Many women who suffer from severe cramps and endometriosis pain minimize their discomfort by curling up with a heating pad or hot water bottle. Heat is thought to alleviate muscle tension, reduce constriction of blood vessels, and promote blood flow to the uterus. For some time, I’ve used a heating pad when endo pain strikes, but it is only in recent years that I’ve added an ingredient to this heat pack: castor oil.
Derived from castor seeds, the pale yellow liquid has been used for thousands of years for its healing properties. In fact, its use dates back to ancient Egypt. Before learning of its many benefits from my acupuncturist, I believed castor oil was a foul-tasting purgative people commonly drank if they were constipated (it is a laxative), but its medicinal uses don’t end there. Castor oil is an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant oil that can be used to soothe sore joints.
When I began my pursuit of nontraditional methods for pain treatment and prevention, I was instructed to make and administer castor oil packs at least three times a week.
To make and use a castor oil pack:
- Place a reasonable amount of organic castor oil onto a cloth. I use several paper towels to reduce potential mess and facilitate effectiveness (the thicker the cloth, the longer it takes to warm the oil), but you can certainly use a washcloth or other durable fabric. Castor oil is sticky and can drip so be sure not to pour too much onto the cloth (more than a drizzle but not a puddle).
- Next, set yourself up somewhere you can be comfortable in a seated or supine position for at least 30 minutes. I typically administer a castor pack in the evening before bed as I’m watching TV.
- Once you are relaxed, place the cloth with the oiled side directly on the skin where you experience pain. For me, endo pain is always worse on the left side by my ovary, so this is where I place the pack.
- After setting the cloth, put a heating pad on top of it and keep it in place for a minimum of 30 minutes, allowing the heat to penetrate the pack and for the oil to be absorbed by the skin. I like to keep the castor pack in place for an hour, as I find this process soothing, especially if I’m experiencing pain that day.
While the process of using a castor pack can be a little inconvenient, I’ve found that the positive results are completely worth it. Admittedly, I’m not the best at applying a castor pack three times a week. However, if I have an endo pain flare-up and take the time to administer the packs at least once or twice that week, I will normally experience relief by the next day and even throughout the rest of the night. I tend to have painful flare-ups while I’m sleeping so doing this before bed usually ensures that I’ll be able to make it through the night. Additionally, regular administration of castor packs is supposed to break up the painful tissue.
You can find castor oil at most health food stores and online. I purchase Home Health’s castor oil (cold-pressed, cold-processed, Hexane-free, paraben-free) from my local Whole Foods, but many other brands are available. Castor packs may not help everyone, but I’ve found them to be an invaluable addition to my regimen.
Note: Endometriosis News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Endometriosis News or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to endometriosis.