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Uterine Fibroid Embolization
Endometrial Ablation
Castor Oil Packs
Female Reconstructive Surgery
Clinical Trials/Research

Castor Oil Packs

Many, many books discussing treatments for the symptoms of uterine fibroids frequently suggest the use of castor oil packs. This has always perplexed me somewhat as there never seems to be a reasonable explanation that accompanies this "remedy" nor are there references indicating where in the world this suggestion is coming from. In my own experience with castor oil packs, this remedy proved messy, time consuming, and not beneficial as far as I could tell where my fibroids were concerned. The singular benefit (for me) that I could identify was more related to stress relief than anything else. Laying down for an hour each day in total peace and quiet did allow me to unwind somewhat. This, in turn, no doubt lessened the stress on my overall hormonal system -- but in no way stopped the growth of my fibroids.

There has been no scientific research to date that studies the impact of castor oil packs on uterine fibroids. However, castor oil packs have been used for thousands of years throughout the world for a wide variety of ailments. Aztecs used them for treatment of skin lesions and hemorrhoids, Persians used them for epilepsy, the Greek, Dioscorides used them for the reduction of tumors, and the Egyptians used them for eye irritation. More recently, there has been research identifying castor oil packs applied abdominally as an anti-toxin that impacts the lymphatic delivery system.

The following paper published in 1999 details the results of a double blind study done on 36 healthy subjects before and after applying castor oil packs abdominally for 2 hours daily while having them rest in bed.

Immunomodulation Through Castor Oil Packs
Harvey Grady
Journal of Naturopathic Medicine
Volume 7, Number 1 1999

Please understand that this was a VERY small study and carried out for the sole purpose of attempting to identify whether this topical treatment had any impact on the lymphatic delivery system or not.

The results? With a minimal 2-hour therapy period, this study found that castor oil packs produced a "significant" temporary increase in the number of T-11 cells that increased over a 7 hour period following treatment and then returned to normal levels within 24 hours later.

"The T-11 cell increase represents a general boost in the body's specific defense status. Lymphocytes actively defend the health of the body by forming antibodies against pathogens and their toxins. T-cell lymphocytes originate from bone marrow and the thymus gland as small lymphocytes that identify and kill viruses, fungi, bacteria, and cancer cells. T-11 cell lymphocytes supply a fundamental antibody capability to keep the specific defense system strong."

In the Discussion section of this paper there is postulation of 2 theories for why the immune system is affected by topical treatment with castor oil:

  1. T-lymphocytes (which exist throughout the skin) in the epidermis and upper dermis layers communicate with and influence the activity of the general immune system.
  2. Prostaglandin activity is stimulated. Prostaglandins play a key role in regulating cell division in the body and are involved in your body's immune response.

Remember, these are THEORIES with the researcher identifying a need for further investigation. The author of this paper asked an awful lot of questions and identified quite few theoretical paths to study -- but the information culled from this study and paper does not tell us enough about how or why castor oil packs may/may not work on one's immune system to draw any conclusions about use of this treatment.

I've been told by several naturopaths now that the primary benefit they see their patients glean from this treatment is a reduction in PMS symptoms. However, they were equally quick to say that simply laying down for 2 hours a day with a warm pack on the abdomen (with or without castor oil) may also provide the same benefit. There is simply insufficient science behind this age-old treatment to give us any real answers as to purported benefits.

If you do choose to try castor oil pack treatment, it should be kept in place for a minimum of 1 hour and the flannel cloth should be thoroughly soaked in castor oil (but not dripping). The pack should be covered with plastic wrap and then a towel. Cleaning the skin afterwards (I told you -- this is messy) can be done with a mixture of soda water (2 tsp soda to a quart of water). It's also possible to simply apply this pack at night and sleep with it on.

Since this is a 7 days a week treatment and doesn't really seem to impact the growth of the fibroids (that anybody has been able to attest to), my biggest problem with this treatment is: for how long? Forever? For as long as the fibroids exist? For as long as you have symptoms? Patient "compliance" is a HUGE issue with this treatment regiment and may well be why we don't know more than we do about its true impact on the immune system over long periods of use. I wonder, is there anybody "out there" who has tried castor oil packs for longer than 1 month? 2 months? 3 months? If so, did it help? How? Drop me an email and let me know.

Female Reconstructive SurgeryHormones


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This page last updated Wednesday, April 10, 2002