People swear by castor oil for all sorts of things. It’s said that it helps your hair grow, that it helps clear up acne, that it fights toenail fungus, helps ease constipation, kills off viruses and harmful bacteria, increases your circulation, helps kill skin infections, helps with pregnancy… the list goes on and on and on.
And while castor oil has been proven to have some benefits, when people are in a rush to tell you about how great castor oil is, they can skip right over the side effects.
That’s what’s most dangerous. If you’re seduced by the promised benefits of castor oil, you might not have heard about the side effects – and some of them can be dangerous to your health.
That’s why, in this article, we’re going to cover the biggest side effects of castor oil that could be harmful to you, and how to decide whether castor oil is right for you.
What Is Castor Oil Anyway?
Castor oil is the oil that’s been pressed out of castor seeds. Castor plants (ricinuscommunis) grow in tropical regions – usually in desolate places. (1)
It’s been used for a very long time (we’re talking thousands of years) as a remedy and home medicine. It was first used in Africa, India, and the Mediterranean – but now it’s popularity has spread across the world.
The most well known use of castor oil is as a laxative – although there are many claims that it has lots of other health benefits. (2)
From relieving muscle soreness to joint pain, from treating fungal infections to helping your hair grow, from moisturizing your skin to treating skin problems – people have found dozens or even hundreds of uses for castor oil. (3)
Now to the point – we know that castor oil has some great health benefits, but does it have any side effects?
The answer is: emphatically yes. You need to be aware of the side effects of castor oil so that you can anticipate them and avoid them whenever possible.
In addition, the main active ingredient in castor oil is ricinoleic acid. Ricinoleic acid, as the name suggests, is related to the deadly poison ricin. Ricin is so deadly that even an amount equal to a couple of grains of salt is enough to be lethal to any adult. (4)
So while taking castor oil is ok, remember to never chew up castor beans – as that can synthesize and release ricin in your system, causing you great harm and even being potentially lethal to you.
So when dealing with anything to do with the castor plant, be sure to avoid ricin poisoning! And keep in mind that castor oil, while mostly safe, has been proven to have side effects.
Here are a few of the side effects of using castor oil.
The Biggest Side Effects Of Castor Oil
1. Castor Oil Can Cause Skin Irritation
Yes, one of the benefits of castor oil is that it can clear up skin infections. However, studies have found that it can also be irritating to your skin.
One study found that castor oil was “mildly irritating” to subjects. Also – if you’re allergic to anything in castor oil then applying it topically can cause itching and hives. (5)
Finally, in rare situations some subjects got skin rashes from leaving castor oil on their skin. If you use castor oil topically, it’s a good idea to wash it off afterwards with soap and water.
2. Castor Oil Can Cause Dizziness
Yes, it’s possible to overdoes on castor oil.
If you overdose on castor oil, you can suffer from dizziness, shortness of breath, and even fainting. Limit your doses of castor oil until you know what amount is safe and effective for you.
3. Castor Oil Can Give You Abdominal Cramps
Castor oil is used frequently as a laxative, in order to “get things moving” in your digestive tract.
Unfortunately, for some people, that means that taking castor oil can cause abdominal cramps, as your body “gets things moving” a little too quickly.
If you’re going to take castor oil for constipation, make sure to experiment a little at a time to avoid getting debilitating abdominal cramps. (6)
4. Your Castor Oil Might Be Contaminated
Like with all supplements and essential oils, knowing the source is crucial.
Buying a trusted brand that has a history and reputation of clean, organically sourced, uncontaminated products is crucial whenever you’re shopping for remedy ingredients.
Some stocks of castor oil have been extracted from castor seeds that have been covered in pesticides, or otherwise chemically treated in a way that destroys the health promoting part of the seeds and can make you sick. (7)
So like with all remedies, pay careful attention to the brand and source of your castor oil in order to get the most benefit from it.
5. You Can Get Nauseous From Castor Oil
If you take too much castor oil and overdose, it can cause nausea – which if left unchecked can leave you dehydrated and completely drained.
Like we said before, make sure to carefully control the dose of castor oil whenever you’re taking it. If you get any side effects like nausea, scale back your dose the next time. (8)
If you’re nauseous from castor oil, it could cause vomiting and other unpleasant side effects, so take care when taking a dose of castor oil!
6. Your Muscles Can Cramp Up From Castor Oil
Castor oil has a reputation as an amazing laxative – and for good reason. It gets the job done.
However, when you take too much of a laxative, it can cause side effects like muscle cramps and muscle weakness, and they can be debilitating. (9)
Just remember – size your dose of castor oil appropriately to avoid bad side effects like muscle cramps.
7. Castor Oil Can Cause Diarrhea
This one is obvious. If you have a home remedy that’s famed for stopping constipation and getting you moving again – it’s not a surprise that the remedy might cause diarrhea.
If you’re using castor oil, be sure to be near a bathroom until you know the effect that castor oil generally has on you. (10)
8. Ricin Poisoning Is A Real Concern
Like we discussed before, castor plants can contain the deadly protein ricin, which is extremely poisonous. A very small amount can kill an adult – so it’s not something to mess around with.
Castor oil is pressed from castor seeds, and shouldn’t have any ricin content in it at all. However, chewing and swallowing whole castor beans can release ricin – which can poison you and even kill you. (11)
Never chew and swallow castor beans, and stay very aware of the danger of ricin poisoning around whole castor beans.
9. Caution Should Be Taken Around Children With Castor Oil
Castor oil and children have been proven to be not a good mix. Do not give castor oil to a child unless you’ve talked to a doctor and been explicitly given the ok.
Any child below 2 years of age should never, ever be given castor oil as a laxative – as they are too young for such a harsh remedy. Any child below 10 years of age should not be given castor oil unless specifically ok‘ed by a health professional or a doctor.
10. Castor Oil Can Irritate Your Digestive System
This is another side effect that should be expected out of a laxative.
It’s pretty much a laxative’s job to irritate your digestive system and get things moving again. However, some cause more irritation than others – and castor oil has been known to be a gastrointestinal irritant. (12)
Castor Oil Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What are the ingredients in castor oil?
Castor oil is made from pressed castor seeds. The active ingredient in the oil is ricinoleic acid – a monounsaturated fatty acid. It also has triglycerides and other linoleic and oleic acids in it.
Q: Can castor oil go bad?
Yes! Always check to see whether your castor oil has expired. The easy way to check is to look at whether the oil is cloudy or clear. If it’s clear, and its color hasn’t turned dark brown, then it’s still good. The best castor oil also won’t have any sort of odor to it.
If the oil is cloudy at all, or if the oil has turned dark brown, or if the oil has an odor, it has expired.
Q: If you have an itchy scalp how do you use castor oil for it?
Castor oil is an anti-fungal, anti-viral, and antibacterial oil. That means that if you mix together a tablespoon of castor oil, a tablespoon of olive oil, and about half a lemon’s worth of lemon juice, and apply it topically to your scalp, it might kill off whatever is causing your scalp to itch.
Q: Where is castor oil made?
Castor oil is produced mainly in three countries – China, Brazil, and India. More than 90% of the world’s castor oil comes from those 3 countries.
Q: What does good castor oil taste like? What does it look like? What does it smell like?
Good castor oil will have no odor (although many castor oils have a distinctive smell). It will have an amber to greenish color. I’m not going to lie to you – it tastes really bad.
Q: Can you recommend a castor oil brand?
There are many good brands. One of the best ones is Organic Castor Oil by Sky Organics, which you can find on Amazon and other retailers.
How Do You Avoid Castor Oil Side Effects?
The best way to avoid any side effects from castor oil is to speak to your doctor about when it’s right to take castor oil, and what dose is right for you.
Remember to tell your doctor about any other allergies you have and whether you might be allergic to castor oil, In addition, your doctor will know your medical history – which will inform the decision about whether castor oil is right for you.
If you’re taking castor oil as a laxative, never take more than 5ml. It’s often a better idea to take an even smaller dose than that in order to avoid side effects. Remember, you’re looking for the minimum effective dose – which is the smallest dose that will give you the remedy you’re looking for.
Taking larger doses only opens you up to an overdose and bad castor oil side effects. Take as little as you can get away with and still get the result you’re looking for.
Should You Take Castor Oil Supplements?
Castor oil supplements are something you should discuss with your doctor before deciding to take them. They can cause the same side effects as castor oil if you overdose on them.
In addition, the supplements can also sometimes be more dangerous to you – since they’re more likely to be from processed and possibly contaminated castor seeds.
Do not take castor oil supplements if you’re pregnant or lactating. Always talk to your doctor about what supplements are right for you.
The Biggest Castor Oil Side Effects
- Castor oil can cause skin irritation
- Castor oil can cause dizziness
- Castor oil can give you abdominal cramps
- Your castor oil might be contaminated
- You can get nauseous from castor oil
- Your muscles can cramp up from castor oil
- Castor oil can cause diarrhea
- Ricin poisoning is a real concern
- Caution should be taken around children with castor oil
- Castor oil can irritate your digestive system