Healthy Beginnings

Castor Oil Pack Therapy for Increased Immunity

300-castoroilObtained from the seeds of the plant species Ricinus communis, castor oil has a long and extensive history of use in curing an impressive variety of ailments. Although castor oil packs were first popularized in the 20thcentury by Edgar Cayce, the oil has been employed as a healing agent for thousands of years in folk medicine. Castor bean seeds, believed to be 4,000 years old, were discovered in Egyptian tombs, and historical records reveal the medicinal use of castor oil in Egypt, India, China, Persia, Africa, Greece, Rome, Southern Europe and the Americas.

Among its many uses, castor oil has long been applied topically as a remedy for warts, moles, chest colds and bronchitis. Edgar Cayce found castor oil packs to be effective for dissolving gallstones, relieving pain, healing infections and wounds, and diminishing gastrointestinal disorders. Cayce reported therapeutic success administering castor oil packs on individuals suffering from epilepsy and even migranes.

The seemingly all-encompassing curative properties of castor oil packs lead some scientists to dismiss the therapeutic results as scarcely more than placebo effects, but recent evidence suggests that castor oil packs may enhance circulation, aid in detoxification and stimulate the immune system.

In particular, castor oil’s ability to stimulate the immune system is a subject of great interest to researchers. One double-blind study examined lymphocyte values in the blood samples of 36 healthy individuals before and after topical castor oil application, finding that castor oil treatment produced a total increase in the number of lymphocytes with a concomitant increase in T-11 cells. This T-11 cell increase represents an overall boost in the body’s immunodefense status since these lymphocytes are known to form antibodies against pathogens, identifying and killing viruses, fungi, bacteria and cancer cells.

The versatile healing ability of castor oil can be mostly attributed to its unique chemical composition of primarily Ricinoleic acid, an omega-9 monounsaturated fatty acid valued for its analgesic, anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial and anti-fungal effects. While a few plant species are known to contain ricinoleic acid, none produce an oil of the acyl purity of castor oil.

So, what is it about the chemical composition of castor oil that triggers the skin’s production of immune system T-cells? One theory is that castor oil may stimulate prostaglandin activity in the body via its ability to produce prostanoids—the precursors to prostaglandins. Prostaglandins exert many therapeutic effects on the body, stimulating smooth muscle contractions; raising and lowering blood pressure; regulating metabolism, stomach acid secretion, and body temperature; and controlling inflammation and transmitting nerve impulses. This may explain castor oil’s ability to improve a wide range of physiological disorders.

In light of the evidence pointing to castor oil’s immune-enhancing effects, it may be wise to incorporate this “$10-a-year immune system booster” into your family’s health routine when flu season hits. For more information on how to make your own castor oil pack, visit


  • Jarvis, D.C. Folk Medicine: A New England Almanac of Natural Health Care From a Noted Vermont Country Doctor. New York: Ballantine Books,1958.
  • McMillin, David L. Richards, Douglas G. Mein, Eric A. and Nelson, Carl D. “The Abdominal Brain and Enteric Nervous System.” The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine 5. 6 (1999): 575-586.
  • Yance, Donald: Herbal Medicine, Healing and Cancer. NY, NY: McGraw-Hill, 268-70; 242-4, 1999.
  • Grady, Harvey. “Castor Oil Packs: Scientific Tests Verify Therapeutic Value.” Venture Inward (July/August 1988): 12-15.