Excess use of castor oil has been associated with various risks. Some of these include skin rashes, nausea, diarrhea, and muscle cramps. The side effects of castor oil have been linked to both topical and internal use.
Here, we discuss the possible side effects of castor oil you must be wary about and the measures you can take to avoid them.
Castor Oil – A Brief
Castor oil is the pale yellow liquid that is extracted from castor seeds (Ricinus communis). The Egyptians must be credited for recognizing its benefits and putting them to use.
Castor” oil is used in cosmetics>, medicines, massage oils, and medicines – given its powerful therapeutic benefits. Around 90% of the oil is comprised of ricinoleic acid, which is its primary healing agent (1).
However, recent research associates multiple side effects with castor oil. Read the sections below to know what they are, and what possibly causes them.
How Can Castor Oil Cause Side Effects?
Castor oil is classified by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as generally recognized as safe (GRAS) and effective for use as a laxative. It is processed in the small intestine to release an active molecule called ricinoleic acid, along with other products (2).
Ricinoleic acid was suspected to be toxic to humans. But rat studies under the National Toxicology Program cleared it, stating that castor oil at concentrations up to 10% in the diet of rats was not toxic. A few human studies also produced concurrent results (2).
However, other animal trials with undiluted castor oil showed adverse effects. Ricinoleic acid, though not toxic by itself, may enhance the penetration of other chemicals through your skin. This may result in skin irritation and gut issues (2).
Here are some side effects you might want to watch out for.
What Are The Side Effects Of Castor Oil?
Castor oil overdose can cause nausea. Though recovery is likely, not controlling the nauseating symptoms can lead to severe dehydration and electrolyte imbalance. This oil is also used as a preparation means for radiological and colonoscopy examinations (3), (4).
However, most patients fail to tolerate its aftertaste and oily texture. As per an Iranian study, castor oil-induced nausea can also be accompanied by vomiting, abdominal fullness, and cramps (4).
2. Skin Rashes
Animal studies found that castor oil was mildly irritating to the skin of the test subjects. Other allergic” reactions> to castor oil are redness (erythema) and hives. These can occur on the site where the oil is applied (5).
Castor oil is not a significant skin irritant or sensitizer in human clinical tests. But ricinoleic acid in it may aggravate the condition of patients with pre-existing skin conditions (2).
3. Muscle Cramps
This seed oil is a potent laxative. However, muscle” weakness> and cramps could result from a laxative overdose. It can also cause intestinal cramps and abdominal pain if taken on an empty stomach (6), (7).
This is why pregnant and menstruating women are advised against using castor oil as a laxative. It may also induce contractions of the womb (uterus) in some cases (7).
Hence, unless advised by your doctor, do not self-medicate with castor oil. The dosage is said to make all the difference, and it is best decided by a healthcare provider.
Dizziness is another symptom of castor oil overdose. Other castor oil side effects include fainting, shortness of breath, and, in rare cases, hallucinations (3).
Synthetic derivatives of castor oil are administered with other chemotherapy medications to manage breast, lung, ovarian, and skin” cancer> in patients. Inform the doctor if subjects experience hives, dizziness, difficulty in breathing, tiredness, chest pain, and/or irregular heartbeat (8).
However, the mechanism behind this effect is not established yet.
5. Lethal For Newborns And Children
In traditional Indian medicine, castor oil is given to infants 2-3 days after birth. This practice can result in severe intestinal damage, diarrhea, pneumonia, and malnutrition” target=”_blank” rel=”nofollow noopener”>9).
Consulting your doctor before taking such dangerous steps is recommended as there is insufficient literature about the safety of castor oil use in lactating women, new-mothers, breastfeeding infants, and children (9).
You may also be asked to consume castor oil supplements by your doctor, in a few cases. Castor oil supplements come in gelatinous capsules and are available only on prescription. They have similar side effects if you don’t stick to the clinically-set dosage (9).
However, you can prevent these side effects by taking the necessary precautions.
Side Effects Of Castor Oil Supplements
Castor oil supplements are usually in the form of gelatinous capsules. These capsules may have side effects if taken in excess. Though there is less research on the safety or toxicity of castor oil supplements, anecdotal evidence suggests that they carry the risk of higher levels of contamination.
Also, it is highly likely that castor oil supplements contain castor beans, which are highly toxic (27).
Other side effects of excessive consumption of the supplements could be similar to that of castor oil – abdominal cramps, nausea, diarrhea, etc.
Since their safety is not yet established, pregnant or lactating women should specifically avoid these supplements. Also, castor supplements containing other natural herbs may increase the risk of allergies.
Hence, consult your doctor before consuming castor oil or its supplements.
What Precautions Are Needed While Using Castor Oil?
- Before you intake castor oil, you must first let your doctor know if you are allergic to plant oils.
- Health conditions of the heart, brain, lungs, and vital organs must not be hidden from your healthcare provider.
- Castor oil is not usually taken late in the day because its results occur within 2 to 6 hours.
The side effects may have largely to do with the dosing. What could be the ideal dosage?
What Is The Safe Dosage Of Using Castor Oil?
For adults and children over 12 years of age, 1-4 tablespoons maximum (15-60 mL) in a single daily dose may be safe (10).
For children of 2 to under 12 years of age, 1-3 teaspoons maximum (5-15 mL) in a single daily dose can be tried (10).
For children under 2 years of age, it is best not to give either castor oil or its supplements. Consult a doctor before taking the plunge (10).
Castor oil is an excellent traditional remedy for GI tract, hair, and skin ailments. But since it has trouble-causing active molecules, its dosage has to be regulated.
Before you ingest or apply castor oil or any of its products, we urge you to discuss it with your healthcare provider. It is best to let them decide the safety and dosage for you.
Follow the instructions set by the doctors and stay vigilant to avoid side effects.
Expert’s Answers For Readers’ Questions
Is castor oil bad for your hair?
There is no research stating that castor oil could be bad for your hair. The oil has antimicrobial properties that may fight bacterial or fungal overgrowth. It may also prevent hair-damaging inflammation.
What does castor oil look, taste, and smell like?
The oil has a yellow-greenish appearance. It has a characteristic odor and a nauseating taste.
What is castor oil made of?
The oil mostly contains triglycerides. The major ingredient is ricinoleic acid, a monounsaturated fatty acid with anti-inflammatory properties. It also contains oleic and linoleic acids.
Where is castor oil produced?
India, Brazil, and China are the primary producers of castor oil. The three countries account for over 90% of the world’s castor oil production.
Is castor oil safe for eyes?
Though it is not harmful, applying castor oil on your eyes may not be desirable. This is because castor oil might dry out the skin way too much as the skin around the eyes is delicate.
It is said that castor oil can probably be good for the growth of the eyebrows and eyelashes. But there is no supporting evidence for this application.
Does castor oil expire?
Yes. Good castor oil is clear and not cloudy. It can be anywhere between a light straw color to the color of gold, but not dark brown. Also, good castor oil is odorless.
How does castor oil work for an itchy scalp?
Castor oil has antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral properties that help treat an itchy scalp. Mix a tablespoon of castor oil with olive oil and the juice of half a lemon. Apply to your hair and rinse after half an hour. This may help cure dandruff as well.
Do castor oil packs also have side effects? If yes, what are they?
Actually, no. At least not as severe as oral ingestion of castor oil would cause. Castor oil packs are known to decrease inflammation, liver detoxification, and stimulation of the thyroid gland (beneficial for hypothyroidism).
Making the pack is simple. Simply soak a flannel cloth in castor oil. Place a heating pad over it, and directly apply it to the infected area for an hour.
- Castor Oil: Properties, Uses, and Optimization of Processing Parameters in Commercial Production, Lipid Insights, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- Final report on the safety assessment of Ricinus Communis (Castor) Seed Oil, Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Glyceryl Ricinoleate, Glyceryl Ricinoleate SE, Ricinoleic Acid, Potassium Ricinoleate, Sodium Ricinoleate, Zinc Ricinoleate, Cetyl Ricinoleate, Ethyl Ricinoleate, Glycol Ricinoleate, Isopropyl Ricinoleate, Methyl Ricinoleate, and Octyldodecyl Ricinoleate, International Journal of Toxicology, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- Castor oil overdose, MedlinePlus, US National Library of Medicine, US Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health.
- A Comparison of the Efficacy, Adverse Effects, and Patient Compliance of the Sena-Graph®Syrup and Castor Oil Regimens for Bowel Preparation, Iranian Journal of Pharmaceutical Research, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- Castor oil, TOXNET, US National Library of Medicine, US Department of Health and Human Services.
- Laxative overdose, MedlinePlus, US National Library of Medicine, US Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health.
- Castor oil induces laxation and uterus contraction via ricinoleic acid activating prostaglandin EP3 receptors, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- Paclitaxel (with polyoxyethylated castor oil) Injection, MedlinePlus, US National Library of Medicine, US Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health.
- Castor, Drugs and Lactation Database (LactMed), Bookshelf, NCBI, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- CASTOR OIL liquid, DAILYMED, US National Library of Medicine.
Ravi Teja Tadimalla is a Senior Content Writer who specializes in writing on Health and Wellness. He graduated from SRM University, Chennai, and has been in the field for well over 4 years now. His work involves extensive research on how one can maintain better health through natural foods and organic supplements. Ravi has written over 250 articles and is also a published author. Reading and theater are his other interests.