Even if you’ve never explicitly purchased castor oil, chances are you’ve probably brought it home with you through your other beauty products. It’s often found in the list of ingredients for cosmetics, hair products, and skin treatments—especially those products boasting organic or natural sources.
What is Castor Oil?
Castor oil comes from the castor oil plant. The castor plant is of the flowering variety and if given the right conditions it can grow to be surprisingly tall (nearly 40 feet!), resembling more of a tree than a plant. The plant has big leaves with long stalks. They are glossy and can be red, bronze, or dark green depending on their stage of life. Castor oil plants have clustered flowers of green or red. They are petal-less flowers, but make up for their lack of petals with grand stamens. Castor plants also have visible fruits. They are long, spiky, and contain around three seeds.
The plant grows best in the Mediterranean, India, and the eastern part of Africa where the climate is dry/tropical. The castor oil plant can grow quickly, but the beans take a bit longer. The beans need quite a long season of zero-frost in order to grow to maturity.
The plant makes beans (castor beans), which are made up of about half oil. This oil is the triglyceride-rich castor oil. Each bean also contains a toxin called ricin (Castor-oil.com).
A Bit of History
It’s always nice when your beauty product has a grand history. Well, castor oil (from the castor plant) gives you just that. The Greek historian, Herodotus, mentioned the castor oil plant. He even gave it a nickname, “Kiki.” He wrote of its uses as lamp fuel and ingredients for other uses. Castor oil made its way to Greece where it, along with its extraction process, was described by Theophrastus and Dioscorides.
As if Greek history weren’t enough, castor oil was also mentioned in the Bible, in the Book of Jonah. There, it was called “Kikajon.” Castor oil also traveled through the Middle Ages, taking on a more medicinal look, by treating some skin conditions. It wasn’t until the 18th century, when castor oil began to be called by its modern name. It was not until then, when Europeans started importing castor from Jamaica, that it took on its name “castor,” and is usually manufactured into black castor oil, or Jamaican black castor oil (Castor-oil.com).
Black vs. Clear Castor Oil?
Castor oil, much like any product, can come in a variety of forms and qualities. The quality and characteristics depend on how the castor oil is manufactured. Most commonly, you’ll see clear castor oil or black castor oil. They both come from the castor plant, but are manufactured quite differently from one another.
Clear castor oil comes from a simple cold press of the castor bean. Black castor oil on the other hand has a slightly more complex process. Jamaican black castor oil requires the beans to be roasted and boiled prior to being pressed—giving the bean a dark color. When pressed, the burnt ash comes along with the oil. This ash is supposed to actually increase the oil’s benefits (CastorOil.org).
Benefits of Black Castor Oil
Castor oil (both clear and black) have a long list of benefits, depending on who you talk to. Style Craze has compiled an impressive list of benefits ranging from purely cosmetic to treating arthritis. According to Style Craze, castor oil is also said to:
Nurture the Lymphatic System
Supposedly, castor oil when used as a soaked wrap treatment, can relieve liver conditions and help to expel excess liquids from the lymphatic system.
Increase T-cell Production
This increased T-cell production can help to reduce low-grade surface tumors.
Some believe that castor oil is able to increase the number of white blood cells in the body, thus improving immunity. The increase would increase the body’s defense against common ailments.
Reduce Pigmentation of the Skin
Castor oil is often used to reduce the appearance of pigmented areas on the skin. Some dermatologists recommend it for its fatty omega-3 fatty acids. The fatty acids penetrate the scar tissue and push in out, while also hydrating the skin.
Castor oil is sometimes used as a disinfectant. It has antimicrobial properties, which allow it to be a useful technique against fungal skin conditions. It has been said to be effective against skin infections such as:
- minor cuts
Reduce the Appearance of Stretch Marks
Scars can leave a nasty memory behind. If you’re trying to fade your scars, castor oil maybe just what you need. It is a slow, solution, but has been said to be a permanent and effective one.
Just as castor oil has been said to reduce the appearance of scars, it is supposedly able to also reduce wrinkles. It can do this because it can stimulate collagen and elastin deep within the skin. The increased production of collagen and elastin leads to softer and more hydrated skin. Soft and hydrated skin is healthier and appears smoother and softer, and therefore younger. It should be applied daily to achieve these results.
Treat Skin Issues
Castor oil, as you may have already noticed, seems to be able to tackle just about anything, especially if it is skin related. Castor oil, when used in a cotton ball application, is said to treat skin conditions such as:
- dry skin
- chronic itching
- athlete’s foot
- and yeast infections, just to name a few…
Along with all of the impressive medical and treatment of more severe conditions, castor oil is often quite happily used as a mere moisturizer. It is packed full of fatty acids that seep easily into the skin to treat dry areas. A little castor oil can go along way, so you won’t have to apply loads and loads to achieve results. It’s natural and relatively inexpensive, too (Style Craze).
In addition to skin and body benefits, black castor oil is perhaps best known for its benefits to your hair and scalp. According to Essential Oils Academia, Jamaican black castor oil is said to:
Promote Hair Growth
Black castor oil is often used improve the overall conditions of your hair. This all-around health can lead to faster growing hair. The oil keeps hair follicles moist, helping you hair to retain healthy properties and avoid the typical dryness that leads to hair loss.
Repair Split Ends
Again, the moisture properties of black castor oil, will help the hair to steer clear of dryness. If the hair is moist and healthy, it is less likely to break or split at the ends.
Castor oil is lightweight and can be absorbed easily and without issue into the scalp. It goes right to work, moisturizing the scalp and hair follicles. It treats dryness without causing unnecessary buildup or blockage in the follicles. All of this combines to make castor oil a great alternative to expensive dandruff treatments and moisturizers (Essential Oils Academia).
How to use it?
Many applications of black castor oil are simple and straightforward. But, there are some useful hints to help you to get the most from your black castor oil. The Health Site can get you started with several great tips:
- Coconut Mixture for Hair Growth. Mix a bit of coconut oil with your castor oil and massage thoroughly into your scalp. Cover your head, using a shower cap or towel, and let it sit overnight. In the morning, rinse your hair well.
- Castor Oil + Olive Oil to Fight Dandruff. Add olive oil and lemon juice to your to your black castor oil. Massage into hair. Let this mixture sit for about 30 minutes. Wash thoroughly and enjoy the difference!
- Many Ways to Moisturize. Did you know you can moisturize before shampooing. Use castor oil before shampooing, at least 15 minutes, for an extra soft result. You can also mix your castor oil with aloe vera, honey and lemon juice for a deep root treatment.
Where to buy it?
There are many places to buy castor oil. You can buy black castor oil at most health outlets or order from a variety of companies online. It is most important to keep in mind that the castor oil is pure, virgin, and organic.
- CastorOil.org, Jamaican Black Castor Oil for Hair Growth, 2013, online.
- Castor-oil.com, Castor Oil Plant, online.
- Essential Oils Academia, Jamaican Black Castor Oil Benefits, 2013, online.
- Style Craze, 18 Amazing Benefits of Castor Oil for Skin, Hair and Health, online.
- The Health Site, Castor Oil – Solution for Hair Loss, Dandruff, Split Ends & More!, 2014, online.
- Image Source: naturallycurly.com