What does castor oil really do? First, we need to know what castor oil is and where it comes from.
The castor oil plant originally came for India and the cure all that we know about from tales handed down from our grandmothers comes from the seeds of the castor oil plant. It has been known to be used as far back as the first century writers noted it as not being fit for food but was a powerful purgative.
Skin Disease Cure
In England it was mostly used externally to treat skin diseases. It has been used medicinally for centuries and the oil is used for other purposes such as lubricating, leather dressing and for burning.
Castor Oil plants prefer a warmer climate but have successfully been grown as far north as Norway. The oil is yellowish in color and the hulls are removed before the oil is processed.
The oil is drawn from the plant by two methods. One method is without heat and the other is with heat. Americans usually use the method that involves heat in extracting the oil from the bean. This work is done primarily in California where the seeds are put in a dry heat furnace for an hour or so. This softens them so they oil is extracted easily.
The seeds are put in a large screw press where the oil is extracted and then mixed with equal parts water. Its boiled, allowed to cool and then the water is drawn off leaving the oil. It is then bleached in the sun for about eight hours after which it is ready for storing. The poison ricin is a by- product of the castor oil bean.
Although I have never had a taste of castor oil it has been used as a laxative for temporary relief of constipation and is most commonly used for children and the elderly. The biggest drawback to castor oil is the horrible flavor and the nausea that can be the result of taking it.
You can camouflage the taste by adding lemon oil, sassafras oil, and peppermint or cinnamon water. It can also be given in warm milk and coffee. The best thing is that its now available in capsules. It can be given in small doses to small children without causing any harm.
Grandma used it for purging all the toxins out of the body, which we now know is a good therapy for several varieties of ailments. It takes about five hours to affect the body and start giving relief. It flows throughout the length of the colon but doesnt increase the amount of bile produced.
Castor oil has also been used as a soap product and a skin softener. It is clean, light-colored and nearly odorless. It can be used to treat ring worm, itch and other similar skin conditions.
Castor oil dropped into the eye will remove any irritation caused by the removal of foreign particles. It is also used to induce vomiting do get rid of something that is upsetting the stomach.
Another common use in the previous century was to induce labor in pregnant women who were near term or over due. One bottle of castor oil, which is below the lethal dose, can be used to safely induce labor. The castor oil leaves are applied to the breasts by nursing mothers in India to increase the flow of milk while nursing their babies.
Torture and Industry
Castor oil has been used as a tool for torture under Fascist regimes to cause diarrhea and dehydration in their enemies or prisoners of war. If they wanted the person to die other than being badly disabled, they would mix it with gasoline.
Castor oil has many other uses other than medicinal. It is used in the manufacturing of soaps, paints, hydraulic and brake fluids, dyes, inks. Besides pharmaceuticals, the oil is also used in waxes, polishes and even perfumes. In India, castor oil is used as an inexpensive fuel to burn in lamps.
With all the different uses it has, who would possibly want to ingest it? Our ancestors did however, and castor oil has been a running gag in comic strips, cartoons and Our Gang short films.