As anyone shedding pounds can tell you, weight loss can be hard AF. Some doctors and scientists have touted castor oil as an easy weight loss solution. And wouldn’t that be a dream come true? If you’re hunting for a painless and natural way to lose weight, could castor oil be the answer?
This plant-based oil has been featured in traditional medicine for centuries to help you with smoother poops, promote glossy locks, heal wounds, reduce acne, and manage fungal infections. Even the ancient Egyptians approved of the bean, with tombs dating back to 4,000 B.C. mentioning its many merits.
Is it too good to be true? Let’s debunk some myths and check out if castor oil could help your weight loss. Let’s go.
Castor oil is a sticky liquid extracted from the seeds of the Ricinus communis plant. The castor plant is native to the Ethiopian region of East Africa, but it now grows worldwide in the tropics and warm temperate areas. It’s done such a great job of gallivanting around that you can even spot it in the United States growing along riverbanks.
Castor beans, which are the seeds of the plant, contain a poison called ricin. This water-soluble protein is unrelentingly toxic. (Remember what happened to Lydia in “Breaking Bad”? Yeah, no, thanks.)
But if ricin is the wicked witch, then castor oil is the good witch. The oil contains no ricin and potentially uses its powers for good. Haven’t pooped in days? Dry, flaky skin? Nasty wound? Castor oil’s got you (in theory, although there’s little in the way of robust evidence to back up these uses).
But what about weight loss?
Why do people think castor oil can help?
Castor oil may have a reputation as a weight loss aid because of its effects as a natural laxative. You can use it to relieve temporary constipation because it stimulates the intestinal muscles involved in digestion. In other words, it encourages your gut to contract, which pushes through food more quickly, helping you to purge the poop.
When you take castor oil orally, your small intestine breaks it down and releases the fatty acids. These bad boys include ricinoleic, linoleic, oleic, stearic, and linolenic fatty acids. When your intestines absorb the ricinoleic acid, it causes a rapid and potent laxative effect. We sh*t you not.
The FDA has only approved castor oil as a natural stimulant laxative. Although there’s a shortage of large-scale research on castor’s laxative impact, the studies out there support the idea. In a small 2011 study involving rest home residents, researchers found that castor oil decreased symptoms of constipation, like straining.
Even though castor oil may have a reputation for helping weight loss, there appear to be very few reliable studies that specifically examine this effect.
But logically, if you have digestive issues and aren’t pooping regularly, constipation could increase your body weight a tiny bit. Using castor oil may relieve the blockage, meaning you’ll *technically* weigh less. That doesn’t really count much toward your longer-term weight loss goals, though.
Does castor oil genuinely support weight loss?
No. Castor oil does not appear to support weight loss outside of its laxative effect. It doesn’t seem to decrease feelings of hunger or increase the speed of your metabolism.
Digestively speaking, it seems that castor oil works only as a butt un-plugger. Sorry to be a party pooper!
So, if castor oil doesn’t deliver the weight loss solution you’re after, are there any other herbal remedies that could help?
A small research review set out to discover precisely that. The researchers looked at 54 clinical trials using herbal remedies in adults with overweight.
The results showed that wild mango, Cissus quadrangularis, and globe thistle combined with mangosteen demonstrated clinically significant weight loss results compared to the placebos. Do bear in mind that these studies were small and low quality.
This theme continues with most studies testing herbs and their extracts for their weight loss effects. The research involves animals or really low numbers of human participants. Researchers haven’t replicated the results in high quality, large-scale studies that conclusively find any herbal remedies to be effective for weight loss.
Some studies may confirm a specific herb works. But then, when you delve deeper, other studies find no effect. On balance, there’s no actual proof supporting a specific herbal remedy as a weight-loss silver bullet. Drat.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recognizes castor oil to be generally safe and effective as a stimulant laxative. But larger doses can cause side effects like:
- abdominal cramping
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends a maximum daily dose of up to 0.7 mg/kg of body weight.
If you’re pregnant, it might be best to avoid castor oil — unless you’re looking to induce labor when your little sprout is refusing to come out and say hello. The ricinoleic acid can stimulate the muscles in your uterus in the same way as your intestines, thereby causing contractions and potentially inducing labor.
(Again, it’s not FDA-approved for this, though, so always follow the advice of your OB-GYN if you’re seeking labor induction.)
Although rare, some peeps may experience an allergic reaction if they apply castor oil to their skin. If you’re thinking of using castor oil topically, carry out a patch test first.
There are no quick fixes for weight loss. Instead, it’s best to review your diet and consider increasing your activity levels so that you can lose weight safely, effectively, and for the long term. Ultimately, safe, sustainable weight loss revolves around burning more calories than you consume.
Adopting any new behavior pattern can be tricky, but here are some tips to get you off to a good start:
- Eat more fiber. Your fiber intake can influence weight loss and how well you stick to a diet. You’ll feel fuller for longer when you consume more fiber. So, try to eat plenty of fruits, veggies, and whole grains each day.
- Increase your protein. A high protein diet can help you lose weight safely and effectively. Protein is essential to health, as your body needs it to repair tissues and reduce muscle loss. It also requires more energy to digest than either carbs or fats. Plus, it keeps hunger pangs at bay. Become pro-protein, and it’ll help.
- Get moving. The more you move, the more calories you burn. The key here is regular exercise. If the gym isn’t your thing, then grab the dog and go for a walk, spend time yanking out weeds in the garden, or borrow the neighbor’s kids’ trampoline. It doesn’t matter what you do, as long as you enjoy it and consistently plug away at it.
- Get those Zzz’s. It might seem strange, but getting enough sleep is essential for weight loss. Sleep restriction can affect your body composition and reduce fat loss. And even if you try and catch up on sleep, it doesn’t seem to speed your weight loss back up.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, then take small steps. Even if you only exercise for 10 minutes a day, that’s over an hour of exercise a week. You can work on adjusting your diet gradually, meaning that you don’t need to make massive changes overnight.
Every little gesture you make toward moving more and consuming less can support sustainable weight loss.
Folks have been using castor oil for thousands of years for various health issues. Aside from its use in enticing reluctant poops, there’s limited evidence to support the following health uses.
Heavy disclaimer, though: The FDA has not approved castor oil as safe and effective for any of the following purposes, despite its role in traditional medicine. They’ve only given the nod to castor oil as a stimulant laxative.
It seems that castor oil might help with wound healing, but there isn’t a massive amount of solid evidence. The studies also happened a while ago — there’s very little research of substance on the topic that’s taken place in the last 10 years.
The theory goes that because it’s an oil, it locks in moisture. Applying it to a wound prevents the boo-boo from drying out.
A small 2003 study looked at a castor oil cream’s ability to heal skin graft donor sites in 36 participants. The researchers found that the cream successfully healed the wounds with minimal side effects.
Another study in 2005 focused on healing pressure sores in 861 nursing home residents. The residents were treated with balsam Peru, hydrogenated castor oil, and trypsin (BCT) ointment. The researchers found that the wounds treated with the castor oil healed more quickly and more completely than those treated with alternative methods.
A different reason for castor oil’s possible wound-healing effect might be its antimicrobial properties. In a 2012 laboratory study comparing the leaf extracts of some plants, scientists found that castor oil extract has significant potential for preventing the growth of disease-causing bacteria and fungi. For this reason, it may help with acne.
If you’re looking for a natural hair conditioner, then castor oil *may* help boost moisture levels in your hair, leaving you with shiny, soft locks. But it’s not all sunny news on the castor oil front.
A small 2003 study (as in, used-only-four-hair-samples-level small) found that castor oil could increase hair luster. But a case report found that overuse of castor oil can lead to hair felting, when hair becomes irreversibly matted and needs to be cut off.
There are plenty other naturally sourced hair products with more of a proven track record.
Castor oil might just help reduce pain and inflammation, although solid evidence in humans is difficult to pinpoint.
In a 2000 study, scientists greased up some inflamed mouse paws and guinea pigs’ eyelids with ricinoleic acid from castor oil. They found it had notable anti-inflammatory effects.
These effects *might* help people with inflammatory disorders like rheumatoid arthritis or psoriasis, but there’s no conclusive proof yet (unless you’re a rodent, in which case, kudos for getting this far in the article).
Castor oil may not be the best solution for weight loss. Yes, its laxative effects might show temporary weight loss, but there’s zero scientific evidence that supports its use as a weight loss aid.
That said, it has some possible health benefits — with emphasis on the possible. Small studies have linked it to improved hair and skin health and wound healing. Castor oil’s most helpful if you need to ride the porcelain bus to Poop Town, and that’s the only purpose for which the FDA has given approval. Tickets, please!
If you’re looking to lose weight, focus on packing your diet with extra fiber and protein and increasing your level of physical activity. Castor oil isn’t going to help you lose weight.