All about castor oil benefits — and the right ways to use it!

Castor oil has many health benefits - from constipation relief to improved hair health. But you must know how to use castor oil correctly.
Bottles of oil
Castor oil is great for skincare as well as other digestive issues such as constipation. Image courtesy: Pexels
Anjuri Nayar Singh Published: 15 Apr 2024, 17:00 pm IST
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Be it constipation relief or keeping the skin moisturized, castor oil has many health benefits. It can be consumed or applied topically, and is anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial in nature. However, there are certain rules to follow while using castor oil to avoid any likely side effects.

Yes, castor oil can come with its own set of side effects. Inappropriate use of castor oil can lead to stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea as well as skin irritation, redness, and allergic reactions.

What is castor oil?

Castor oil comes from the seeds of the castor bean plant. It is yellow in colour and has a strong and distinct smell as well as taste. It is more dense and stickier than many other oils. When poured, it flows slowly and doesn’t easily drip like thinner oils, explains nutritionist Archana S.

What are the health benefits of castor oil?

1. Castor oil has a laxative effect

Castor oil is widely known for its strong laxative effect, primarily due to its high concentration of ricinoleic acid. It has been approved as a laxative by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) too. “It works on the muscles of the intestines, stimulating them, promoting bowel movements and relieving constipation,” says Archana. A study published by the National Institute of Health, also talks about the laxative properties of castor oil in more detail.

2. Castor oil has anti-inflammatory properties

A study published in Mediators of Inflammation, suggests that castor oil acts as an analgesic. Ricinoleic acid, the main fatty acid in castor oil, exhibits anti-inflammatory properties. “This may help reduce pain and inflammation when applied topically,” says Archana. The anti-inflammatory properties of castor oil can also help soothe irritated skin, reducing redness, swelling, and discomfort, points out nutritionist Dr Priyanka Kuri.

A drop of castor oil
Castor oil can be applied topically but one should not overdo it. Image courtesy: Pexels

3. Castor oil may act as an antibacterial and antifungal potion

Castor oil has antimicrobial properties, helping to fight bacteria and fungi when applied to the skin. It can also help with acne breakouts, explains Dr Kuri. A study, published in the journal Asian Pacific Journal of Tropical Biomedicine, also points out the antibacterial and antifungal properties of castor oil. It states that castor oil prevents bacterial and fungal strains

4. Castor oil is a moisturising agent

Castor oil is rich in fatty acids, which makes it an excellent moisturizer for the skin. “The thick and viscous consistency acts as an excellent layer on skin. It helps to lock in moisture, keeping your skin hydrated and soft,” says Dr Kuri. This study, published in Journal of Physics, supports the claim that castor oil helps to relieve dry skin.

5. Castor oil may promote hair growth

Massaging castor oil into the scalp can improve blood circulation, nourish hair follicles, and stimulate hair growth, says Dr Kuri. Castor oil contains nutrients that can strengthen the hair shaft, reducing breakage and split ends. Applying castor oil to the hair can help condition and soften it, making it more manageable and reducing frizz.

Is castor oil safe?

Yes, castor oil is generally considered to be safe, especially if your are using organic castor oil or Jamaican castor oil. However, you need to use it appropriately. When used more than required, it can lead to skin irritation and breakouts. With regards to consumption of castor oil, that should also be done keeping the required amount in mind. Overconsumption can lead to various digestive problems. In fact, pregnant women should refrain from consuming castor oil at all.

How to apply castor oil topically?

1. For skin

Apply a small amount of castor oil to clean, dry skin and massage gently until absorbed. Focus on areas of dryness or irritation.

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2. For hair

Massage castor oil into the scalp and through the hair, focusing on the roots and ends. Leave it on for at least 30 minutes or overnight before shampooing as usual.

How many calories does castor oil have?

Castor oil is high in calories, with about 120 calories per tablespoon (15 ml). “It primarily consists of fat, mainly ricinoleic acid, with minimal amounts of other nutrients,” says Archana. Nutritional details can vary slightly depending on the source, but this information is generally consistent across different brands and varieties of castor oil.

What to remember while consuming castor oil

  • Always follow recommended dosage instructions or consult a healthcare professional before using castor oil, especially as a laxative.
  • Avoid consuming castor oil if you are pregnant, breastfeeding, or have certain medical conditions unless directed by a healthcare provider.
  • Store castor oil in a cool, dark place away from direct sunlight to maintain its quality and shelf life.

What to remember while applying castor oil on skin and hair?

  • Always do a patch test first before applying castor oil to a larger area of the skin to check for allergic reactions.
  • Use castor oil sparingly, as it is thick and can be difficult to remove from the skin or hair.
  • Avoid applying castor oil to open wounds or broken skin, as it may cause irritation.
  • If using castor oil on the face, be cautious around the delicate eye area to prevent irritation.

How much castor oil should you consume or apply in a day?

1. For consumption

Castor oil is usually taken on an empty stomach, either alone or mixed with a beverage like juice to mask its strong taste. “It is important to ask a doctor before self-medicating with it as it can have adverse effects also,” warns nutritionist Archana S.

The recommended dosage for adults is generally 1 to 2 tablespoons (15 to 30 ml) taken orally as needed for constipation relief. However, it is crucial to start with a lower dose and gradually increase if necessary to minimise adverse effects. Children and elderly individuals may require lower doses.

2. For application

There is no specific daily dosage for topical use of castor oil. Use it as needed for skin and hair care but best to avoid excessive application.

A woman treating a wound on her elbow
Castor oil wraps help with faster wound healing. Image courtesy: Freepik

Side effects of castor oil

Consuming excessive amounts of castor oil can result in severe gastrointestinal discomfort and distress, including stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, leading to dehydration and electrolyte imbalances. “Prolonged or frequent use may also disrupt nutrient absorption, potentially causing nutritional deficiencies and gastrointestinal damage such as inflammation and ulcers,” says Archana.

Using too much castor oil can lead to skin irritation, redness, and allergic reactions in some people. “Overusing castor oil can lead to clogged pores, and it may also worsen acne for some individuals. If you experience any adverse reactions, discontinue use and consult a dermatologist for advice,” explains Dr Kuri.


Right from the treatment of constipation to helping your skin look more radiant, castor oil benefits are immense. However, it is very important to use or consume castor oil in the appropriate manner. In fact, castor oil should only be consumed after medical guidance from the doctor. Always remember to do patch test before applying to full face. If you have sensitive skin, be very careful about the quantity of castor oil that you are applying. Also make sure to wash it in time to avoid any of the side effects.

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About the Author

Anjuri Nayar Singh has over 12 years of experience in writing for various topics including lifestyle, films, television and OTT. She also writes on art and culture, education and human interest stories. ...Read More

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