How to Make a Castor Oil Pack

castor bean plant

w-ings / Getty Images

A castor oil pack placed on the skin may be recommended by alternative medicine practitioners to promote healing, reduce inflammation, and improve circulation, especially lymphatic circulation. It has also been found to reduce symptoms of constipation.

Castor oil is derived from the castor bean (Ricinus communis). Castor oil has long been used in folk medicine, dating back to ancient Egypt, for a number of ailments.

Although it was once taken orally as a laxative, it's now known to be toxic and is used only externally over the unbroken skin. It should only be used after consulting a healthcare professional.

What Is a Castor Oil Pack?

A castor oil pack involves the use of cloth (usually three layers of flannel) soaked in cold-pressed castor oil, then placed on the skin. The oil-soaked flannel is covered with a sheet of plastic, and then a hot water bottle is placed over the plastic to heat the pack.

Castor oil packs can be purchased online at health food stores and online. You can also make one yourself for use at home.

Castor oil packs are used by some alternative practitioners to enhance circulation and to promote the healing of the tissues and organs underneath the skin. Alternative practitioners also use it to improve liver function, relieve pain, reduce inflammation, and to improve digestion.

Where to Place a Castor Oil Pack

A castor oil pack is typically placed on the following body regions:

  • The right side of the abdomen. Castor oil packs are sometimes recommended by alternative practitioners as part of a liver detox program.
  • Inflamed and swollen joints, bursitis, and muscle strains
  • The abdomen to relieve constipation and other digestive disorders
  • The lower abdomen in cases of menstrual irregularities and uterine and ovarian cysts

Precautions

Castor oil should not be taken internally. It should not be applied to broken skin. It should not be used during pregnancy, breastfeeding, or during menstruation.

Castor oil hasn't been tested for safety in children, people who are pregnant or nursing, or those with medical conditions or who are taking medications. If you're considering the use of castor oil, talk with your primary care provider first.

Materials

Assemble these materials:

  • Three layers of undyed wool or cotton flannel large enough to cover the affected area
  • Castor oil
  • Plastic wrap cut 1 to 2 inches larger than the flannel (can be cut from a plastic bag)
  • Hot water bottle (filled with hot water)
  • Container with ​a lid
  • Old clothes and sheets. (Castor oil will stain clothing and bedding.)

Method

Follow these steps to assemble the castor oil pack:

  1. Place the flannel in the container. Soak it in castor oil so that it is saturated, but not dripping.
  2. Prepare the area where you will be using the pack. You will want to be seated or lying on a sheet and wearing old clothes in order to prevent staining items with the castor oil.
  3. Carefully remove the soaked flannel from the container (you may with to use tongs) and place this "pack" over the affected body part.
  4. Cover the pack with plastic.
  5. Place the hot water bottle over the pack. Leave it on for 45-60 minutes. Rest while the pack is in place.
  6. Remove the pack and place it back into the container and close the lid.
  7. After removing the pack, cleanse the area with a dilute solution of water and baking soda.
  8. Store the pack in the covered container in the refrigerator. Each pack may be reused up to 25-30 times.
Was this page helpful?
Article Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Tunaru S, Althoff TF, Nüsing RM, Diener M, Offermanns S. Castor oil induces laxation and uterus contraction via ricinoleic acid activating prostaglandin EP3 receptors. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA. 2012;109(23):9179-84. doi:10.1073/pnas.1201627109