Castor Oil Packs and IBS

When I was in grad school I visited a naturopath for a consultation on my many health issues, including the combo I had of endo and IBS (which compounded each other).

Castor oil and IBS

She suggested something I had only heard of once before: that I should apply castor oil packs to my abdomen several evenings a week except for when I was menstruating. I had seen a really great acupuncturist some years before who had suggested rubbing castor oil on my belly in passing but I didn't think much of it or ask after it for details. But this naturopath was adamant that I implement it into my weekly routine for the next several months if I wanted experience relief with my endo and, as connected to it, my IBS and IC (Interstitial Cystitis).

So, I decided to try it. To that end, I bought a bottle of organic castor oil, which I added a tablespoon or two to a stainless steel pot on my stove top in the evenings, which I had on low heat. I'd wait till it was warmed up (which usually took less than minute or so). I would then apply it to my abdomen, placing a piece of flannel over my belly.

My results

I did this and found my periods did in fact somewhat improve, becoming lighter and less crampy. Along with that, it did feel like my IBS was a bit better as well (though it should be noted my IBS was already in a semi-remission state and not causing me too much trouble in and of itself at the time). The downside of all of this was the oil did ruin some of my clothes (despite using the flannel, it got on the waist on the pants I wore, and once it does that, you can't really clean it out well--or at least I couldn't). The difference wasn't remarkable, but I did feel a little bit better.

Anecdotal evidence

Theoretically, castor oil packs are supposed to work by helping detoxify our livers and leading to better lymphatic drainage. It doesn't seem any formal studies have been done, though people have been using it for centuries. I had a friend try it too when she was having a lot of abdominal pain--both related to her period and also in general with her gut. She said it did seem to relieve the pain significantly, but she also started getting more diarrhea around the time she was using it, that persisted a short time afterward she stopped the treatment. This may have just been a coincidence but who knows?

It seems most things I've read about castor oil packs have been anecdotal, though mostly positive.

If you plan on trying castor oil packs as a treatment for IBS, please consult a medical professional first to make sure it would be okay. Its use may not be compatible with other health issues (for instance, it's not suggested for people who have cancer or are pregnant or breastfeeding). And please note, this is all for topical treatment, and not to ingest!

Have you ever tried castor oil packs? Did it help or not? Please feel free to weigh in on the comments section below.

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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