”
I know it’s a rare doctor who will say something like this but then when I told him all the other things I was doing the doctor wanted me to explain more so he could offer these treatments to other of his chronic patients for whom he’d run out of options!
That was amazing to me. I have been a nurse for many years and worked closely with many physicians and few, if any, of them would have responded as did this young doctor.
These packs and other remedies have made it possible to stay away from some of the heavy duty medications…like prednisone, for which we are very thankful!
Okay, so how do we make and use a castor oil pack for lung congestion?
The same general method I describe below is applicable to all areas of the body where you might need a pack. The size of the cotton flannel pieces will vary with the size of the area to be treated.
What you’ll need:
- 1 kitchen-size garbage bag cut down one side and along the bottom to make a plastic sheet large enough to lie on.
- 3-4 ounces of cold pressed, cold processed castor oil.
- A smaller section of plastic bag to be placed over the cotton/ wool flannel.
- Thin cotton or linen kitchen towel.
- Two 12″x6″ strips of cloth from an old 100% cotton tee-shirt or cotton / wool flannel as pictured below. If using this on a child the two strips may need to be cut smaller. Cut them so they cover both sides of the chest over the lungs.
- A heating pad or hot water bottle.
- 1-2 thick bath towels
Castor oil: I can’t emphasize strongly enough how necessary it is to purchase quality oil. It must be cold pressed, cold processed, paraben and hexane free. Why, you might ask. Well, by using cold-pressed oil, you can be reasonably certain it will contain the vital compounds I mentioned earlier, that are beneficial to the body. Without those substances, the benefits would be absent or minimal.
Do not use the Jamacian Black castor oil. It is not suited to our purposes here.
The rest of the needed equipment can, most likely, be found around your house. The bottle will last a long time depending on frequency of use. It should be kept refrigerated after opening.
Do NOT purchase castor oil from China! It is often inferior and mislabeled as a 100% castor oil when tests have proven it is not.
The ones I use are made by Home Health but I am sure that you will be just as successful using an old, clean, white cotton tee shirt that has been cut to fit your size specifications, depending on what part of the body you will be treating.
The size of the one pictured above is Small – 12” x 18” They are available in larger sizes. After 25-30 uses they should be washed in hot soapy water, rinsed well and re-saturated with castor oil.
Instructions to Prepare Wool or Cotton Flannel
This step is only done once and then will last for 25-30 treatments before the process is repeated.
Place about 4 – 5 oz. of castor oil and the 12” x 6” strips of wool or cotton flannel into a pint size wide mouth canning jar and pour the castor oil over the cloth. Close the jar with a tight fitting lid. See photo below.
The oil has already saturated this flannel. That’s why you can’t see it well here. Flannel should be thoroughly soaked but not dripping.
Next, place the pint jar containing the oil and cloth into a bowl of hot tap water. If your tap water doesn’t get very hot then you may have to pour a little heated water into the bowl. If the jar tries to float just place a heavier object on the lid to keep the jar submerged in the hot water.
Leave in place for about 15 minutes. You might need to change the water as it cools. This gently heats the contents, keeping all the vital constituents, such as phytonutrients, undecylenic acid, and ricinoleic acid, active and effective.
The patient can apply the treatment alone or have someone else do it for them. This is a procedure I do for my husband about every other day during the coldest months. It’s relaxing and he feels that it is helpful in warming clearing his lungs.
- Have patient lie down on a plastic sheet or split trash bag, as the oil could stain bed sheets and clothing.
- Next lay the two oil saturated strips over the chest and sides covering the lung area. Do this on the right and left sides. As you may have noticed I cut these strips about 12” x 8” because I think it is beneficial to cover more than just the top of the chest. Of course, if doing this on a child the cloth would be cut to fit them.
- Next, cover the packs with a section of plastic. A small grocery bag cut and opened works well.
- Then I place a very thin cotton/ linen kitchen towel that I have dedicated to use with the castor oil packs. I do this as a safety precaution between patient and heat source. Tuck around patient.
- Place the heating pad over the thin cotton towel and plastic covered castor oil packs. This is an extra large heating pad so, as you can see, it wraps completely from one side, across the chest and down to cover the other lung area. If you have a smaller one that doesn’t fit over the entire area just move the heating pad to the other side, alternating every 15 minutes.
The heating pad is set on LOW temperature.
- Lastly, cover the entire chest area with two thick bath towels, trapping the heat and helping the castor oil constituents propel to the lung area where they can begin their cleansing, drawing, detoxifying processes. Pull bedclothes over the shoulders if wanted. In this position the patient is able to rest or read in a quiet, healing atmosphere.
When not in use, the soaked cotton or wool flannels are folded and stored in the refrigerator in that same pint jar until the next use. Warm them before each treatment – if you value your life!
After the session is finished, the treated area needs to be cleansed well to remove excess oil from the skin.
Keep all of your equipment together near the area were treatment is given. Keep the oil- soaked flannel in the canning jar, covered tightly, in the refrigerator. Remember to warm it well before each use or allow it to come to room temperature.
Castor oil should not be taken internally. It should not be used during pregnancy, breastfeeding, or during menstruation.
In the coming months, I hope to add a few more skills to our self-reliance medical bag.
Learning how and when to use castor oil packs is one small, but important, step in becoming more medically prepared and able to help our family, friends, and others both now and in times of crisis.