Castor Oil for Constipation Relief

Castor oil has long been used as a natural remedy for constipation. Is it really effective for a constipated bowel or is castor oil just another fad?

The use of castor oil for constipation treatment goes back centuries and this article will discuss everything about castor oil. 

What is castor oil? What are castor oil’s uses? What are its side effects and what you need to be careful of. 

What is Castor Oil

Castor oil is an edible vegetable oil extracted from the seeds of the castor plant (Ricinus communis). Castor plants are native to East Africa, but they can be found growing in warmer tropical regions throughout the world, including South America, Australia, and even North America.

The use of castor oil for constipation relief can be traced as far back as Ancient Egyptian times. In America, castor oil use dates back to the pioneer days. Traveling medicine men sold a mixture of castor oil with alcohol to treat everything from constipa­tion to heartburn.

Castor oil is still used internally today for chronic constipation as a stimulant laxatives. It can be used externally for a variety of skin irritations, and industrially, it’s even used in everything from paints and lubricants to plastics.

Castor OIl for Constipation

Castor Oil Uses

Constipation is a common reason to use castor oil, but there are many more uses. Castor oil can be used to treat various ailments and can even be applied industrially.

Castor oil is used: 

  • As a stimulant laxative to relieve constipation
  • As a bowel purgative to prepare for a surgery or procedure
  • For skin corns, abscesses, sunburn, dermatitis, ringworm, and open sores
  • For menstrual cramping and fibroid tumors
  • For digestive tract problems, hemorrhoids, gallstones and wounds
  • For production of plastics, textiles, inks, soaps, paints, polishes, cosmetics, and lubricants
  • As motor oil lubricant

Medicinal Uses For Castor Oil

Castor oil is best known as a stimulant laxative option ease constipation. Castor oil stimulates the walls of both the stomach and intestines. It is this purging action of the colon walls that works to move impacted fecal material through and relieve symptoms associated wit­h constipation.

Castor oil also prevents the absorption of liquids from your intestines. This allows the bowels to retain more moisture, making it easier to pass stool.

Castor oil works differently than most other stimulant laxatives because it affects both the small and large intestine. Instead of just emptying out the colon (large intestine) by drinking laxatives, castor oil stimulates contractions in both the small and large bowels.

It takes approximately five hours after castor oil ingestion before you see any results.

If you use castor oil internally, you should follow the instructions of either your doctor or the directions on the bottle itself. If your constipation doesn’t clear up after using castor oil, contact your doctor.

You can use castor oil packs to relieve various digestive and menstrual ailments, including constipation, hemorrhoids, and menstrual cramps.

To create a castor oil pack:

  1. Soak pieces of cotton, undyed wool, or cotton flannel in 4–6 ounces of castor oil.
  2. Place the pack on the affected area (abdomen for menstrual ailments and digestive ailments, on the breast for breast pain and on a hemorrhoid or exposed wound)
  3. Apply heat with a heating pad, water bottle, or sitz bath.
  4. Leave the pack on the affected area for an hour.
  5. When you are done, you want to wash the area with a solution of 2 tsp of baking soda to 1 quart of water.

Castor Oil Side Effects

Castor oil has some side effects. The more serious side effects to watch out for and report to your doctor immediately include:

  • Skin rash
  • Confusion
  • Muscle cramps
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Weakness or tiredness

The less serious side effects that do not require immediate attention, but should still be reported to your doctor if they don’s disappear include:

  • Cramping
  • Diarrhea
  • Belching
  • Nausea
  • Blood in the stool

Castor Oil Precautions and Risks

If you think you might be experiencing any of the following conditions, don’t use castor oil:

  • Intestinal blockage
  • Appendicitis
  • Cramping
  • Abdominal pain
  • Bloating
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Fecal impaction
  • Pregnant, trying to get pregnant, or nursing

Castor oil is an effective laxative that can be used as a temporary solution for relieving symptoms associated with constipation, but it should not be used long term. If you use it frequently, it can cause damage.

Chronic use of stimulant laxatives can lead to chronic diarrhea, which may lead to low potassium levels. If you have kidney problems, these imbalances can be even worse.

Repeated use of any type of stimulatory laxative to treat constipation can make the condition worse in the long run, so don’t use them too often. These types of laxative products only temporarily stimulate the colon wall and do not strengthen the entire colon.

They can actually weaken the colon muscle if used for long periods of time. When those muscles are not strong enough, they don’t have the peristalsis movement necessary to move feces through your colon.

Castor oil should not be taken longer than 5 consecutive days. If you’re taking it for longer than that, talk to your doctor first. If you’re not experiencing relief from your symptoms or if your constipation persists, consult your doctor.

Castor Oil for Constipation Relief Final Thoughts

It might be hard for you to imagine being able to get up the energy to focus your attention on solving your own problem, but don’t give up hope.

If you want to live a life full of energy and vitality, free of constipation and its symptoms, then it’s up you to tweak your lifestyle so that you achieve success.

You’re in control of your own health. Implement what has effectively relieved constipation for thousands of years. In fact, change your lifestyle to reflect the time long before your constipation ever existed.

Refer to these other articles for more information about constipation and relief: 

Castor Oil for Constipation FAQs

How quickly does castor oil work for constipation?

Castor oil is a stimulant laxative and its effects will come quickly, usually within 2 to 6 hours. Castor oil works so quickly that it’s not a good option for taking it before bedtime, since you may not be going to bed for a while. Castor oil isn’t recommended for long-term use.

How do you use castor oil for constipation?

Castor oil is used to treat constipation because it stimulates the colon muscles and increases peristalsis (the movement of waste from the body). Use castor oil by adding 15 millimeters to a glass of juice or another drink. Adding it to a cold, flavored drink will help mask the strong taste from castor oil. 

Will castor oil make me poop?

Yes, castor oil is a stimulant laxative that will help you poop and relieve constipation symptoms. It works by stimulating the colon muscles, increasing peristalsis (movement of stool) and moving the bowels.

Can I take castor oil after eating?

Yes, you can take castor oil after eating, but there are some precautions you need to consider. It’s best to  wait at least 2 hours after eating before drinking castor oil. This gives your digestive system time to process the food you ate and prevents stomach upset.

What are the side effects of castor oil?

Castor oil side effects include diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, heartburn, headache, dizziness, and skin rash. You’ll also experience an increase in flatulence (gas), which is normal when using castor oil.

Written and Medically Reviewed By

  • Sheila Jennings

    Sheila Jennings is a 4th-year medical student and also freelances as a content writer on gut health, nutrition, and food. She lives with IBS and has learned how to keep her symptoms at bay through a healthy diet and exercise. She wants to educate others on what they can do to take back control of their gut health and live like they used to.

  • Julie Guider, M.D.

    Dr. Julie Guider earned her medical degree from Louisiana State University School of Medicine. She completed residency in internal medicine at the University of Virginia. She completed her general gastroenterology and advanced endoscopy fellowships at University of Texas-Houston. She is a member of several national GI societies including the AGA, ACG, and ASGE as well as state and local medical societies.