The shared quest for good hair days has led us to some amazing hair product discoveries. Of course there are stacks, aisles, and warehouses full of products all screaming their unbelievable promises of hair perfection. But consumers are changing. Nowadays we demand not only perfection, but also a natural and environmentally gentle product. If you’re not already seeking this, imagine with each shower how many drops, bubbles, and blobs of synthetically infused hair product reaches and pollutes our natural world.
One natural product buzzing around the media and pushed among hair professionals and naturalists alike is castor oil.
What is castor oil?
The castor bean plant is related to the poinsettia, the Chinese tallow tree and others. The castor bean plant was originally from Africa, but now it has been spread to ecosystems around the world. They are annual plants and grow very quickly sometimes to as tall as 10 feet. They are course and have lobed leaves that resemble stars, though different species have slightly varying appearances. The castor bean plant is becoming very popular due to, as you might have guessed, the oil it contains. The plant is about half oil in weight. Even if the plant is used primarily for its oil, the remaining seed parts can be used for fertilizer and for other uses. Although it is produced worldwide, India produces the most castor oil of all (Dr. T. Ombrello, UCC Biology Department).
Castor oil is pressed from the castor bean plant. The plant is extremely poisonous to living things. It is poisonous due to the toxins ricin and ricinus communis agglutinin. As little as one milligram can kill an adult human (Cornell University).
Castor oil is clear and thick. This colorless oil is rich and full of nutrients obtained from the castor bean seeds. It is from vegetable, hulled and taken from a pure seed. Castor oil has an interesting history. According to http://castoroil.org, castor oil was used as an ointment and lamp fuel used by the Egyptians. And though its use as a hair product is not mentioned from those times, it has been claimed that Cleopatra used it to brighten her eyes!
Castor beans have many uses. Parts of the plant and bean are used to coat fabrics, in inks, textile dyes, and when preserving leather. It can also be used in the production or manufacturing of candles, crayons, carbon paper, ointments, and paints (Purdue University Factsheet).
Benefits of Using Castor Oil Treating Hair
The benefits of this oil are hopeful. Here are just a few of the supposed abilities of castor oil:
- Re-growing Hair
Castor oil is said to rejuvenate and therefore encourage hair growth. It increases circulation letting more nutrients get deep inside of the hair.
- Darkening Hair
The nutrients in castor oil are responsible for its ability to keep moisture in your hair. It is also humectant, which along with the retained moisture, helps to keep your hair rich and dark.
- Adding Shine
Because castor oil is an oil, it protects hair and seals moisture in, giving hair a shiny and smooth glow. It can be used in a similar way as a hot oil treatment or conditioner once per week.
- Preventing Hair Loss
There are many reasons that people lose their hair. Some of those reasons include poor scalp health and weak hair follicles. Castor oil can be used to treat hair loss from these causes. It restores hair, is an anti-fungal and anti-bacterial which lets it prevent certain conditions such as: piedra, ringworm, and folliculitis.
- Treating Split Ends
Castor oil acts as a conditioner and conditioned hair helps to treat and manage split ends. Castor oil accomplishes this thanks to the many nutrients in castor oil that work right into dry hair.
- Moisturizing and Thickening Hair
Castor oil contains omega-6 fatty acids. These acids help to keep hair moist. When used regularly, castor oil and its fatty acids are said to help your hair feel and appear thicker. http://www.med-health.net/Castor-Oil-For-Hair.html.
- Treating Dandruff and Scalp infections
Tips for using castor oil
The methods for using castor oil for your hair depends on what condition you are treating or what effect you’re aiming for. Follow these tips from Med-health.net:
- To treat split ends. Mix castor oil with another light oil (e.g., jojoba, olive oil, etc.,) rub into hair in an even fashion.
- To treat hair loss. Castor oil should be used at least twice a week. It should be applied before showering and kept on the hair for no less than 30 minutes.
- For extra shine. Castor oil can act as a hot oil treatment or a conditioner. It should only be used once a week. If overused it can result in excessive and unwanted scalp oil.
- To lock in moisture. Start with a water-based moisturizer. Then use castor oil. This will result in a sustained moisture seal.
- To encourage hair growth. It can also be used as a scalp massage product to encourage hair growth when left on the hair throughout the night. It should be covered with a shower cap to ensure the most moisture works its way into hair. Leave in for the night and wash your hair normally in the morning.
- To treat dandruff: Simply put a bit of oil on to the dry affected areas of your scalp before shampooing.
The Health Site also recommends an alternative recipe for treating dandruff. You can add a tablespoon of castor oil to olive oil and lemon juice, keep it in the hair for 30 minutes.
Shopping tips for Buying Castor Oil
When buying castor oil it is important to look for oil that is cold-pressed and processed. It should be pure (100%) and virgin. You can buy castor oil from many retailers, just be sure to check the processing details. A few recommended brands (by The Health Site) are:
- Pure Castor Oil Ricinus Communis
- Sunflower Cold-Pressed Pure Natural Carrier
- Aloe Veda Cold-Pressed Hexane Free Castor Oil
Whether you choose castor oil or not for your beauty regimen, remember to choose beauty products mindfully. For, although your own appearance and self-image may dominate your thoughts and worries, take a moment to think about the effects on the environment and others when you choose harsh chemicals for a quick beauty fix. And as always, consult your health care professional when making changes to your skin and hair treatments.
- Castor Oil, What is castor oil?, [website], http://castoroil.org,
- Cornell University Department of Animal Science, Ricin Toxin from Castor Bean Plant, Ricinus communis, http://www.ansci.cornell.edu/
- Med-health.net, Castor oil for hair, http://www.med-health.net/Castor-Oil-For-Hair.html
- Ombrello, T., Castor Bean Plant, UCC Biology Department, http://faculty.ucc.edu/biology-ombrello/POW/castor_bean.htm
- Purdue University Center for New Crops & Plant Products, http://www.hort.purdue.edu/newcrop/duke_energy/ricinus_communis.html, 1998
- The Health Site, Castor oil — solution for hair loss, dandruff, split ends & more!, www.thehealthsite.com, 2014
- Image Source: http://www.lahealthyliving.com/natural-remedies-remedies/the-many-benefits-of-castor-oil/