Psoriasis affects as many as 7.5 million Americans and is the most common chronic, inflammatory skin disease in the United States. The disease primarily affects the skin. Although there are many prescription drugs to help manage it, patients interested in finding home remedies may also find some measure of relief with castor oil.
What is psoriasis?
Psoriasis is an autoimmune disease. It’s not a simple rash, though the most well-known symptoms of the disease include lesions and skin irritation. The National Psoriasis Foundation says that the condition typically first develops between ages 15 and 25, and can put people at a greater risk of one day developing psoriatic arthritis.
Scientists aren’t sure what causes psoriasis, although immune function and genetics are clearly involved. Patients who have the disease experience skin problems because their skin cells grow faster than the rest of ours. This results in a buildup of tissues, or lesions.
There are several different kinds of psoriasis, including plaque, guttate, inverse, pustular, and erythrodermic, each with unique presentations on the skin. The resulting lesions of any type, however, can be itchy and painful.
Why castor oil?
Castor oil comes from the seed of the castor bean plant. These seeds have had historical significance — found even in Egyptian tombs and estimated to date back to 4,000 years ago.
Throughout the years, it’s been used for numerous reported health properties including digestive health, liver and kidney function, and inducing labor for childbirth. The Aztecs are said to have used the beans to relieve hemorrhoids and skin lesions.
There isn’t much clear evidence on how castor oil works, but it’s believed to have the ability to stimulate the immune system. Because of this, it could have a direct impact on psoriasis flare-ups and symptoms.
Some naturopaths say that castor oil has the ability to increase the amount of T-cells (a type of white blood cell) in the skin, strengthening the body’s defense mechanisms. These T-cells combat things like viruses and fungi that seek to damage the body. By triggering these cells within the skin, it’s believed that a local immune response occurs.
In addition to the potential immune benefits, castor oil also has anti-inflammatory properties.
Ricinoleic acid (RA) is a primary component found in castor oil. It has both anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties that could be valuable to people suffering with psoriasis. One study compared the effectiveness of RA with capsaicin on animal inflammation. The RA performed just as well, without any of the negative side effects seen in capsaicin.
How can you use it?
Castor oil can be found in drugstores, likely close to the laxatives. As a topical solution for psoriasis, there are several different ways you can use it.
The easiest way to use castor oil is to apply it directly to lesions with a cotton ball. Because it doesn’t absorb completely, like lotion for instance, you’ll want to apply it when you have time to let it sit on the surface of the skin for a while, such as before bed.
Another idea is to dilute the oil slightly in one that may be absorbed better, like olive oil. Dr. John Pagano, a chiropractor and psoriasis expert, recommends a 50/50 blend of olive oil and peanut oil, or castor oil, on his website.
As with most home remedies, it may take some trial and error for you to find the best approach. Likewise, castor oil isn’t a panacea, so there’s always a chance you’ll experiment and get little to no relief. But when you’re in pain and a simple over-the-counter solution like this offers potential relief, it’s likely worth trying. Nonetheless, you should also be consulting with your doctor or dermatologist for treatment.