Castor oil can work like a stimulant laxative to relieve constipation. However, some people, such as those taking certain medications or who have specific health conditions, may need to avoid it.

When you’re constipated, you don’t have bowel movements as often as you should, or your stool is hard to pass.

It is important to keep in mind that everyone goes to the bathroom on a different schedule. Some people may have several bowel movements per day, whereas others have just 1 bowel movement per day or go every other day.

Any decrease in bowel movements that is unusual for you may be a sign of constipation. The condition can lead to abdominal pain and bloating

Constipation can also be caused by hard stools, which can force you to strain while trying to go to the bathroom.

Castor oil can be helpful as an occasional treatment for constipation.

Castor oil comes from the castor bean. People have used this oil as a laxative for thousands of years, but scientists have only recently begun to investigate its exact functions on the body.

Researchers have discovered that ricinoleic acid, the main fatty acid in castor oil, binds to receptors on the smooth muscle cells of your intestinal walls.

Once ricinoleic acid is absorbed into these receptors, it causes those muscles to contract and push out stool, just as other stimulant laxatives do. This means it may also be beneficial in relieving constipation.

Castor oil has a similar effect on the uterus, which is why it has been used to induce labor.

Castor oil is a liquid that you take by mouth. Adults and children over the age of 12 can take between 1 to 4 tablespoons (15 to 60 milliliters (mL)) per day to treat occasional constipation

The oil can have a strong taste. To mask this, try putting it in the fridge for at least 1 hour to cool it. Then, mix it into a full glass of fruit juice. You can also buy flavored castor oil preparations.

Castor oil works very quickly. You should see results within 6 to 12 hours after taking it. As it works so fast, it’s not a good idea to take it before bedtime, as you might do with other laxatives.

Like any stimulant laxative, castor oil shouldn’t be taken in the long term. Over time, it can reduce the muscle tone in your intestines and lead to chronic constipation. If you continue to have constipation, consider speaking with a doctor.

Some people may experience negative side effects from castor oil, which is why it is not recommended for everyone. This includes:

  • pregnant people, as castor oil can cause the uterus to contract
  • regular use in children under age 12
  • those with certain health conditions, such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and appendicitis
  • adults over 60, as castor oil may worsen bowel problems

You may need to avoid castor oil if you take certain medications, including:

  • diuretics, which can also lower the amount of potassium in your body
  • antibiotics, including tetracycline
  • blood thinners

In addition to its unpleasant taste, castor oil has a few side effects. Like other stimulant laxatives, it can cause cramping and diarrhea. It can also reduce the absorption of nutrients in the intestines. However, this mainly occurs when it is used in excess.

The cause of constipation is often related to diet. If you don’t get enough fiber and water, your stool becomes hard and dry. Once this happens, your stool can’t move easily through your intestines.

Certain medical conditions can lead to constipation. These include:

Some medications can also cause constipation as a side effect. These medications include:

  • antacids
  • antiseizure drugs
  • drugs that lower blood pressure
  • iron supplements
  • narcotic pain relievers
  • sedatives
  • some antidepressants

Some people find that they occasionally get constipated. Pregnant people may get constipated as a result of hormonal changes. Bowel movements also slow with age, leaving some older adults chronically constipated.

Often, the best way to prevent constipation is with diet and exercise. Consider incorportating the following into your daily life:

  • Eating more fiber: Fiber softens stools and helps them pass more easily through the intestines. Aim to eat 14 grams (g) of fiber for every 1,000 calories you consume, and drink more fluids to soften your stool.
  • Staying active: It can also be beneficial to stay active on most days of the week. Just as exercise works the muscles in your arms and legs, it also strengthens the muscles in your intestines.
  • Going to the bathroom on schedule: Where possible, try to go to the bathroom at the same time each day. It is important not to rush and to give yourself time to have a bowel movement.

There are several different types of laxatives used to treat constipation. The following are a few options:

Fiber supplements

Fiber supplements give your stool more bulk so that it’s easier to push out. These include brands like Metamucil, FiberCon, and Citrucel.

Stool softeners

Stool softeners, like Colace and Surfak, can help by adding fluid to the stool to soften it and prevent straining during bowel movements.


Stimulants push out stool by contracting the intestines. These types of laxatives are effective, but they can cause side effects such as diarrhea. Common brands include Dulcolax, Senokot, and Purge.

How much castor oil can adults take for constipation?

Adults can take a single daily dose of 1 to 4 tablespoons (15 to 60 mL) of castor oil for constipation.

How much castor oil can children take for constipation?

Children between 2 and 12 can take a single daily dose of 1 to 3 teaspoons (5 to 15 mL) of castor oil for constipation. However, it should not be used in children under 2 without speaking with a doctor first.

Does castor oil clean out your bowels?

Castor oil may be able to help clean out your bowels as it works as a laxative.

Castor oil is an effective option for getting relief from constipation. It causes the muscles in your intestines to contract and push out stool.

However, it does come with some side effects and isn’t suitable for everyone. Castor oil is also not recommended as a long-term treatment for constipation.

If you’re experiencing constipation often and aren’t able to get relief, consider speaking with a doctor about additional treatment options.