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Castor Oil as Laxative

Suvamita Ghosh
Castor oil has been used as a remedy for various ailments, specially as laxative for constipation. Ancient medical practitioners have sufficiently chronicled the usage and benefits of this oil. However, it does have certain side effects, which are still being researched. To clarify all the myths and confusions related to castor oil, read on.
Castor oil is a vegetable oil, extracted from the seeds of the castor plant. The plant is a native of India. The oil has certain medicinal properties and is used against many health problems. The first use of castor oil as laxative dated back to Ancient Egypt. 
Through ages, castor oil have been used to overcome intestinal problems of constipation. It has also proved beneficial in curing common cold and sinusitis. The oil in gel-based form is prescribed for skin diseases, abrasions, cuts and sunburns.
Castor oil has the ability to cure other health-related problems, such as arthritis and hair loss, and is also used for inducing labor. However, its application as a medicine for constipation, has had remarkable weightage.

Laxative Properties

Studies and researches indicate, that castor oil works as a laxative due to certain properties and molecular mechanism of one of its constituents, ricinoleic acid.
This acid binds to certain cellular receptors, or specifically EP3 and EP4. These two prostaglandin receptors have several biological functions in our body related to digestion, nervous system, kidney re-absorption and uterine contraction.
► When castor oil is taken, the ricinoleic acid molecules adhere to the receptors in the mucous membrane of the intestine and increase digestive activity, thereby forcing out the bowel. The ingredients present in it stimulate the colon walls that help in the movement of the fecal matter through the bowel, thereby, alleviating the symptoms of constipation.
Castor oil prevents fluid absorption from the intestinal tract, and thus helps the bowel to hold back more moisture, which in turn, helps in easy passage of stools. This oil acts like a lubricant, and helps move the fecal matter easily through the intestine.

Properties of Castor Oil

Castor oil is pale-yellow in color, and lacks any flavor and smell. It is highly viscous and does not freeze, making it an excellent lubricant.
► It is a triglyceride and its primary constituents are oleic acid, linoleic acid and ricinoleic acid. Ricinoleic acid, that constitutes for 90% of the fatty acids in castor oil, is known for its ability to suppress bacterial, viral and fungal infections.
► The seed from which castor oil is extracted, has a highly toxic chemical, ricin, but the oil is treated to rid it of this toxin, and make it safe for use.


First and foremost, follow the instructions given in the product package or consult your doctor before taking it. The dosage will vary depending on one's age and/or severity of constipation. So, if you have been prescribed castor oil as a laxative, then stick to the dosage given by the doctor.
► If you are self-administrating and have bought it from your pharmacist, then follow the dosage printed on the product. In case of babies, always, consult your doctor first.

► If no dosage is printed, then adults can take 1tsp (teaspoon) or 4.92 milliliters, and children can take ½ tsp. or 2.46 milliliters.
► Castor oil is available in liquid and in capsule form in the market. Capsules must be taken with water. In the liquid form, you may find that the oil has a fowl taste. To avoid the bitter after-taste, you can dilute the oil in some juice.
► Based on the severity of your constipation, you may be required to take the medicine more than once, for a period of 3 - 7 days, or as prescribed by your physician. Castor oil is more effective, if taken on an empty stomach. For effective and fast improvement, take castor oil at the same time everyday.


Always consult your doctor before taking any kind of medicine. If you have been prescribed castor oil or any other laxative earlier, it is recommended that you consume it only with prior permission from your certified healthcare professional.
► Castor oil must be taken only in prescribed dosage. If you are not completely relieved of constipation after taking castor oil for almost 7 days, immediately stop the dosage and inform your physician.
► If you are allergic to castor oil or any other laxative or oil, do mention it to your doctor and/or pharmacist. The castor oil product, at times, can contain certain inactive agents (for example some flavor) that you could be allergic to.

► Also mention to your doctor if you experience symptoms of appendicitis, or sudden change in bowel movements, bleeding from rectum, prolonged stomach or abdominal pain, nausea or vomiting.
► If you are taking any kind of medication for some other ailment or health problem, then you must take castor oil, only after prior approval of your doctor.

► Castor oil is not recommended for pregnant women and nursing mothers. It can only be taken if prescribed by the physician.

Side Effects

Regular usage of this medicine for a prolonged period, may cause health complications like loss of intestinal function or long-lasting constipation problems.

You may also observe persistent vomiting, nausea, dizziness, muscle cramps and even diarrhea.
► Some serious and rare adverse effects of castor oil can include troubled breathing, skin rash, itching, weakness and severe dizziness.


Castor oil is a natural laxative. It is a great cure for constipation, but if you are experiencing persistent constipation, a change in lifestyle and food habits can be helpful.

Increase your intake of dietary fibers and include green leafy vegetables, fruits like apple and oranges, and bran cereals like oats, in your daily meal.
► Use whole-grain flour instead of all-purpose flour, and cut back on refined foods.

► Sesame seeds and flax seeds are also natural remedies for constipation.
► Include some exercise routine everyday, or go for a walk or a small jog at least 3 times a week.

► Maintain a daily routine and have your meals at the proper time, instead of having them when you are hungry.
► Use sunflower or soybean oil for cooking. They have natural components that assist in digestion.

► Drink a lot of liquid, specially water.
Unless you are suffering from severe constipation problems, it is good to avoid stimulant laxatives like castor oil. A bulk forming laxative such as psyllium, is safe and effective to use for relief from constipation, as they add fluid to the bowel and allow an easy passage of the stools.
Disclaimer: This post is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.