A castor oil pack is a piece of wool or a cloth soaked in castor oil that you can apply on the skin. People use this against ailments like skin conditions, blood circulation problems, and digestive issues.

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Person using a DIY castor oil pack for constipation. MangoStar_Studio/Getty Images

Castor oil is made from “castor beans” — the seeds of the Ricinus communis plant. Some people traditionally use castor oil for several health conditions.

The soaking cloth may be cotton flannel or other dense material that can soak up a lot of liquid. Read on to learn how to make a castor oil pack.

You can make and use your own castor oil packs with a few materials.

Naturopath practitioners recommend looking for hexane-free castor oil.

Ingredients and supplies

To make your own, you’ll need these items:

  • castor oil
  • unbleached wool or cotton flannel
  • medium container or bowl
  • tongs
  • scissors
  • plastic sheeting, such as a small tablecloth or garbage bag

Directions

  1. Cut the wool or cotton flannel into rectangular pieces, about 12 inches by 10 inches. You can also cut them into strips or smaller squares depending on where you’ll use them.
  2. Use at least three to four pieces of cloth to make a pack.
  3. Pour castor oil into the container. You should be able to completely soak a piece of the wool or cotton flannel in the castor oil.
  4. Drop one piece of the cloth into the oil until it’s completely soaked.
  5. Use the tongs to pick up the cloth in the container. It should be dripping with castor oil.
  6. Lay the soaked cloth flat on the plastic sheet.
  7. Soak the other two or more pieces of cloth in the same way.
  8. Add the oil-soaked cloths flat on top of the first one.
  9. Once you’ve soaked and layered each cloth, you’ve made a castor oil pack.

Castor oil pack options

You can buy castor oil online or in stores that sell herbal and natural remedies. You can also find castor oil pack kits online if you prefer not to make your own.

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  1. Lay down on a large towel or sheet to help catch any castor oil drops.
  2. Place the castor oil pack on the area to be treated. For example, for constipation or other digestive problems, you’ll likely place it over your stomach area.
  3. Place a small plastic sheet over the castor oil pack. This helps to heat it and press it against your skin.
  4. You can place a hot water bottle or heating pad on top of the plastic for more heat if you wish. Make sure you don’t fall asleep while heating the castor oil pack as this can lead to burns or other injuries.
  5. Leave the pack on for about 45 minutes to an hour.
  6. Remove the pack and wipe the area clean with a warm damp towel.
  7. You can store the castor oil pack in the container used to soak them. Cover and refrigerate. Reuse each castor oil pack up to 30 times.

Some people may be allergic to castor oil. It may cause a skin rash or reaction when used on the body. If you haven’t used a castor oil pack before, do a patch test:

  1. Rub a few drops of castor oil into your skin and leave it on for 24 hours.
  2. If you don’t have any reaction, a castor oil pack should be safe to use.

Cautions with castor oil packs

  • Avoid using castor oil packs if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding or chestfeeding. The effects of castor oil on a baby aren’t known.
  • Do not heat a castor oil pack in the microwave. The cloth and oil can smoke or catch on fire.
  • Do not use castor oil packs on a recent injury or open or irritated skin, such as scratches or cuts that are healing.
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Castor oil packs are used outside your body, with or without heat. The idea is that a castor oil pack is soaked with more oil than you can simply rub on your skin. This allows it to better absorb into your skin.

Some people believe using the pack externally can also help with internal issues. However, little or no research supports the use of castor oil packs for internal conditions.

Skin benefits

Ricinoleic acid, a major component in castor oil, has analgesic properties, which may help soothe skin issues, such as:

  • sunburn
  • bug bites
  • allergic rashes

The castor oil’s anti-inflammatory effects may help reduce skin redness, puffiness, and itching.

Additionally, castor oil is a good moisturizer and helps to seal in moisture. This can help heal dry, chapped skin and lips and plump fine lines and wrinkles.

Constipation

People sometimes take castor oil by mouth as a laxative. In this way, castor oil is used to help bowel movements and empty the stomach.

Using external castor oil packs may also help treat constipation.

A small 2011 medical study in Turkey tested the use of castor oil packs to treat severe constipation in older adults. The adults in the study used castor oil packs for 3 days.

The researchers found that using the packs didn’t change the number of bowel movements, but it did make them easier to pass, softer, and reduced constipation symptoms. However, more research on the use of castor oil for constipation is needed.

Joint pain

Pain in the knees, wrist, fingers, and other joints can occur with rheumatoid arthritis or osteoarthritis. Inflammation can lead to pain and swelling in these types of arthritis.

Some people use warmed castor oil packs on the painful joint to help reduce inflammation and drain away blocked fluids that may cause more swelling.

While there’s no specific clinical evidence for using castor oil packs in this way, the ricinoleic acid in castor oil may reduce inflammation and help soothe pain for many joint conditions, including rheumatoid arthritis. However, more specific research is needed.

Endometriosis

Some people use castor oil packs to relieve endometriosis pain.

While there isn’t scientific research to support this use, it may be because the fatty acid ricinoleic acid may help soften masses and blockages and increase blood flow.

Liver and gallbladder health

The liver is the main cleansing organ in your body. It breaks down and removes toxins, old cells, and other waste.

Some natural practitioners recommend using a castor oil pack on the abdomen over the area of the liver. The idea is that the pack may help the liver move particles and cleanse the body. However, there is a lack of support for this theory.

Medical research is needed to confirm using a castor oil pack for liver and gallbladder health.

What do castor oil packs do for you?

While more research is needed, some people use castor oil packs to soothe skin issues, constipation, and joint pain.

What does putting castor oil in your belly button do?

Applying castor oil to the skin may help seal in moisture. There isn’t any research to suggest a specific benefit to putting it inside your belly button.

Does castor oil draw out toxins?

Some people believe using a castor oil pack over the liver may help the organ draw out toxins. However, there isn’t scientific evidence to support this.

What happens when you rub castor oil on your stomach?

Castor oil has moisturizing, antibacterial, and anti-inflammatory benefits. Some people apply castor oil packs to the skin to soothe symptoms of constipation.

Medical research suggests castor oil has some benefits due to its anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and antifungal qualities. More research is needed on how helpful castor oil packs might be for various ailments.

It’s best to talk with a doctor for treatment if you have an infection or a chronic medical condition like arthritis, asthma, or constipation. Castor oil packs cannot treat any medical condition.

You might try castor oil packs for mild symptoms or other medical treatments prescribed by a doctor.