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  • Beyond The Obvious: My Journey With Castor Oil In Ayurveda

    Beyond The Obvious: My Journey With Castor Oil In Ayurveda

    The Ayurveda Experience August 02, 2023

    I always joke with my clients that my first introduction to castor oil was when my grandmother would threaten me with a teaspoon of it or of cod liver oil when I was a sassy child. I knew it to be a laxative, but until I formally studied Ayurveda, I didn't know of its multitude of health and beauty benefits. Castor oil (ricinus communis), also known as eranda tailam in Sanskrit, can be used both internally and externally to address a wide variety of concerns. It's a completely natural and affordable one-ingredient wonder, so I recommend it to clients whenever applicable. The castor plant is incredible because almost all of its parts, including its roots, leaves, seeds, and oil can be used for countless applications. 

    Castor oil’s astounding benefits for eye wellness 

    I came to know to castor oil as an Ayurvedic home remedy when I started experiencing dry eye symptoms from increased screen time around the same time as moving to the hot and dry climate of Albuquerque, New Mexico. In The Complete Book of Ayurvedic Home Remedies, I read that using a single drop of pure, genuine castor oil is the simplest and best remedy for irritated eyes. The book recommends applying it at night, but I am much better about my morning routine than my evening routine, so I apply it in the morning or whenever my eyes feel dry and irritated and haven't had any adverse effects. I have also mixed my pure, cold-pressed castor oil with a portion of fractionated coconut oil and placed it in a dropper bottle. Coconut oil is cooling, so I find that the two oils are very compatible. I use a little extra castor oil around my entire eye area because it is very nourishing for both the eyelashes and eyebrows. This book also suggests that castor oil eye drops are an effective way to prevent cataracts from developing, as castor oil lubricates the cornea and conjunctiva of the eye and helps to remove molecules of Kapha from the lens; Ayurveda considers cataracts as a disorder of Kapha dosha.  

    The Dravyaguna Vignyan: Ayurvedic Pharmacology & Therapeutic Uses of Medicinal Plants explains that castor oil is sweet, pungent and astringent in taste with a cooling potency and a sweet post-digestive effect. The sweet nature is nourishing for Vata and Pitta and the cooling effect is soothing for Pitta. This text explains that castor oil has been traditionally used to alleviate Vata and assist with pain, skin conditions and even gas and flatulence. If someone has access to a castor bean plant, they can apply warm leaves as a topical application, but the oil is also very effective.  

    Digestive ease with castor oil 

    Although it may be uncomfortable for some to read or talk about, many people suffer from irritated rectal tissues due to constipation and straining, which can lead to inflammation and hemorrhoids. Castor oil can be used topically to soothe the blood vessels and aid rectal bleeding, but it can also be taken orally to lubricate the digestive tract and alleviate chronic constipation. It can easily be added to a hot tea in the morning or at night, as I've heard both options in teachings and have seen them both in texts. For a person who tends toward constipation as well as digestive concerns such as gas and bloating, I recommend adding 2-4 teaspoons of castor oil to ginger tea, depending on the severity of the constipation. The Complete Book of Ayurvedic Home Remedies warns that castor oil can create dependency and that it should only be used in this way only in severe cases or emergencies, but not on a regular basis. The book adds that taking two teaspoons of castor oil with one cup of warm milk provides a good bowel movement without creating a dependency.  

    Castor oil is used topically for treating Vata-type hemorrhoids, which Dr. Lad describes as "small, dry, and irregular in shape, and may be accompanied by fissures or cracking of the anus." He also adds that they are "rough and hard to the touch" and "may become active when the person takes antibiotics or does a lot of cycling or physical exercise." The person suffering from Vata-type hemorrhoids may benefit by preparation of a warm castor or sesame oil pack that they will sit on. Dr. Lad explains that "castor oil especially produces a slow, sustained heat that is soothing and healing." This preparation is made by warming up about three tablespoons of oil and spreading it equally on the cloth.  

    Other lesser-known benefits

    The Dravyaguna Vignyan also recommends it for people with asthma and the predominance of Kapha dosha because it is internally warming and will also ease excess Kapha out of the body.  

    This text mentions three prominent formulations for the castor plant: 

    • Erand pak (castor oil) which is used for arthritis and rheumatism.  Castor oil is indicated as a topical application for Pitta-type arthritis and inflammation because it is externally cooling.  
    • Erandmuladi kadha (root decoction) for backache, sciatica and constipation 
    • Erand-saptak-kashaya (saptak means containing seven ingredients, and kashayam means decoction) useful for musculoskeletal disorders to treat joint stiffness, pain and swelling 

    Another classic preparation of castor oil is called gandharva haritaki, which is haritaki powder roasted in castor oil using an iron pan. This blend has been used to treat conditions such as constipation, gas, and other digestive disorders. Some formulations may also add dried ginger powder or salt. The Complete Book of Ayurvedic Home Remedies also lists this preparation as a remedy for Vata-type anemia, which is associated with iron and folic acid deficiencies according to Ayurveda.  

    This comprehensive home remedies book also lists castor oil in a preparation to treat bursitis, or inflammation of the fluid sacs around the shoulders and knees, where bursitis generally occurs. The text recommends warming one cup of milk and adding two teaspoons of castor oil; the laxative effect helps eliminate pitta-type toxicity in the colon. Pitta is the dosha associated with all kinds of inflammation.  

    Castor oil can also be applied to reduce abdominal pain by applying a warm castor oil pack to the affected area. A castor oil pack is simple to make; simply warm up about three tablespoons of castor oil and place it on a soft piece of fabric, like flannel. You can also place a hot water bottle on top of the castor oil pack to keep it warm. This home remedy is described in the treatment of pain associated with gallstones, constipation and menstrual cramps. For Vata-type menstrual cramps, which often includes lower abdominal pain and lower back pain, plain castor oil is recommended. For Kapha-type menstrual cramps, which involves feelings of congestion, bloating, water retention, heaviness, lethargy and drowsiness, a mixture of half castor oil and half mustard oil is the recommended home remedy.  

    If all of the above reasons aren't enough to inspire you to buy a quality castor oil, it's also an Ayurvedic home remedy for hiccups. You can mix 1 teaspoon of honey with 1 teaspoon of castor oil, dip your finger in it and lick your finger every two to three minutes to alleviate stubborn hiccups.  

    Written by: 

    Heather B., Certified Ayurvedic Practitioner, Yoga Teacher, Licensed Massage Therapist.

    Heather is a Certified Ayurvedic Practitioner and plans to become a Doctor of Ayurveda. She's interested in all kinds of therapeutic/healing modalities and is one of The Ayurveda Experience's in-house Ayurvedic Practitioners. She lives in Albuquerque with her two cats and loves to cook!

    References 

    • Chauhan, M, Dr. Rasnasapthakam Kashayam--Ingredients, Uses, Benefits and Dosage. February 2020. https://www.planetayurveda.com/library/rasnasaptak-kashayam/ Lad V. The Complete Book of Ayurvedic Home Remedies. New York, NY: Harmony; 1998.  Gogte VM, Nesari T, Sangoram A. Ayurvedic Pharmacology and Therapeutic Uses of Medicinal Plants (Dravyaguna Vignyan): Supplemented with Update Research on Medicinal Plant. New Delhi: Chaukhambha Publications; 2017; 303-304 
    • Gandharva Haritaki Churna Benefits, Ingredients, Dosage. September 2014. https://www.bimbima.com/ayurveda/gandharva-haritaki-churna-benefits-ingredients-dosage/466/#:~:text=It%20is%20one%20of%20the,asthma%2C%20and%20for%20metabolic%20harmony. 
    • The Complete Book Of Ayurvedic Home Remedies : VASANT V. LAD : Free Download, Borrow, and Streaming : Internet Archive 
    • Eranda – Shri Dhanwantry Ayurvedic College & Hospital (sdach.ac.in)  
    • Gandharva Haritaki Churna Benefits, Ingredients, Dosage – bimbima 

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