self-care: castor oil packs for abdominal pain
Last year, during a particularly painful flare of my endometriosis, I went in for an ultrasound. The ultrasound revealed two cysts on my left ovary. There’s nothing particularly threatening about their existence. There is a very low likelihood of them developing into a cancerous growth and they aren’t likely to cause infertility. So, risk of having them removed, which could cause infertility, far outweighs any benefit I would get from undergoing surgical excision.
However, those tiny mother-you-know-what’ers, can be painful. Sometimes, it’s a dull, achy kind of pain that sets in at the beginning of my cycle and lasts for 10-14 days. Sometimes, it’s a sharp, shooting kind of pain that develops suddenly and at random. Either way, it’s unpleasant.
Managing this pain is an ever-evolving game plan of over-the-counter remedies, naturopathy, and folk medicine. While things like Tylenol and Motrin have given me little benefit, I have found a lot of relief in alternative therapies. I have been going to an acupuncturist for several years now and when I discussed my new diagnosis with him, he turned me on to castor oil packs.
Castor oil is pressed from the castor bean. It composed of 90% ricinoleic acid, a monounsaturated fatty acid with a unique chemical structure that makes it significantly more polar than other fats. That’s a fancy way of saying that this oil is more readily absorbed through your skin than other oils.
Castor oil is thought to stimulate lymphatic circulation thus detoxifying the body and decreasing inflammation.
Historically, castor oil has be used a laxative (when taken orally) and to induce labor. It was even used a form of punishment by the British and Belgian military. The use of castor oil as medicine can be dated back to 1550 BC. It’s medicinal benefits were described in an Egyptian medical text, Ebers Papyrus.
In addition to being anti-inflammatory, castor oil can also be useful as a moisturizer, antifungal agent, dandruff relief, and even fights acne.
I use castor oil topically to help relieve pain from endometriosis and cysts in the form of castor oil packs**.
Fold your flannel into a rectangle that will fit across your stomach.
Wet your flannel with castor oil. The flannel does not need to be dripping. I use 3-4 tablespoons
Place a towel down on your bed or a reclining chair.
Place the flannel on your bare abdomen. Place your second towel over the flannel and put your heating pad or hot water bottle on top.
Relax with your feet elevated for at least 20 minutes or up to 60 minutes.
Store your flannel in an airtight container. Add more castor oil as needed. Reuse your flannel up to 30 times.
Repeat up to 3 times a week and make sure to drink plenty of water to aid in the detox process.
**Disclaimer: Castor oil packs aren’t for everyone. They aren’t recommend for use in those who are pregnant, experiencing heavy menstrual bleeding,or GI distress. Castor oil can be irritating to the skin. If you have sensitive skin, test castor oil on a small patch of skin prior to trying a castor oil pack. If you have any concerns, talk to your doctor or naturopath.
Castor oil can cause staining to fabric. So, take care to protect your surfaces and clothing!
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