Can you use castor oil for babies? Know the answer to this question along with the precautions and side effects of castor oil in this article.
Castor oil is a vegetable oil produced from ricinolein, which is present in the seeds of castor plants. Castor plants are mainly cultivated in India, Africa, and South America. The castor plant is poisonous, and hence, to neutralize the poisons, the seeds need to be processed before it can be used for oil extraction.
Properties of Castor Oil
Castor seeds contain a viscous, pale yellow, non-volatile and non-drying oil. It is rich in unsaturated fatty acids namely ricinoleic 90%, linoleic 4%, oleic 3%, stearic 1%, and linolenic <1%. It has a long shelf life and finds use in chemical, industrial, cosmetic, and pharmaceutical applications. Recently the FDA has approved castor oil as a direct food additive for use as a flavoring agent and/or adjuvant. It is present in soaps, as oils, in cosmetics, and also in some medicines.
History records the long time use of castor oil as a laxative and purgative in folk remedies. The fatty acid ricinoleic acid has varied effects on the GI tract, stimulating water secretion in the intestinal lumen, inhibiting water and electrolyte absorption, and making the bowel contract harder.
It also has anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal, and anti-microbial properties. This makes it effective against acne, dry skin, styes, warts, psoriasis, bacterial infections, dandruff and atopic dermatitis. It is said to promote hair growth, arrest hair fall and premature graying, though conclusive evidence is yet to be obtained through reliable scientific research.
Benefits Castor Oil
- It is a natural moisturizer for your skin and also boosts collagen production that helps smoothen any wrinkles.
- It is effective in healing wounds and enhances blood circulation.
Castor oil for babies
- You can use this oil to hydrate your baby’s skin as it is a great moisturizer.
- Use slightly warm castor oil to treat warts and other blemishes on your infant’s skin. You can also use this as a massage oil to keep your baby’s skin supple and soft.
- It contains vitamin E and hence promotes hair growth and prevents dry scalp or fungal/bacterial infections of the scalp.
- It also helps treat a condition called ‘cradle cap‘ in babies’ scalps which is similar to dandruff and causes dry flakes on the scalp.
Colic and Constipation
- Massaging of warm castor oil on the abdomen can give relief from colic and abdominal discomfort.
- Castor oil massaged in a clockwise direction on the abdomen of babies helps relieve constipation.
- It is also an effective remedy for sore muscles and sunburns.
- Castor oil helps to ease the pain associated with diaper rash and is effective in alleviating eczema too.
Side effects of castor oil and precautions to take when using for babies
You can find many variants of castor oil available in the market depending on the refining process used to manufacture it. Consult a pediatrician to choose the right one before using castor oil for babies.
- You should never use castor oil on broken or sensitive skin and it is advisable to do a patch test before using castor oil.
- Make sure to buy pure, organic, unrefined castor oil from health food stores or from reputed outlets.
- Ensure that you do not apply the oil near the baby’s lips, mouth, eyes, anus, or genitals.
- Never administer Castor oil internally to your baby for relieving constipation as it can lead to aspiration pneumonia, paralytic ileus, hyperalbuminemia, or even death.
- Avoid castor oil ingestion especially if you are pregnant, as it can lead to the premature birth of the baby or alter the menstrual cycle.
- Castor oil can cause mild skin allergies like rashes or hives. Injudicious use can also cause severe allergic reactions like swelling of the face, lips, or tongue.
- Avoid putting castor oil in the ears, eyes, and mouth of small babies.
- When using warm castor oil, check the temperature by putting a few drops on your wrist before using it on your baby’s skin.
- Do not use more than two drops even for external applications as castor oil is more penetrative than other oils.
- Accidental ingestion of castor oil in babies can cause abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Take medical help immediately.
Take home message
Castor oil can be applied externally on your baby’s hair, skin, or abdomen. However, avoid ingestion at all costs!
According to several published research papers, castor oil can be very beneficial for your babies. However, make sure to procure FDA classified castor oil from a reputed seller and also to get an opinion from a pediatrician before use or ingestion.