Castor oil is a plant extract that is widely used all over the world. It grows in many tropical and Mediterranean zones and the biggest exporters include India, China and Brazil. It is also a primary export of Ethiopia. The medicinal properties of the plant were noted by Herodotus who was an historian from ancient Greece, and tombs from ancient Egypt were found with caster seeds inside them. The tropical-looking castor oil plant is large and leafy and has green or red ‘beans’. The seeds contain about 60 percent vegetable oil that is rich in ricinolein, and this is what is extracted for use. Castor oil has many health benefits because of its amazing healing abilities and can treat gastrointestinal problems such as constipation and dysentery. It is also used for numerous skin problems.

Castor oil is well known for its antibacterial and antiviral properties due to its unique qualities that include having a small molecular mass. This allows the oil to get really deep down within the skin to deliver its nutrients and it has the ability to break up any scar tissue. Skin infections can be cured by applying the oil as a topical application. People who suffer from skin irritation, itching, skin inflammation and sunburn will often be advised to apply castor oil to the skin to ease any discomfort. Benign skin growths can be treated with the oil by applying it on the affected area.

The growth of several bacteria and viruses can be prevented by applying the oil topically. These bacteria and viruses are usually associated with certain ailments such as ringworm and fungal infected fingers and toenails. Castor oil can be soaked in a cotton cloth and affected areas can be wrapped in this cloth overnight. Infected areas should first be presoaked with Epsom salts for softening the skin. Other uses for castor oil on the skin include:

* Dry skin: Triglyceride fatty acid that is present within the oil helps in restoring natural moisture within the skin and thus prevents unnecessary dryness. The oil is very beneficial during wintertime in preventing dry skin. Feet that have dry skin or even cracked heels should have castor oil massaged into the affected areas and then be soaked in some hot water. The oil will react with the water and make the skin soft.

* Acne: Anti-acne soaps contain castor oil which helps in moisturizing and purifying the skin and can eliminate acne, blemishes and rashes. Topical application can improve the appearance of skin.

* Skin moles: Skin moles are abnormalities of the skin and can be surgically removed, but this can be expensive. Castor oil is a natural remedy for getting rid of a skin mole. A paste can be made with a little bit of castor oil and baking soda. This must then be applied to the mole and left on overnight, and can be repeated over the next few days.

* Guinea worm and ringworm: These are stubborn though not uncommon maladies. Coconut oil can be soaked with caster leaves to make a poultice that can then be warmed and applied to the affected area. This poultice will help in extracting the worms from the skin.

* Arthritic and rheumatic swellings: Castor roots or seeds can be boiled into a poultice that can be liberally applied to arthritic and rheumatic swellings.

* Lactation: Castor oil can be rubbed onto nipples and then gently massaged for about 15 minutes. This will help in stimulating a woman’s mammary glands to help with lactation when breastfeeding. Before letting an infant breastfeed, the area should be washed with water and mild soap. A doctor should always be consulted first though, before using castor oil as a lactation remedy.

* Skin beauty and health: Castor oil can be massaged into the body once every week before a bath for helping the skin preserve its healing properties and also stimulating the internal organs and muscles. It can also be rubbed onto feet and hands at night to maintain soft and healthy skin and reduce dry and calloused skin. Most skin lotions have castor oil in them as well as other ingredients that include aloe and coconut oil. Most people do not even know there is castor oil in the lotions that they use!

Castor oil that is used should be of high quality, and can be obtained from a health foods store or a drugstore. A bottle of castor oil will be quite inexpensive and depending on how it is used could last for quite a few years.