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I use a castor oil pack, as it is commonly known, a few nights a week before going to sleep. This means I place a cotton flannel saturated with castor oil on my belly. Then I cover that with a towel sacrificed to the cause (castor oil is very thick) and top it off with my favorite hot water bottle (Sänger brand—the best!).

After 30 minutes my stress levels have dropped immensely, my tummy is soothed and I am ready for slumber. Then the next morning I may have a fantastically smooth poop.

Castor seeds and their oil have been used for thousands of years, with evidence of their medicinal use in ancient Egypt, Greece and India. Recent studies have shown that the ricinoleic acid, of which castor oil is mostly composed, attaches to specific sites within intestinal and uterine tissue that causes contractions. This is why castor oil has been successfully used as a laxative and labor-inducer in the past (though castor oil is not now recommended for pregnant people due to its possible side effect of nausea).

Dr. Emily Wiggins, ND recommends regular use of castor oil packs for their ability to stimulate masses of lymphatic tissue in the ileum of the small intestine. These lymphatic tissues, known as Peyer’s Patches, (yet another part of our anatomy named after the male European doctor who “officially” discovered it), identify and destroy possible pathogens in our digestive systems. How helpful!

Dr. Wiggins also says that castor oil supports liver detoxification, stimulates smooth muscles activity in the gut (great for constipation), and breaks down fibrotic tissue or scarring. Even small and benign breast and ovarian cysts have been known to dissolve with regular castor oil application.

In my experience, there is something about the quality of castor oil that soothes my enteric (aka intestinal) nervous system and my internal mental mayhem. This is not surprising since there are nerve fibers running from the enteric nervous system to the brain that have to do with activation (sympathetic nerves) and rest (parasympathetic nerves). It definitely feels like the warm oil stimulates my rest and relaxation nerves.

Don’t use castor oil packs if you are experiencing heavy menstrual bleeding, have a gassy stomach or other intestinal conditions or while pregnant.

The soaking flannel can be re-used and kept in a sealable plastic bag for months, until it starts to smell funky or changes color. Just make sure to apply additional castor oil from time to time so it is thoroughly saturated.