Castor oil is derived from the seeds of a plant called Ricinus communis which is native to India. The chemical composition of castor oil is unique as it comprises mainly a fatty acid called ricinoleic acid. This high concentration of fatty acid gives castor oil its various healing properties. For thousands of years, the oil has been used medicinally all over the world for various ailments, such as:
Though there is very little scientific evidence to support these statements but are widely used in home remedies.
In today's practice the use of castor oil can be found in many non-medicinal applications:
Castor oil is used as a mould inhibitor, food additive, and flavouring agent. It is added to skin care products and cosmetics like shampoos, soaps, and lipsticks, in manufacturing goods like plastics, fibres, paints etc.
The thick greasy oil is also known for its foul taste. The side effects of castor oil can be unpleasant and even dangerous and can cause nausea, diarrhoea and severe dehydration.
Castor oil is best known as a laxative. Consumption of small amounts of castor oil can cause spasms in the intestines, which stimulate the bowels and may cure constipation. This spasm-and-stimulation action may then irritate the uterus, which can begin contracting and induce labour when consumed by pregnant women. It is also assumed that castor oil may decrease fluid absorption and electrolytes in the small intestine. This can also cause diarrhoea and possibly contractions in the intestine and uterus. It promotes the release of prostaglandin receptors, leading to the dilation of the cervix.
Studies stating that castor oil induces labour are still controversial. A study published in Alternative Therapies of Health and MedicineTrusted Source revealed that over half of the participants who were given castor oil went into active labour within 24 hours. This is compared to only 4 per cent of beginning labour in the same timeframe in the control group.
But another study, published in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology revealed the opposite. It stated that while there were no harmful effects associated with castor oil it did not help in inducing labour, either.
If taking castor oil successfully induces labour by causing irregular and painful contractions, it may also cause the baby to pass meconium, or the first stool, before delivery in the uterus which complicates normal delivery of the baby.
Studies on castor oil for labour induction usually involve taking a one-time dose of 60 millilitres (ml) – about 4 tablespoons – at 40 or 41 weeks of pregnancy. The castor oil is mixed with another liquid such as juice to cover up the sour taste. It is recommended to take castor oil on an empty stomach.
There is not enough evidence to reveal that castor oil induces labour. However, one study stated that women who took castor oil to induce labour were more likely to go into labour within 24 hours than women who didn't take it.
It is not safe to drink castor oil before 40 weeks of pregnancy because of the chances of induction of contractions and premature labour. Castor oil should not be used for constipation during pregnancy. You should always consult your doctor before trying castor oil to induce labour complications of using castor oil to induce labour. Drinking castor oil to induce labour comes with various risks. Castor oil is a strong laxative and ingesting it can result in Nausea, Diarrhea, Cramping, Dehydration, Low blood pressure, and Dizziness.
Though it is not advised to take castor oil to induce labour even if you plan to, you should always consult your doctor. Every pregnancy is different. Castor oil might be dangerous if not taken under supervision.