When it comes down to health problems, I’m all about finding natural solutions to make me feel better. However, I always make sure that the potential health benefits of a natural solution are not outbalanced by its side effects. In the case of castor oil, however amazing this oil can be for all external applications, it presents important risks in case of ingestion. Many people/websites recommend to take it in order to act as a purge if you are constipated or in case of other digestive issues. I, on the contrary, will advise you against the use of castor oil as a laxative. Let me tell you why.
Castor oil is a (too) powerful laxative
It’s no surprise that castor oil has been recommended as such for a very long time. Its effects on your bowel are incredibly powerful and fast. Ricinoleic acid, one of the main constituent of castor oil, alters the intestinal mucosa and thus causes diarrhea. Not only does castor oil lead to a major water and electrolytes (mineral salts) loss, but it also causes temporary discomfort by creating an important imbalance in your body. The intense and irritating purgative action of castor oil is real and should not be underestimated.
Castor oil side effects
Castor oil taken internally is not a good remedy for constipation or any other digestive issues. The possible side effects are way too important to take the risk:
- Abdominal pain and/or cramps;
- Generalized weakness;
- Redness and itching;
- Accelerated heart rate
In some rare cases, a poorly prepared castor oil can be contaminated with ricin (present in the plant and seeds) which is extremely toxic. Ricin is an extremely powerful toxin which translates directly into nausea, vomiting and bloody diarrhea. You must act fast. When ingesting ricin, the symptoms occur between two to six hours later. In addition to dehydration, liver and kidney deficiencies can be observed, which can lead to death. As mentioned earlier, this is extremely rare as with most castor oil, the toxin is entirely eliminated during the oil extraction process but it’s worth explaining this extra risk.
Finally, it is important that there has not been enough studies that encourages the use of castor oil as a laxative. It is quite the opposite actually. The ingestion of castor oil against constipation is strongly discouraged by expert Jean Bruneton in the 3rd edition of “Pharmacognosy, Phytochemistry, Medicinal Plants, Techniques and Documentation”.
Important warning: pregnant women should not use castor oil as a medication, be it problems of constipation or to induce labor, castor oil will not help you, it is quite the contrary! For more information, read my article on castor oil to induce labor.
Natural solutions for constipation
If your belly is hurting and you cannot go potty, there are a few natural remedies you can use that will accelerate bowel movement and potentially relieve you faster. Be careful though, if you suffer from a specific condition, these remedies might not help you! Make sure to do your research and consult a doctor.
This past summer I stayed at my sister’s house in Tennessee, and one morning as I drove home from my 3rd shift serving job, I came down with a horrific stomach ache. It crippled me in two and all I could do was whine as I tried curling up in bed. My sister works at the local VA medical hospital and she, too, just arrived back home from work. She gave me prune juice, hot prune juice, and forced me to gulp it down very fast, explaining that it’s what the hospital gives their patients who are constipated or have digestive issues.
Prune juice significantly helped my ache go away and I finally could fall asleep. She said warm-hot prune juice works better, faster, but you could also just drink prune juice at room temperature. Drinking prune juice is always the first thing I try to do whenever I am feeling I need to get my digestive system back on track.
==> gulp down a glass of warm prune juice and within the next hour or two, you should be needing to go to the restroom. Repeat as necessary.
Black radish juice
Available at your local farmers market or supermarkets, black radish is a good ally against constipation. Especially if it is light. Black radish is more generally valuable for digestion since it increases the secretion and evacuation of bile. Not to mention its famous detox effects on the liver.
==> 1 dose of black radish juice 3 times a day for a week should to the trick.
One of the first effects of magnesium chloride is to stimulate intestinal transit.
==> Drink three glasses (1 glass = 100ml) of magnesium chloride solution (20g/1L) per day, one early morning, one at noon and one at night.
Trade sugar for honey
Honey has mild laxative properties and is also extremely beneficial for your intestine. Natural honey is great but we do recommend the use of Manuka Honey, a unique and more powerful type of honey coming from New Zealand.
==> Simply try to replace sugar (in drinks, yogurts…) by honey on a daily basis. As for Manuka Honey, one teaspoon a day will greatly improve your digestive system.
Because it stimulates the production of bile, olive oil ensures a good digestion and a better transit.
==> Take 1 tablespoon of olive oil in the morning, on an empty stomach (it’s better!). You can add a few drops of lemon juice to make it easier to swallow.
A massage with essential oil of tarragon
Because it stimulates liver activity and digestion, the essential oil of tarragon can help cure constipation. This plant is generally very useful in case of difficult digestion. The tarragon opens the appetite, facilitates digestion in the stomach, prevents fermentation (bloating and belching) and helps to expel intestinal gas.
Warning: do not use essential oils while pregnant!
==> After lunch or dinner, swallow 1 or 2 drops of essential oil of tarragon in a small spoon of olive oil. Add to this a nice massage with 10 drops HE of tarragon, 10 drops of HE of peppermint, 10 drops of HE marjoram and 20 ml of vegetable oil of hazelnut. Use the palm of your hand to do a clockwise massage.
Flax seeds / Psyllium: dilute seeds in water
Take a handful of flax seeds or psyllium. Flax seeds contain mucilages which, by retaining a large quantity of water, make it possible to reduce transit time and increase stool volume. The latter contain soluble fibers which also increase stool volume. Both have a ballast effect identical to vegetable fibers derived from the diet.
This last solution should be handled with great care as the consumption of flaxseed is discouraged during pregnancy and lactation, and in children under 12 years of age. Psyllium seed is permitted during pregnancy and breast feeding but not recommended for children under 6 years of age.
==> Soak 5 to 10 grams of flaxseed (whole or minced) in 150 ml of water for 20 minutes. Take 3 times a day (avoid taking it just before bedtime) for a week.
==> Swallow 10 grams of psyllium seeds in 100ml of water, one to three times a day. This preparation should be drunk quickly, before it forms a gel. Then drink immediately 200 ml of water. For 1 week.
Castor oil packs
Finally, if you would like to improve your digestive system as a whole, I highly recommend you to check out castor oil packs. This way of applying castor oil is a bit more time consuming but it can lead to exceptional results! I encourage you to check out this short video from Dr. Schwartzman who tells you about his experience with castor oil packs.
Should I use castor oil as a laxative: Final thoughts
Our body is constantly changing (hormonal changes, adaptation to environmental changes, etc …). We must learn to listen in order to provide him with effective solutions and, when possible, use the most natural possible. It is always a good idea to learn about alternative solutions! However, you must be aware of the risks before embarking on a particular method. What is certain is that castor oil as a laxative is not a good natural remedy for constipation. Castor oil is wonderful for a lot of uses but this is really not the one I would recommend!